However complex you’re expecting your video to be and whatever form you’re expecting it to take, you’ll benefit significantly from planning your video out before you turn on the camera and start filming.
If you’re planning to make a complex documentary with multiple locations and interviewees, then the necessity of doing so is likely obvious; you’ll need to book those locations and work out what questions you’re going to ask your interviewees.
Even if your goal is simply to make a “talking head” style video in which you discuss an aspect of your research in front of a webcam, however, it will still make things far easier if you take the time to work out what you’re going to say prior to filming.
This might involve writing a script which you’ll read or recite word-for-word. This can be particularly helpful if you’re a less confident presenter as it can be reassuring to know that you’ve got everything you’re going to say planned out ahead of time.
This also has the benefit of meaning that you have a transcript of your video ready to go which you can either turn into subtitles or publish alongside your video in order to increase its accessibility.
You might, however, want to be less rigid and more spontaneous in your presentation. Nevertheless, having a series of bullet points of the main points that you want to cover can help you to keep your video focussed and ensure that it has a clear structure.
Alongside thinking about what might be said in your video, take the time to think about some of the other practical aspects.
Where, for instance, are you going to film? If you want to film on location somewhere then you might want to think about what the most appropriate time of day to do so is; if you want to film in a room at the university, for example, you might want to book that room or otherwise think about when you’re most likely to be able to have that space to yourself.
Even if you’re going to film in your own home, you might want to think about when the house (and those of your neighbours) is likely to be at its quietest.
You might also want to think about the clothes that you, or anyone who features in your video might wear for the filming. You don’t necessarily have to create an elaborate costume(!), but you might want to plan ahead to ensure you’re wearing something on your day of filming which is appropriate to the style that you’re aiming for in your video.
Finally, it might be that you want to include some supplementary footage in your video; of an experiment, event or artwork, for instance, that you need to film yourself.
Some people will plan out everything intricately with a storyboard of every shot which is going to feature in their final video. If you’re just starting out, this might be overkill. Nevertheless, having a clear idea of what footage you need will ensure that you don’t come to editing and suddenly find yourself in need of a shot that you simply don’t have.
Whilst planning ahead in this way can seem less exciting than some of the other aspects of making a video, it can ultimately make the experience far less stressful, and allow you to focus on each individual task at hand.
While it would probably help, you do not need to be Steven Spielberg, Spike Lee or Greta Gerwig to make an effective Research Communication video. A video that imparts interesting information in an engaging way will always be far superior in terms of Research Communication to one which is technically accomplished but intellectually un-stimulating.
It is useful, however, to have an awareness of some basic filmmaking principles in order to ensure your footage looks and sounds as best as possible.
Below are some tips and tricks surrounding cameras, lighting and audio.
We have aimed these very much at a beginner level and at those without a cupboard full of high-end equipment; if you have fancier equipment that you feel comfortable using or previous experience in filmmaking then you do not need to be bound by these.
Furthermore, if there is a particular effect you want to achieve with your filming, then a quick search on YouTube or your search engine of choice will likely bring up numerous tutorials which will support you in achieving that effect.
Your department may have equipment that you are able to use in creating videos. In many cases, this may help you to get higher-quality footage. Nevertheless, the added flexibility that comes with using such equipment can be daunting for beginnings; more options and settings is not always a good thing!
The goal of this section of the resource is to reassure you that, if you’re just starting out or exploring making Research Communication videos, you can likely get great results with equipment you already have access to.
Some departments within the university have cameras that you are able to book in order to film your video. Even if this isn’t the case in your department, however, if you have access to a computer or mobile phone, then these will be more than capable of producing relatively high-quality footage.
Many smartphones in the present day are able to film at least in High Definition if not in 4k and will certainly suffice if you are just starting out. An added benefit is that such devices tend to be quite easy to use.
Generally speaking, the camera on a mobile phone will produce higher-quality footage than most webcams. If you do decide to use a mobile phone, the camera on the back of your device will often produce much better-quality footage than the “selfie” camera on the front; even if they film at the same resolution (i.e. 720p, 1080p, 4k), they generally have larger sensors inside which, for reasons there isn’t space to explain here, makes for much better footage.
While, if you are filming yourself, using the back camera on your phone has the drawback of not being able to see yourself during filming, it is usually worth the trade-off of having to go through some trial and error in positioning yourself in order to get slightly higher-quality footage.
In many cases, you may want to get some footage in which the camera moves. In instances in which the person or thing you are filming is still, however, it is worth trying to get your hands on a tripod (or some other form of steadying the camera). This will enable you to ensure that the person or thing that you are filming is well-positioned in your footage and that the camera remains in the same position throughout your filming.
If you have access to a more professional-level camera and feel comfortable using it, then you will likely benefit from doing so in the flexibility that such cameras provide. However, it remains the case that you can get very workable footage from devices that you may already have access to!
Cameras work by capturing the light which travels through the lens onto a sensor. Ensuring that the person or thing you are filming is well-lit is therefore highly important.
Unless you are manually adjusting the settings of your camera, if you try to film something in a darkly-lit room then the camera will often try to artificially boost the lighting levels in your footage which can lead to very grainy video.
