How to Edit an iPhone Video to Create an Eye-Catching Tweet

I recently taught a workshop on science videography at a science society conference and wanted to post a few Tweets to let society members know about it and to attract additional participants. My plan was to post daily Tweets during the week prior to the workshop. My problem was how to make my Tweets noticeable among the many other Tweets being posted by conference goers. So, instead of attaching photos to the Tweets, I decided to create a series of brief video bulletins to make my Tweets more eye-catching and to emphasize the topic of the workshop.

However, I did not want to spend a lot of time on this, as I had my hands full preparing for the workshop. After a bit of experimentation, I discovered that it was easy to take short (10 second) video clips and use the editing option in the iPhone camera app to add a bit of text describing the workshop. Then it was an easy task to compose a Tweet on my phone and attach the video bulletin, a different one each day. A bunch of people viewed the Tweets, and I attracted several additional participants for my workshop. See below for an example:

Someone who saw my Tweets asked me how I created them. So, this week I put together a tutorial to show how to quickly turn a video clip stored in an iPhone camera roll into an eye-catching bulletin to announce an upcoming event or publication. The resultant video announcement can be exported and posted on a website, on a Facebook page, on a LinkedIn profile, or in a Tweet.

Use Video to Enhance Class Lectures

Video is a fantastic way to augment class lectures and let students see examples of habitats, organisms, and various physical/chemical/biological phenomena. Instead of just listening to a lecture about mangrove forests, students can go on a virtual field trip by watching a video. Quite a few educators are now using videos routinely to illustrate scientific concepts. The number of videos suitable to accompany science lectures is growing (here is a great list of videos for teaching ecology). Many of these are produced by professional filmmakers, but some are created by science practitioners and students.

Ecologists who work in different types of ecosystems and study various processes can make an important contribution to science education by making short documentaries (three to five minutes) focused on a particular topic. You may be doing research in an alpine forest, a grassland, or a coral reef. Or, you may teach a field course in a tropical rainforest or a desert. By shooting some footage and putting it together with a brief explanation, you can provide a unique insight into that ecosystem. If you get into the habit of creating short videos during such excursions, you will eventually build up a library of footage to augment class lectures. Students who take field courses or who are conducting field research can also produce informative videos in which they share their experiences and insights with other students or the general public.

I recently visited a unique ecosystem in southern Japan and decided to make a short video about it. I spent about two hours at the site shooting footage with my iPhone (attached to a monopod). I would have spent that much time anyway taking photos and just exploring the site. I additionally spent about five hours over the subsequent three days editing the clips (with iMovie) and incorporating information from the literature. Whenever I had a few minutes during my travels (waiting for a plane or bus), I trimmed the footage or searched the internet for information to include in the video. I did most of the initial editing on my iPhone, but finished the video on my computer using the desktop version of iMovie.

The resultant 4.5-minute video would be suitable to show in a lecture about climate controls on plant distributions or a more specialized lecture about mangrove ecosystems.

Now, some of you may be hesitant to make such a video, thinking that it will take a lot of time or will never be as good as professional science documentaries. Well, your videos don’t have to be of BBC quality to be effective. Also, you don’t need fancy equipment or a film studio to produce an informative and high-quality video. I used an iPhone 6 to film this video, which was rendered in high definition (1080p). As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, the iPhone is easy to use to capture video, especially if you know a few basics. Movie-editing is also quite easy with applications such as iMovie. Video-sharing sites allow creators to easily upload their videos online where they are readily shared with others.

The main point here is that with a little effort, I was able to create a mini-documentary about a topic of interest to students and researchers studying mangrove forests. Students may read about the distributional limits of mangroves, but text descriptions are dry and often not very interesting. A video, on the other hand, takes the viewer across oceans to a remote site they will likely never have the opportunity to visit and creates a memorable example of mangroves growing near their northernmost limit. The video is also understandable by non-specialists who might travel to southern Japan and want more information about unique coastal vegetation found there.

Use a Movie Trailer to Share Science

Hollywood uses movie trailers to announce a new film and to attract viewers. You can use the same approach to tell others about an upcoming journal article, report, book, or research project. Students might use a trailer to share their experiences on a field trip or to make a video to accompany a conference poster. It’s a fun way to share your work with others or to tell people about your activities.

How does one go about creating a movie trailer? In iMovie (both the desktop and mobile versions), you are given the option of making a movie from scratch or using a movie trailer template. If you select the latter, the trailer editor does most of the work for you—for example, making suggestions about what types of footage and text to use. The trailer option may be helpful if you are having difficulty getting started with a video project. You may be at a loss as to how to organize your material to tell a story…..or you may not have time to plan, shoot, and edit a movie from scratch.

