How Long Does It Take to Make a Video?

This question is the one I get most often from science professionals attending my workshops and seminars. Everyone is busy. I get it. You get it. People want to know how much of their valuable time is going to be diverted toward an activity that is not going to contribute to their h-index.

So I’m going to try to answer that question in this blog post.

The most honest answer is: it depends. People vary wildly in their abilities to craft a compelling story, to visualize how to tell it, and to operate the recording equipment and editing software. The actual amount of time you will spend will depend on your skill level at using the equipment and software required for making a video. If you’ve never used movie editing software, then it’s going to take you longer to edit your clips compared to someone who’s played around with iMovie, for example. The same goes for designing and filming.

Consequently, I’m going to give some ballpark estimates based on a relatively inexperienced person–someone who typically takes a video-making workshop.

In my workshops, I’ve found that people can generally design their video (overall story and how to tell it) in an hour or so, especially if they are given a template to follow. Filming can take a couple of hours or days, depending on your topic, length of the planned video, and where you need to film. Workshop participants, working in pairs and using smartphones or tablets, were able to film the main segments of their 3-minute video in two to three hours. Another hour might be spent shooting B-roll or searching the Internet for video clips, animations, photographs, maps, and illustrations to augment the filmed segments. After a brief tutorial, editing might take another couple of hours.

Based on these estimates, the total time required to produce a rough cut is six to seven hours. Another couple of hours will likely be needed to polish or reshoot problematic clips. In other words, plan on spending (at a minimum) the equivalent of an entire day making your video.

As you gain experience, though, you will find that you can use your phone to shoot and edit a video on the fly. For example, when you are conducting fieldwork, it’s easy to shoot brief clips that are immediately imported into an editing program such as iMovie. While waiting for your electrodes to equilibrate or for sample bottles to incubate, you can do some trimming and editing of those clips. I can take this approach while on a field trip and have one or more videos ready to upload by the end of the day. See this example that I filmed with my iPhone:

Before I went to the site, I spent some time searching the Internet for information about the mangroves growing in the region. Armed with that information, I began planning the video (in my head) during the drive to where this mangrove stand was located on Yakushima. I spent around two hours at the site filming various aspects of the mangrove stand and jotting down notes about some of the plant characteristics I observed. I started editing this video on my phone with the iMovie app for iOS while I was on site and could retake any clips that needed improvement (I had to reshoot the segment in which I spoke several times).

As the story began to crystalize, I walked around shooting B-roll to illustrate important points to be made. By the time I was ready to leave, I had a rough cut of the video finished and ready to polish. After returning to my hotel room, I added voice-over to the video and also some images of maps and other items that I had to download or modify using my computer. Making this video was fun and informative and made the excursion to see this unique stand more memorable.

How long does it take to make a video? For me, the answer doesn’t really matter. What’s important is that I’ve made a video and, in the process, learned something new.