In order to produce good-quality video, then, it is worth checking that there is a decent amount of light being directed toward the person or thing you are recording.
You can purchase LED lights (such as those pictured above) which will help you to have better control over the amount of light being directed towards the person or thing you are filming.
In most cases, however, a large window will be more than capable of providing enough light for you. If you are filming a person (or yourself), try positioning them so that they are facing a large window; you’ll find that natural sunlight will do a great job of lighting that person for you.
It’s also important to think about whether there are any shadows being cast over the person or thing that you are filming. If you do decide to use the light from a window to light your scene, for instance, try to position the person you are filming is positioned in a manner which avoids the window frame casting a shadow over them.
If you’re just starting out creating videos, don’t allow yourself to get too bogged down in thinking about lighting, but do ensure that it is something you are taking note of when setting up to film!
It’s often said that, when making videos, audio quality is more important than video quality.
The general idea here is that most people would rather sit through a video that sounds good but in which the visuals are a little lacking than a video which looks fantastic but in which the audio is unclear.
If you are trying to film someone talking, try to find somewhere to film which is relatively quiet.
Some spaces, such as cafes, can look great as locations for filming but, without specialist audio equipment, the “ambient” sound (other people talking or moving in the background, for instance) can end up drowning out the voice of the person you are trying to film.
If you or your department has access to a microphone, you may benefit from recording your audio separately from your sound and then synchronising the the sound with your footage when you come to edit it (in most video editing software, this can be done automatically).
The benefit of doing this is that, however far away the camera is from the person or thing that you you are trying to film, you can ensure that the microphone is as close as possible; generally speaking (and within reason!), the closer the microphone is to the source of the sound you are trying to record, the clearer the recorded audio can be.
If you are filming using a mobile phone and are using the “onboard” microphone, however, this can still lead to good results, you may just need to be more vigilant in ensuring there are fewer unintended and unwanted sounds around!
Once you’ve filmed your video, you’re going to want to edit it.
It’s worth emphasising that you do not need to have the ability to turn your video into a Hollywood-style blockbuster rammed to the brim with special effects in order to publish it; again, many research communicators who use video got started by making relatively simple “talking head” videos featuring little more than someone talking to the camera.
That being said, you will likely want to at least apply some gentle editing to your footage.
There will, for instance, likely be a short period at the beginning of your footage in which you (or the person you are filming) have yet to begin talking; your videos will look much more professional if you can edit this out.
Editing your footage can also allow you to piece together different “takes”, ensuring that you are always using the best pieces of footage that you created when filming. You may even want to film different sections of your video in different locations in order to keep things visually interesting.
As you begin to develop skills in video editing, you will likely want to include visual aids such as diagrams, images and stock footage in your videos. You may also want to add music, sound effects or other additional audio to your footage.
Again, however, if you are new to creating videos, do not feel as though you need to be able to do all of this from the very beginning. Do not worry about starting simple and getting more ambitious with your videos as you gain confidence in your video-editing abilities.
Below is a list of editing software which you might find useful to use in editing your videos. Each has their own benefits and limitations and you might want to try out more than one in order to find the software which you find the most responsive to your needs.
We have also provided a link to a basic tutorial for each piece of software which will enable you to get to grips with the basics of editing a video in that suite. If these particular guides aren’t to your liking, then you will find countless other tutorials for these pieces of software online.
Furthermore, if there is something specific which you wish to accomplish which is not included in these tutorials (i.e. adding text, overlaying an image, using a green screen), you will be able to find countless tutorials which guide you through these specific tasks on YouTube and elsewhere on the internet.
DaVinci Resolve 16 is the free version of Blackmagic Design’s DaVinci Resolve Studio 16 software.
Despite being free, however, it is a highly-capable editing suite with the ability to edit footage in up to 4k resolution. If you’re just starting out, then you are likely to find that DaVinci Resolve has all the functionality that you will need.
DaVinci Resolve is also available on multiple platforms including Windows, Mac and Linux.
The YouTube channel SkillsFactory has created a 16 minute beginners guide to editing in DaVinci Resolve which is embedded below.
If you own a Mac computer, then you will likely find iMovie already installed on your computer. If not, you can easily download it for free from the Mac App Store.
iMovie is essentially the free version of Apple’s Final Cut Pro software (discussed below) and is perhaps slightly more limited in its functionality than DaVinci Resolve. Nevertheless, iMovie will likely have more than enough functionality for beginners and is intentionally designed to be accessible to those with little experience in video editing.
iMovie also shares a great deal in terms of its interfaces with Final Cut Pro, which means that, if you later find yourself wanting to be more ambitious with your editing, you can purchase Final Cut Pro and find many of the skills you have picked up in iMovie transfer directly over into Apple’s paid-for suite.
The YouTube creator TechTeacherNate has created a short introduction to editing in iMovie which is embedded below.
There also exist several paid for video editing suites that are widely used by professionals.
Adobe’s Premiere Pro (and its graphics and visual effects companion After Effects) is highly popular and has the benefit of working relatively smoothly alongside other Adobe Creative Cloud products including Photoshop and Illustrator.
