ASM 2017 Workshop: Science Videos that Engage

ASM 2017 Workshop: Science Videos that Engage

Tuesday, February 28, 2017 18:30-21:30 Room 301B

Want to bring your science to a larger audience through film? Video has the potential to vastly increase public interest in science, especially among young people. Filmmaking can also offer scientists a creative outlet for expressing the visual, auditory, and personal aspects of their research. But filmmaking is an intimidating prospect – how do you go from an idea to a short, snappy film that will make your colleagues, regular citizens, donors, and policymakers care about your research? This session will tackle the filmmaking process by analyzing examples of short science films created by YOU! Back by popular demand, we invite submissions of short science films for screening, critique, and discussion at the ASM. A panel consisting of improv actor and communications expert Brian Palermo, aquatic scientist Jonathan Sharp (University of Delaware), and ASLO Director of Communications and Science Adrienne Sponberg will offer film critiques and facilitate discussion. Videos will be posted online for discussion before the meeting, and a selection will be screened during the session. Whether you’ve been making films for years or you’re considering your first project, we want to help you hone your skills and share your creativity with your peers. This session is open to all ”science filmmakers and film appreciators alike.

Submission Instructions

  1. Provide a YouTube link to your video here
  2. Videos should be no longer than 5 minutes
  3. Videos will be reviewed on a rolling basis, so please submit as soon as possible

  Tips to Help You Get Started After the video workshop at the 2012 Ocean Sciences Meeting, Randy Olson composed a list of guidelines and suggestions for aspiring science filmmakers. Keep these in mind as you plan and execute your project! You can also watch the panel discussion of the 2012 OSM videos to get a sense of what the workshop will be like.

  1. Write and develop a script before you start filming! Investing time in planning, scripting, and pre-production will make it much likelier you will end up with the film you wanted to make.
  2. Grab the audience’s interest (e.g. with an opening question or captivating visuals) AND lead them to some kind of conclusion/resolution.
  3. Figure out your “why?”, ask yourself, “what’s at stake?” The audience needs to understand why they should care about your topic.
  4. The power of one: a story centered on a single person/subject is a compelling framing. It seems counterintuitive, but a moving story about one person (or damsel fish) is more compelling than the same story about 4 people/damsel fish.
  5. Use on-screen titles: technical information often needs a little explanation! Still images supplemented with narration and music can be very effective for educational films, and text on the screen will particularly help the audience remember information containing numbers.
  6. The power of humor: in the words of Brian Palermo, “when they’re laughing, they’re listening.”
  7. Soundtrack: choose music and sound effects that match your visuals and tone. Consider composing an original score by hiring a music producer or collaborating with music students at your institution.
  8. Narration: record the most professional/high-quality voice-over you can. First-person narration by the scientist is great for these films, but you can also consider hiring a professional (check out
  9. Film is a visual medium: the quality of your visuals will largely carry your video. Try to imagine how you would tell your story without any voiceover, interviews, or music, then add those elements only as necessary. Like the previous two points, hiring a professional cameraperson can be a worthwhile investment if you are able.
  10. Less is more! People will only retain 2 or 3 pieces of information from a short video, so stick to your message. Video is primarily about getting an audience to connect with and care about a subject, not learn a lot of new information.

  Financial support for this workshop provided by the Ocean Sciences Division of the National Science Foundation.

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