Create a Video Abstract to Accompany your MBoC Paper

Molecular Biology of the Cell (MBoC) is teaming up with Science Sketches to help authors make animated video abstracts to accompany MBoC papers. Creating a Science Sketch gives you a unique way to enhance the way your research is communicated and help your paper stand out.

To view samples of previously submitted Science Sketches visit the MBoC YouTube channel and subscribe to see more!

Authors whose manuscripts have been accepted at MBoC or returned for minor revision are encouraged to create a 2 minute Science Sketch video that will appear below the written abstract and will be published on YouTube.

Science Sketch Editors Lisa Dennison and Liam Holt on the MBoC Editorial Board will provide guidance as you prepare your video. The following article lays out the process for submitting and preparing your Science Sketch.


  1. Prepare a script for your video by following the suggestions in Steps 1 and 2 in the Preparation procedure below.
  2. Send the script to the MBoC editorial office ( (Step 3 in the Preparation procedure below). It will be forwarded to the Science Sketch Editors for review, and they will provide you with feedback.
  3. Once you receive feedback on the script, proceed with creating the illustrations and recording and editing the audio and video as outlined in Steps 4–7 of the Preparation procedure below.
  4. Submit your video by uploading it to the MBoC Dropbox via the link provided to you by the editorial office and notify the Science Sketches Editor that it is available.
  5. The Science Sketches Editor may at this point accept or reject the video or provide guidance for how to revise it to meet the journal’s standards for clarity, production, and adherence to the scope and content of the accepted paper.
  6. Resubmit your video if requested.
  7. The video must be accepted in final form no later than 10 business days before the issue cover date. This is typically 35–49 business days after acceptance of the manuscript.
  8. The Science Sketches Editors have final say as to whether the video is accepted for publication. If a video is not accepted or is not completed in time, the authors may of course elect to post it elsewhere.


This step-by-step guide walks you through the process of making a two-minute Science Sketch.

Step 1: Consider your audience

  • This video will give potential readers an enticing snapshot of your work, and it will also summarize the impact and conclusions of your work for those who are not in your field. Aim to reach viewers who have basic scientific knowledge but do NOT know the jargon of your narrow field. Viewers who are in your field can delve into the details within the paper itself.

Step 2: Write the script

  • Identify the take-home message you want to convey to the audience and then decide what supporting information is essential to get your main point across. Remember that this is an abstract; you don’t need to describe every experiment and every figure.
  • A 2-minute script is only ~300 words, so make every word and sentence count. Write a draft of the script and get input and feedback from colleagues and friends, especially those outside of your field.

Simplify your language and avoid jargon. Try to minimize the number of words that these online tools define as complex and rewrite your script to explain things more simply: (see how to interpret your results here: & (Use Custom9300 setting and consider defining or changing words the tool highlights in blue)

  • Short, direct sentences are easier to follow than long, complex sentences. Write the way you would speak in a conversation, rather than in the style of the written abstract for your publication.
  • Time yourself reading the script to make sure that it takes only 2 minutes.
  • Continue to edit and revise until you have a final version that fits the above criteria.

Step 3: Send your script for feedback to A Science Sketches Editor will provide guidance and suggestions.

Step 4: Create illustrations

  • Design some illustrations that will go along with your script. The images don’t have to be complex and you don’t have to be a great artist. You can also write out key words and phrases that you want to emphasize.
  • Come up with an illustration for everything you say in the script. Sentences without an accompanying visual will feel like dead space when you edit the video later.
  • You will have plenty of time to draw your images clearly and write key phrases legibly because the video will be sped up to match the audio, so don’t worry about how long it may take to draw something.
  • Create a “storyboard” of your images and words on 8½ x 11” paper to figure out how many sheets you will need and the best layout for each one. Keep in mind that your piece of paper will later be the size of a YouTube screen, so your words and illustrations should be large enough that they are still readable on a smartphone.
  • The Editors will add optional closed captions to your video on YouTube, so please leave some space at the bottom of each page so that the captions won’t cover up important content when viewers turn them on.
  • Use thick markers instead of fine-point pens to make sure your writing is visible.

See Appendix 1 for a guide to how big your text should be.

  • Make use of different colored markers to highlight your message and tie recurring objects or themes together.

Step 5: Record the audio

  • Find a quiet space free from background noises. If you are recording in a lab, be especially aware of humming noises made by equipment and high-pitched noises coming from air vents.
  • Also, be aware of noises you might unconsciously make while recording: tapping fingers on tables or feet on the floor, rustling or moving the paper for your script, etc. Try to eliminate all of these noises.
  • You can record your audio using something as simple as a smartphone. We usually use the iPhone Voice Memo app.
  • Email the file to yourself.

Step 6: Record the video

  • Find a well-lit room and prepare your recording space.  
  • Set up a video camera or smartphone to point straight down at a sheet of paper. For a video camera, we recommend using a tripod. For a smartphone, you can get creative with lab supplies—a lab clamp stand works really well for this purpose! (See Appendix 2 for photos of additional possible set-ups.)
  • Be aware of lighting and shadows as you set up your camera and stand. Using the light on your cell phone or a “selfie light” can help you achieve even lighting across the page.
  • Tape down a background piece of paper and frame your shot.
  • Now you just need to hit record and draw your images! We suggest going through the script or audio line-by-line as you draw to make sure everything is drawn in exactly the same order that you say it.

Step 7: Edit the video using your favorite software

  • On the Science Sketches website we have a 2-minute video tutorial for the editing process using iMovie:
  • Tip: if you want to add free background music, check out
  • Import the video and audio files into your editing software. We use iMovie, and you can find written instructions for Video Pad and Blender on
  • Rotate all video clips as needed and mute them. If necessary, crop and white balance your source clips at this step as well, before you start chopping up the footage.
  • Now you just need to speed up the video to match the audio. This requires strategically chopping up the footage so that you can manipulate the speed of small sections independently.
  • Some helpful editing tools in iMovie include (under Modify in the menu bar):
    • Split Clip (cmd B)
    • Slow Motion
    • Fast Forward
    • Add Freeze Frame
  • Export your movie when it is finished. File > Share > File…

Step 8: Submit your video! Upload it to the MBoC Dropbox via the link provided to you by the editorial office.

Appendix 1: This is a guide to how big your text should be:
    • The minimum size should be 28-point Arial or equivalent
    • The minimum weight of a line should be that of a fine-point Sharpie
Appendix 2: Examples of possible set-ups
video camera + tripod (on floor to reduce shaking) + light box (to reduce shadows)

lab clamp + smartphone

Ultrapod ii tripod + Shoulderpod phone clamp + something vertical + smartphone

leaning tower o’ books + smartphone (last resort)


Interested in creating a Science Sketch with MBoC?

Submit a paper to MBoC for fast, fair, and constructive review by working scientists like you.

Read our editor profiles to learn more about the scientific caliber and wide range of specialty areas represented by MBoC editors.

About the Author:

This post was collaboratively written by several ASCB staff members.