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Welcome

This website is designed to encourage and inform students, teachers, scientists, and other science professionals who are interested in using video to convey information about themselves, their work, or a topic of interest. Here and on my YouTube channel you will find video tutorials, tips, reviews, and other information that will help you plan, shoot, edit, and publish effective and professional-looking videos.

Videography skills will become increasingly important for the scientist of the future to keep pace with the rapid changes in communications technology and electronic publishing. As demand for more accessible and engaging science information increases and as competition for science jobs, research funding, and space in journals becomes more intense, those scientists with multimedia skills such as videography will be at a distinct advantage. 21st century consumers of scientific information, both technical and non-technical, will expect media-rich content, and science educators and researchers must be prepared to provide it.

Learn How to Create a Video

screenshot_iphoneWatch tutorials to learn, step-by-step, how to design and make a video to demonstrate a new method, produce an online lesson, record a screen presentation, and create other communication products. Tap the image to the left to see a tutorial showing how to shoot and edit a video with a smartphone. For more tutorials, see this list by category (or select Tutorials in the Navigation bar).

Now Available: The Scientist Videographer eBookThe Scientist Videographer Book

This ebook is a detailed how-to for scientists, science educators, and students who wish to make their own videos. This electronic guidebook was created with a new authoring platform to combine text, video, and other interactive content to facilitate learning. This ebook shows how to plan, shoot, edit, and publish an effective and professional-looking science video to demonstrate a new method, record an online lesson or lecture, create supplemental online material for a journal article, produce a virtual tour of a laboratory or experimental facility, to raise online visibility—and many other uses.

Read more about the book on this page (or select eBook in the top navigation bar).

Who Is The Scientist Videographer?

cameraoperator_cartoon_klmckeeI am a research scientist who has discovered the value of having videography skills in my communication toolbox—which in the future will be just as important as writing and oral presentation skills are now for a successful science career. I’ve found that video has not only expanded my abilities to explain and share my science with others, it has benefited my career in ways I never dreamed possible. To learn more about what led me to acquire videography skills and why I think it will be a critical communication skill for the scientist of the 21st century, check out my About page. See the links in Other Science Contributions for more information about me and my research.

My Science Videos

Mississippi River Flood of 2011

Public domain image (U.S. Geological Survey)

In addition to science videography tutorials, I have produced and published several peer-reviewed science videos as well as a number of other videos on various science and science-career topics. I provide links to those videos on My Science Videos page to show how someone with no formal training in videography, media, or science communication can produce effective videos to convey a science message. I made my first science video in 2008 and have since published about 80 videos (including tutorials).

If I can do it, so can you.

The Scientist Videographer Blog

For more information, tips, video reviews and general musings about science communication, go to my blog. Here you will find additional material and links to video tutorials and other instructional information. See recent posts below or select Blog in the Navigation bar.

mangroves_K.L. McKee

Recent Posts

How to Make a Custom Thumbnail for Your YouTube Videos

When I first started making videos and uploading them to YouTube, I did not think much about how viewers made their decisions to click on one of my videos instead of one posted by someone else. In an Internet search, several videos may be suggested. People often decide on which one to watch based on the thumbnail image. One way to make your video stand out to viewers and tell them that your video is what they want to watch is with a custom thumbnail.

An eye-catching thumbnail is an easy way to attract viewers to your YouTube videos. If you’ve gone to the trouble of making a great video, then you shouldn’t hesitate to spend a bit more time to make sure people notice your video and decide to watch it. In a new tutorial (see player window below), I show how to design and create a custom thumbnail in PowerPoint and how to attach it to your YouTube video. Although Photoshop or Illustrator can be used for crafting the thumbnail image, many people do not have this software or do not know how to use it. In this tutorial, I use PowerPoint, which many people are familiar with, to create a custom thumbnail. Moreover, if you create a thumbnail template in PowerPoint, you can use it to quickly create thumbnails for all your videos.

But first, let’s go over some important information to help you design the best custom thumbnail for your video.

What is a thumbnail?

A thumbnail is a small image, often clickable, created for a webpage and that represents a file such as a photograph or a video. When someone conducts a search for a video, the thumbnail gives the viewer a visual preview of what your video is about. Some thumbnails stand out more than others. These are custom thumbnails. When you upload your video to YouTube, you are presented with three random frames from which to choose a thumbnail. Now, these are totally random, which means you basically get to choose among three really bad choices. Obviously, being able to create a custom thumbnail that best represents your video is preferable.

Who is eligible to use custom thumbnails?

Some forums suggest that you must become a YouTube Partner to enable advanced options like custom thumbnails. This is not true; if your channel is verified, you then become eligible to upload custom thumbnails. This option became available to me as a YouTube video creator in late 2013. Since then, crafting a custom thumbnail has become a routine part of my workflow when making a video. I consider it a key part of the process in creating an effective video and actually enjoy the challenge of finding just the right image and text design to use in the custom thumbnail.

What factors should be considered in designing a thumbnail?

  • First, take a look at other thumbnails for your topic and see what other video creators have used. Although this review will give you some ideas for crafting your thumbnail, you also want to take note of the features most often used and think of new ones to use for your thumbnail. In other words, you should try to design a thumbnail that stands out from the crowd.
  • Second, select an image that best represents your video. This image should be distinct but not misleading. Images featuring a person tend to attract the eye. If you can also show that person doing something related to the topic of the video, then your thumbnail image will be informative. For example, if your video is showing a scientific method, a photo of a person using an instrument or demonstrating the method is what you want. Those thumbnails featuring an image of a person jump out at you, which is why many people use them. However, you can also feature a photo of an instrument, an organism, a landscape, or a graphic—assuming it has something to do with the topic of your video. Planning ahead for the thumbnail and getting that photo while filming is the best approach. Failing this, you can extract a freeze frame from your raw footage. I show how to do this in the tutorial.
  • Third, resize and crop your image to ensure a good quality thumbnail that also meets specifications suggested by YouTube. In general, follow the rule of thirds to create a more interesting visual but mainly to allow space for text. YouTube suggests an image size of 1280 x 720 pixels, which is a 16:9 aspect ratio. You should keep the file at 2 MB or less and in an acceptable format such as jpg or png.
  • Fourth, add text to your video, which informs the viewer and reinforces what the video is about. Include keywords that people will use in their search. In many cases, all you need to do is restate the title of your video using a larger font and colors that make the text stand out.
  • Fifth, strive for a combination of an informative image and eye-catching text. In the tutorial below, I show some examples. You can make things easier on yourself if you use an image with some blank space in it, such as the sky, a solid fence or wall, as background for the text. In the tutorial, however, I show how to deal with a busy background.

What software should I use to create a custom thumbnail?

If you want to create a thumbnail from scratch, you have a number of options, including Photoshop, Illustrator, or PowerPoint. I’ve used PowerPoint in this tutorial because it’s a program that most science professionals use and are comfortable with. Photoshop and Illustrator are a bit more challenging to use and require some training and practice to use effectively. There are also online design sites that will assist you in creating a thumbnail. Canva is one example of a graphic design site, which offers templates and a user-friendly interface. I’ve not tried it, so can only recommend it as a possible site to check out. Although advertised as a “free” application, access to some key options seems to require a monthly subscription. In the end, you should use the software you are most comfortable with.

So with that bit of background, here is the tutorial showing how to create a thumbnail in PowerPoint (and direct link in case you can’t see the player window):

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