Shooting Videos for Science

Clear, visually arresting videos are a great way to share your science with new audiences.

One of the best ways to explain your science is through the use of video.  Whether it’s an image from a distant planet or particle samples in a desert, it’s always captivating to get a visual sense of the science going on around us.  Not only that, but this is your chance to grab the attention of those who might be put off by scientific terms or acronyms. Here are a few tips that will help you tell your story.

Keep the shots simple.

You might think it will be a great idea to do a lot of intense close-up shots and Hollywood-style zoom-ins or to use trendy background music.  If you’re not a professional and you have only one chance of getting the shot, don’t do it.  Odds are, whatever you’re imagining in your mind’s eye can be done in postproduction.  Instead, try to capture the shot as lay people would see it with their own eyes.

Balance the shot!

You might think that you have a steady hand, but be assured, it’s nowhere as good as a tripod.  Next to a good camera, this is crucial to shooting great video.  If you don’t have access to one, improvise.  Simply putting the camera down on a level surface will do the trick in a pinch.

Check the audio.

If your device allows you to adjust audio, take the time to learn this feature.  Also, whenever shooting an interview, use a lapel mic.  Most importantly, though, always check to make sure that you are indeed recording audio.  Sometimes the switch of a button can do a lot of harm.

Try to always have your main source of light behind or to the side of you…never in front looking at the camera.  If you’re shooting a subject with the Sun in view, your camera will go dark (to adjust).  Always think about your position before recording.

What are we watching?

Finally, tell your viewers what they’re looking at.  And when doing so, use simple terms that anyone who might stumble on this clip will understand.  The viewer might not fully understand your explanation, but perhaps they’ll remember one key shot.

Go high quality!

If you’re planning ahead of time to make a video, invest in a decent camera.  You’ll be surprised to know that you can record in HD for a very reasonable price.

Watch videos!

Go online and watch what others are making.  The best resource to making a good video is only a few clicks away.  For more tips, check out this piece from Adobe Press.

Know your audience.

Whenever you’re talking science to nonscientists, knowing how to tell your story is critical. Read these tips on communicating with the public to plan out a narrative that anyone can appreciate.

For more tips, check out this piece from Adobe Press and these tips from AGU: Filmmaker Dan Curl offers tips on video storytelling and AGU’s 2011 S Factor blog on scientific video .