To help you out, I’ve created a two-part tutorial to show how to use the trailer option in iMovie (Version 10.0.8) to create a movie trailer. In this tutorial, I recreate a trailer that announces an upcoming, hypothetical paper, but you can use it for many other purposes. The tutorial walks you through the workspace and shows how to: import footage and other media, modify added video clips and photos, and convert the trailer to a movie project to allow more extensive editing.

Even if you do not plan to use a movie trailer to share your work, making a mock trailer is a great way to begin learning how to design and edit a video. And, who knows? You may end up with something great. If you already have film clips or photos of your research or other activity, the movie trailer editor will allow you to make a video in less than an hour. If you do not like the provided templates (and some are pretty cheesy), it’s possible to convert the trailer to a regular movie project that can then be edited to your liking.

Parts One and Two are embedded below (select full-screen and HD for best viewing). Direct links to the videos are here and here.

How to Make a Video without Film Footage: Montage Revisited

montage_thumbnailA commenter recently took me to task for using a blog post title that was misleading. The post, which was one of my first on this blog (August 2012!!), described a film editing technique called “montage” in which the filmmaker uses a series of still images instead of footage to tell a story in a video. The title of the post was “How to Make a Science Video Without Film Footage”. The commenter said that I failed to tell how to do it, what software to use, or to provide a tutorial. Therefore, my post was “wrongly named”.

My intent with that post was to encourage budding scientist videographers, who have no video footage but do have lots of photographs depicting their research, to go ahead and make a video with whatever media they have in hand. I described how someone in this situation could still create an effective video with a sequence of photos and included a video example that primarily used still images to produce a narrative. I also described how one might use the “Ken Burns” effect to add motion to photographs and also sound effects (birds or crickets chirping, water sounds), all of which add to the illusion of movement in the montage.

My plan was to do a follow-up post and tutorial to demonstrate how to implement the montage technique….but I never got around to it.

The comment, though, told me that people were searching for tutorials showing how to make a video without film footage. So in this post, I would like to offer a tutorial that shows step by step how to edit still images to create a video. As you will see, I provide instructions on how to import photos, how to add a “Ken Burns effect”, how to add transitions between photos, how to add text titles, and how to add music or sound effects to bring the montage to life. Although I used iMovie (Version 10.0.8) for this tutorial, the principles of the montage technique generally apply to other editing software.

Note: This tutorial assumes that the viewer is familiar with the basic editing tools in the iMovie application (or some other editing software). However, you don’t need a lot of editing experience to apply this technique. In fact, montage is perhaps the easiest technique for a novice videographer to use when first starting to make videos.

Be sure to select the HD version (1080p) and full screen for best viewing (direct link to the video on YouTube):

iMovie for iOS Tutorial Updated

I recently traveled to France and England and used my iPhone 5s and the iMovie app to create a series of videos about the places I visited. I wanted to test the ease with which I could shoot and edit videos with my iPhone, and this trip provided that opportunity. The iMovie for iOS app has been improved and includes a variety of useful tools and options, many of which are easier to use than in previous versions. The ability to edit footage quickly with this app and produce a quality movie meant that I did not need to wait until I got back to the hotel and to my computer to edit. In most cases, I was able to edit the video on the fly as I was shooting the footage. I often had the video completely edited and ready to share by the time we finished touring for the day–much to the amazement of my traveling companions. By the end of the trip, I had created ten short videos that documented what we saw and did each day. I would never have accomplished this with a camera and desktop editing software, as that would have required me to sacrifice my evenings to download the files and then painstakingly review and edit the footage on my computer.

In any case, this experience showed me that with a little practice, it is incredibly easy and efficient to create a quality video with an iPhone and the iMovie app. As I pointed out in a previous post, it’s like having a film studio in your pocket. If you were doing field research, attending a conference, or just traveling as I was, this shoot and edit approach would be a sure-fire way to ensure a finished video product—as opposed to a bunch of random footage stored on a memory card.

Previous tutorials that I’ve created to show how to shoot and edit a science video on mobile devices used an earlier version of the iMovie app. I finally got around to redoing the tutorial with the current version (2.1.1) of iMovie for iOS–the version I used on this recent trip. This new tutorial uses footage I shot at the Natural History Museum in London and covers the basics of how to use iMovie to edit a video on an iPhone (direct link to video):