Video is a powerful avenue for communicating about any topic. Reportedly there are more than 200 million users on YouTube in the United States and more than 46,000 years’ worth of content is watched worldwide every year, according to Andrew Maynard on YouTube. Video draws in a diverse audience, overcomes language barriers, transcends technical jargon with vivid visuals, and can be consumed easily–from desktop to mobile device. If your science is visual and you want to expand your message beyond photographs, it is a good idea to learn to tell your story via video.

Planning Your Video 

Define your goals, audience, and video length. 

Ask yourself:

  • What is the objective?  What do you want people to get from watching the video?
  • Who is the audience (e.g., cell biologists or general public)?
  • How long will the video be?  Shorter is generally better!
  • Where will the video be released? Requirements for size/dimensions/resolution will differ.

Assemble a storyboard.

The storyboard is a document that shows a sequence of frames and accompanying text. A visual layout is often helpful (often drawn as a sketch) that shows what the camera will be shooting. Accompanying text could include narration (which will give you a sense of timing) and a description of the scene or technical details (such as camera movement). Once you have a storyboard, you should have a clear idea of what shots you will need to complete the video.

Define your media.

Use data, stills, movies of people, schematics, whatever you think will be effective.

Write the narrative.

If your video will be narrated (using a voiceover, for example), writing the narration should be the first step. Make sure that the narration fits within the target length of the video when read aloud.

Tips for Shooting, Editing, and Publishing the Video 

  • Use a smartphone for mobility, a video camera for optimal performance. Most smartphones on the market come with two video-making essentials: a video camera to record videos and a large hard drive for storage. While smartphones are portable, the audio and visual quality is inferior to that of a dedicated video camera.
  • Sound quality can make or break a video. Relying on a built-in microphone isn’t ideal. If you can use a separate microphone that is compatible with your recording device, your video quality will improve immensely. Some video cameras come with a dedicated microphone and all of the hardware you need to connect the two.Wear headphones to check to see that the sound your microphone is picking up is the sound you want.
  • Make sure you have plenty of light. If possible, film during the day, using natural daylight (but not strong sunlight). If you’re planning to do a nighttime scene, add light to improve visibility. Try to have a clean and clear background.
  • Shoot the video clips. It is a good idea to record more than you plan to use.
  • Speak loudly and clearly. This serves the dual purpose of both ensuring that you make the most of your audio quality and capturing your audience’s attention. If you’re using a microphone, speak directly into it. This is especially important when you’re using a recording device with a built-in mic.
  • Transfer the video from your smartphone or video camera to your computer.
  • Edit your video. There are many free and paid programs for video editing. Several free options are available. Some that you may be familiar with include:

iMovie: This app comes pre-installed on Mac platforms. It’s also an iOS 10 app, meaning you can edit your video on your iPhone.

Davinci Resolve: This free editor also has professional color correction features and is available for Mac, Windows, and Linux.

HitFilm 4 Express: This has a lot of features including visual effect tools and is available for Mac and Windows.

Final Cut Pro X, Adobe Premiere: These professional options require a fee and/or license.

  • Publish/upload your video online.Completed videos can be uploaded to your personal website or to social media such as Facebook, Instagram, YouTube or Vimeo (see Toolkit on Social Media).

Further Reading