How to Find Media at the Library of Congress for Your Video Project

Recently, I made a slideshow depicting nine ways to tell a science story. One way to tell a story is to put the work into a historical context. But where, you might ask, can one find historical material to use in a science video?

One place to find historical photographs, maps, letters, film clips, and sound recordings is the U.S. Library of Congress. Much of the material housed in the LOC has been digitized and made available online. Searching this vast collection can be daunting. So I created a video tutorial to show three easy ways to search for material in the LOC:

How to Shoot Video and Avoid the Most Common Mistakes

cameraoperator_cartoon_klmckeeAre you thinking about making a video but are afraid of looking like an amateur? I get a lot of questions about shooting video, but most often about what equipment to buy. My response usually is that the equipment is not as important as knowing how to shoot and edit the film properly. If you make amateurish mistakes while filming or editing, it doesn’t matter if you used a $500 or a $5,000 camera. I know, because I’ve made a lot of those beginner mistakes.

When we adopt a new technique or purchase new equipment, we quickly discover that knowledge of what NOT to do is as important as learning what to do. When I worked for a government science agency, I wrote many SOPs (Standard Operating Procedures) that were supposed to be followed by members of my research group. However, I found that in addition to writing a step-by-step description of how to conduct a procedure, I also needed to include a list of actions that should be avoided. The latter were typically things that an expert would have picked up through trial and error but that often were not mentioned in the standard instruction manual. I even discovered that I needed to write an SOP on how to use an SOP (those of you in government service will appreciate the irony in that).

I’ve previously posted some of the most common mistakes that beginners make in creating their first video, but they bear repeating. Below is my list of mistakes to avoid when making a video, with emphasis on the scientist as videographer. Below the list is an embeddable slideshow with additional information about each one.

1. Ignore Your Audience.

2. Have No Plan

3. Don’t Tell a Story

4. Use Bad Camera Moves

5. Overuse Zooming/Panning

6. Backlight Your Subject

7. Fail to Compose Your Shots Properly

8. Shoot Too Wide

9. Tell But Don’t Show

10. Drag It Out

11. Feature Talking Heads

12. Don’t Worry About The Audio

13. Have Speakers Introduce Themselves

14. Go Crazy With Special Effects

15. Make It Longer Than Necessary

16. Use Copyrighted Material Without Permission

And another embeddable slideshow in Prezi:

How to Create a Science Video with your iPhone

Scientists and students:  How much time would you invest to learn how to produce an informative and effective science video, requiring only an iPhone or other Smartphone that shoots video? In this new 15 minute tutorial, you can learn how to plan, shoot, edit, and share a professional-looking video that describes a research project, an important science topic or research finding, or a new method.

Such videos can then be used to meet the Broader Impacts criterion of the National Science Foundation or other funding agency, as supplemental online information for your journal publications, or just to enhance your website and show off your work.

All you need is an iPhone or other Smartphone that shoots video and supports the necessary software to edit the footage. Note that this tutorial is different from the one I previously posted, which used the Videolicious app. In this tutorial, I use the iMovie app for the iPhone (download from the App Store) and briefly show how to navigate the program to create a movie project.

Check it out:

There are other movie-editing apps and, of course, professional editing software that provide more bells and whistles, but these take more time to learn and are more expensive. The iMovie app for the iPhone is designed to use video shot with the iPhone, but you can also import media shot with a camcorder or digital camera (I use iTunes to transfer files from iPhoto to my iPhone camera roll). You will also notice that I included some animations that I created with PowerPoint and Photoshop, exported as movies, and uploaded to my iPhone. See previous tutorials for more information about doing animations in Powerpoint here and here.

Even though most of my videos are shot with a camcorder and edited on my computer with professional software, I increasingly find it easy and convenient to use my iPhone to capture video on the go and to quickly edit the footage and upload to a video-sharing site. As the cameras on these smartphones have improved, the quality of the images has gotten better and better. There has even been a full-length movie shot with a Smartphone (Nokia): go here to see the trailer and behind-the-scenes footage.

I hope you find this tutorial helpful and inspires you to use your iPhone or Smartphone to produce videos about your science projects.

Use Online Interviews in Your Science Video

An effective technique to use when you cannot afford to interview your subject in person or at their field site, is to do an online interview via Skype or similar service. You can record your computer screen while your interviewee answers your questions online. Then all you have to do is edit in footage and still images illustrating the points that your subject mentions. Here is an example of one such video:


Where Should I Publish My Science Video?

You’ve finished producing your science video and are ready to publish it.  Where is the best place?  YouTube? Your own website? In the following tutorial, I discuss some points to consider in making your decision because, in the end, it will depend on your particular situation and your objectives.

Be sure to select the HD version and full-screen options (on the lower right of the player window) for best viewing:

Download the script for the video here:

Download (PDF, 31KB)