New to video? No problem.

Creating an Ocean 180 video abstract might sound like a great idea, but filming and editing may not be skills you have had the chance to develop in your career. Looking at the finalists from last year might leave you feeling equal parts impressed, inspired, and intimidated.IMG_0817

But it may be easier than you think, even for the novice film-maker. Most of the tools and equipment you would need to create a video abstract are likely at your fingertips right now. Gathering the footage and editing the material doesn’t need to be an overwhelming process. Rather, it can be a fun approach to communicating your research to new audiences.

So where do you start?

What’s your story?

Before you worry about how to make your video abstract, think about what you want it to look like. Take some time to develop a storyboard or outline of your video. Just like preparing a presentation, it’s important to tackle the planning process with your message and objectives in mind.

“The best camera is the one you have with you.”

The camera capabilities on most phones are equal to, or even eclipse, the quality on the hand-held cameras we’re familiar with. To kick your smart phone videos up a notch, there are a plethora of programs and add-ons that can give your video a more polished look. To give you an idea of what’s out there, TechHive described a few iPhone accessories in a review from 2013. There are dozens more, but it’s a good introduction to the variety of tools you can use with just your phone.

Many research programs have already taken advantage of using a GoPro in the field. These are incredibly lightweight and can even be used in underwater filming. They give you the chance to capture some beautiful- and sometimes unexpected– footage.

Of course, a simple handheld camera or more advanced camcorder will do the job just fine. While they can be harder to transport, they can produce high quality video and may be easier for you to access. Some universities or research institutions have a media department which will actually loan or rent out equipment. It’s worth asking.

“It was a constant process of winnowing down and cutting down what I was going to be able to use.”- Dr. Joeseph Pawlik, 2014 Ocean 180 finalist

Having too much footage is a much better problem than if you don’t have enough. You only have 3 minutes, so there’s a great chance you’ll have to leave a lot of your footage on the cutting room floor. A range of shots and images will give you options when it comes time to edit it all down. Consider bringing a camera with you to the lab or in the field to capture as much footage of your work as possible or to interview colleagues. You likely won’t be able to include it all for Ocean 180, but you never know when the video will come in handy in future projects or presentations.

Similar to cameras, you don’t need to search far to find editing tools and software that can bring your research to life. Most Mac users are familiar with iMovie and Windows has its own free video editing software in Windows Movie Maker. Both are relatively basic and simple to use.

While it may feel like Mac users have all the fun with video editing, Power Director has gotten some great reviews as a user-friendly program for PC users. One of the 2014 finalists was able to create their submission using this software and called it “amazingly powerful and useful”.

Schedule a sneak-peak showing

Do you know a middle school student? Ask them to review your video before you submit it. While it’s not required, it’s not against the rules! They might be able to give you some suggestions on how to make a great entry even better. If you can’t find a 6-8th grader, think about sharing it with a high school student, friends, family, or even other scientists who work in different fields. Creating a video abstract can be a learning experience from the development of your entry all the way through to the final results.

Work with a professional

Creating the entry you want might take more expertise and tools than you have right now. Professional filmmakers, videographers, animators, or editors might be able to offer those skills and teach you a little along the way. Scientists are welcome to create a video abstract with the assistance of a professional in these fields, and it is a great way to learn more about video storytelling, editing, and communication techniques. **Please note that if your video abstract is developed with the help of a film/video professional (as defined in our guidelines) you must submit your entry in a separate category.

Do you have any suggestions or advice for a new scientist-filmmaker? Tips or trick that might help them as they start planning and creating their Ocean 180 entry? Let us know in the comments below!

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