Premiere runs on a “software as a service” model, which negates the need to pay a high cost to purchase the software. Adobe also offer an educational discount which enables you to access the entire Creative Cloud suite for £16.24/month.
Kris Truini has created a 20-minute crash course into editing in Premiere Pro which is embedded below.
Final Cut Pro
Final Cut Pro is created by Apple and thus is only available on Mac computers. If you already own a Mac, however, its optimisation for Apple hardware means that it can often run more smoothly and quickly than Premiere Pro.
Final Cut Pro has much in common with iMovie, although which much-increased functionality. It’s similarities to iMovie mean that it is entirely possible to start-out using iMovie and transfer to Final Cut Pro once you have exhausted the possibilities of the former software and want to be more ambitious; you can even import iMovie projects into Final Cut Pro.
Unlike Premiere Pro, Final Cut Pro is a one-off purchase. This means that it is more expensive initially yet can be cheaper in the long-run as you’re not paying an ongoing fee.
There is also an Educational Discount available for Final Cut Pro in which you can purchase the app along with Logic Pro (audio editing software), Motion (motion graphics editing software), Compressor 4 (video encoding software) and MainStage 3 (a live performance app for music) for £199.99.
In order to purchase Final Cut Pro with the educational discount, you will need to log in to Apple’s education store with a UniDays account.
Marcos Rocha has created a 13 minute introduction to editing in Final Cut Pro which is embedded below.
So, you’ve written, filmed and edited your video and you’re pleased with how it’s turned out.
Now you want to share it with the world.
There are numerous platforms that exist for sharing videos online (and offline). In this section of the resource, we’ve put together a rundown of the most popular.
Although we’ve put this section at the end of the Video section of this resource, you will likely benefit from having a clear idea of what platform(s) you will be publishing your videos on prior to even planning it.
In the case of TikTok, for instance, the 60-second time limit will massively shape the form that your videos take. But there are also other ways in which you might wish to adapt your videos to a specific platform; if you plan on releasing multiple YouTube videos, for example, you might want to encourage viewers to “subscribe” to your channel, if you publish your video(s) on Facebook, you might wish to ask viewers to share your content with their friends.
As with most aspects of Research Communication and Public Engagement, there is no “best” platform through which to share your video(s). Instead, the “best” platform is that which you believe is most likely to reach the specific “public” which you are seeking to engage.
YouTube is a highly popular platform for publishing videos.
Alongside having more than 2 billion regular users, scrolling the home feed looking for something to interesting to watch, it is also the second most popular search engine on the planet (topped only by Google).
YouTube can thus be a promising place to publish your videos.
There is no limit to video length on YouTube and the platform allows viewers who have enjoyed your videos to “subscribe” to your channel in order to be notified of future videos you release.
Although we’ve not discussed this within this resource, YouTube also has livestreaming functionalities which can allow you to connect with your “public” in real time.
That it has been around for so long means that YouTube can be a highly competitive platform to publish your videos on, but its dominance of the online video space means it can also be a great way to reach an audience.
Vimeo pitches itself as a ‘the world’s leading professional video platform’.
Vimeo is an ad-free platform, instead deriving its revenue from subscriptions from those uploading video. Accessing the platform’s more advanced features thus involves paying a monthly fee.
Vimeo lacks much of the search and discovery functionality of YouTube and has far less “casual” viewers who visit the site to seek out content. Instead, it is primarily used by companies and filmmakers who wish to share their videos with a pre-defined audience which they can direct to an individual video’s watch page.
According to the social media marketing company Hootsuite, Facebook is the world’s third-most visited website (outranked only by Google and YouTube), with 2.41 billion monthly users.
Facebook is an integral part of many people’s lives, with 74% of its users logging-in daily and the average user spending 38 minutes per day on the platform.
In recent years, Facebook has been putting considerable effort into developing its capabilities as a video-sharing platform and many research communicators have jumped on board.
The benefits of using Facebook as a platform for distributing your videos is that it enables users that find your videos interesting to share them easily with friends, family and colleagues who are also on the platform.
Like YouTube, Facebook also has livestreaming functionalities which can allow you to connect with your “public” in real time.
TikTok is the youngest of all the video-sharing platforms discussed in this section.
Although originating as an app which allowed users to lip-sync to popular songs, it has since become home to a far broader range of content.
In 2020, the platform began attracting educational creators to the platform. According to the BBC, the goal was to try to encourage ‘micro-learning’.
Unlike the other platforms discussed in this section, TikTok limits the length of videos to 60 seconds. TikTok videos thus generally need to be far more focussed on a particular topic. Nevertheless, educators have begun to explore ways of using the 60 second form in order to provide quick bursts of educational content.
It’s important to recognise that the internet is not the only route to sharing your videos with your “public”. You might also use video as part of a physical event.
Perhaps this might be part of a broader event which includes other activities, or perhaps it might simply be a screening of your video(s). You may look for film festivals to submit your video(s) to.
Although the audience will likely be smaller, screening your videos as an event (or as part of an event) can allow you to engage in a far more substantial way with your “public”. And, sharing your video in this way does not preclude you from also sharing it via digital means later on.
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