Basic Steps to Making a Science Video with a Smartphone

One of the biggest barriers for scientists to use video as a communication tool is the perception that video making is time consuming, expensive, and technically challenging. I know that this idea is out there not only because of comments from colleagues, but because this was my impression before I got involved in making videos. What I eventually learned was that advances in communication technology have made it possible for anyone to make a video—with inexpensive equipment and a minimum of time and effort. We now have (1) devices and software that make it ridiculously easy to create an effective and powerful video message and (2) the Internet where we can instantly share our knowledge globally.

To address this particular barrier, I’ve created a new tutorial that is designed to show the science professional just how easy it is now to create a video to share science. My goal with this brief tutorial was to demystify the video-making process for colleagues and students unfamiliar with it and to show how easy it is to plan, film, and edit a video with a smartphone (iPhone). I’ve emphasized the use of smartphones in this particular tutorial because: (1) most people already have one and know how to use it, (2) they have excellent cameras that can produce high definition video, (3) there are excellent movie-editing apps for mobile devices, (4) both the camera and editing software can be readily mastered with minimal training and effort, (5) their Internet accessibility facilitates sharing the video with others, and (6) filming, editing, and sharing a video is accomplished with a single device. Although other types of recording devices and more sophisticated editing software are available, they require somewhat more time and effort to master.

Here’s that tutorial (click here for a direct link):

Try Tweeting A 30-Second Video of Your Science

I recently posted this Tweet:filmyourscience

The idea is to encourage scientists to film some aspect of their research and share it through social media. Many scientists now have a smartphone that will shoot video. The incredible quality of phone cameras and ease of filming with them allow anyone to capture footage with minimal fuss. At the same time, some scientists and especially students are increasingly using Twitter to interact and share information.

I think that Twitter, which allows brief video clips (maximum length = 30 sec) along with a text message, is perfect for quickly sharing something you’re doing in the lab or an interesting observation you’ve made in the field. Using a hashtag (#FilmYourScience) helps identify tweets related to the topic.

I think such an effort has many benefits…for scientists as well as the scientific community.

  • Filming and sharing 30-second Tweets is a great way to learn how to shoot a video as well as to use social media to share science.
  • By learning to film and share videos of research, scientists will become more comfortable with the medium and see how effective video can be.
  • Sharing brief insights or observations via Twitter is an easy way to engage the public.
  • Showing what scientists do and where they work will help dispel some of the stereotypes about our profession.
  • Tweeting brief videos is a great way for a young researcher to increase their visibility and perhaps to find future collaborators.
  • Seeing and hearing about the various interesting things scientists do and where they work will encourage students to consider science as a career.

Here are brief instructions how to go about recording a video on a smartphone for a Tweet:

  1. Tap the Tweet icon to open a new message.
  2. Tap the camera icon.
  3. Tap the video icon, which will access the video camera.
  4. Record a video by holding down the record button. More clips can be added by pressing again. Record up to 30 seconds (you’ll get a warning when this limit is reached).
  5. Review clip by tapping it. Trim by dragging end bars. Reorder clips by dragging.
  6. Tap Done when finished.
  7. Add a text message to explain your video.
  8. Tap Tweet to share.

You can also import a previously recorded video from your device’s media library. These can be trimmed to 30 seconds in Twitter. To stop the video from autoplaying in your Twitter timeline, go to Settings>Data>Video>Video autoplay and change the setting.

Finally, here is a video tutorial showing how to attach a video to a Tweet (direct link):

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.

How to Shoot Better Video with an iPhone

Filming with a cellphone is easy…if you know the basics. You might think everyone knows those basics by now—for example, that video shot in portrait mode (phone held upright) will not play back properly on 16:9 aspect monitors (phones, computers, TVs). Apparently not everyone got the memo, judging by all the wrongly-oriented, amateur videos shown on news outlets. And there are several other simple, but often overlooked, ways to shoot better video with a phone.

So I’ve created a brief video to cover all the essentials (plus a few extras), which will improve the quality of videos filmed with an iPhone (direct link to video):

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):