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We love videos as a communication medium here at Econnect. Most recently, we produced a video of Vox-Pops from a social media workshop we ran in Rockhampton for the Queensland Office of the Chief Scientist. We did this after one of our participants suggested it. Thanks Caitlin!

Earlier this year we put together a video using existing footage and new interviews for the Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency. The video helped FFA win a global prize for their efforts to reduce illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing of tuna in the Pacific.

We train scientists and others on how to use their smart devices to produce great videos. This year we trained all the winners of the Queensland Women in Stem Prize.

Jenni was also judge for the 2019 Cicada Film Festival, a film festival of short environmental films open to southeast Queensland youth. That’s why this month’s newsletter is about Using videos to communicate your science:

•    Remember it’s about the pictures not the words
•    A swimming pool of custard explains an element of physics
•    TV news interviews – making the most of them
•    Grow your viewing audience

We hope you enjoy this newsletter, and welcome your feedback.

Regards from the @EconnectTeam: Jenni MetcalfeToss Gascoigne, Claire Heath, Michelle RiedlingerMadeleine Stirrat & Jas Smith.

Remember it’s about the pictures not the words

By Jenni Metcalfe

Ever since my days physically cutting film with ABC TV in the 1980s, I have been fascinated by the power of moving pictures.

Most people (except for millennials) still get their news from TV. YouTube is the most popular social media outlet, with more than 400 hours of video being uploaded every minute.

Video is an ideal means for communicating science given it is user-friendly; communicates complexity more easily; and helps to illustrate new methods and techniques.

But making videos can be expensive. Here are some tips for making videos effectively:

  • Consider the audience you want to get to – do they want to be informed, entertained or learn how to do something step by step?
  • Draw up a storyboard or script, listing the images you will show rather than the words.  Let the pictures tell the story.
  • Use a smart phone to film your video – but put it in flight mode (so no-one interrupts you), hold it horizontally, and keep the phone still.
  • Avoid strong back lighting (it turns the subject into a silhouette) and background noise like air-con and planes.
  • Edit the video so your first 10 seconds are dramatic and engaging, and keep the video to 2 minutes or less.
  • Consider how you will promote and distribute your video to your target audience (see Michelle’s article below).

Image: PALOMA Aviles from Pexels.

A swimming pool of custard explains an element of physics
By Claire Heath

I have known since I started cooking as a teenager that a mixture of cornflour and liquid seems to solidify as soon as you stop stirring it.

I had no idea that this was an example of how non-Newtonian fluids behave. I’d not even heard the term until I stumbled recently on a video, in which the Brainiacs, who open doors into the wonders of science, technology, engineering and maths, demonstrate these strange fluids using a 27,000-litre swimming pool full of custard.

Yes, that’s right. That exaggerated amount of cornflour mixture turned out to be part of why the video was such an entertaining way to learn a bit of physics.

Other elements that make the video work are that:

  • the Brainiacs tell a story, which, like most good stories, reaches a point of crisis near the end—sinking into the custard—before being quickly resolved in the hero’s favour
  • they use verbal and visual humour
  • they use ordinary English, and the smattering of technical terms (‘surface tension’, ‘non-Newtonian fluid’) are explained by the context
  • the video is quite short (4:04 mins).

Apart from getting an introduction to non-Newtonian fluids, I also discovered there’s a name for the cornflour-and-water mixture that’s often used to illustrate this fluid. It’s oobleck, and it’s named after a substance in a Dr Seuss story, Bartholomew and the oobleck.

That, too, appeals to my sense of humour.

Image: chiswickscience/Youtube.com.

TV news interviews – Making the most of them

By Toss Gascoigne

The use of video is exploding on new media and the outlets are multiplying.

Traditional media, with reporter and camera operator? Disappearing quickly but the fundamentals remain sound. Here are seven tips for television news interviews:

  1. Know why you want to use the media. It’s not cost-free, so have a reason firmly in mind.
  2. You’re talking to the public (which includes funders, policy-makers, colleagues, as well as Betty from Blacktown), so focus on HOW this work will affect their daily lives.
  3. What do you want to say? Work that out before you start talking, and make sure you weave it into the interview.
  4. Always give the journalist something in writing. It sets out the story the way you think it should be told, and helps prevent errors in the reports.
  5. Prepare.  Work out how to explain complex ideas using simple analogies. Think in dollar terms. Can you tell the story in three key points?
  6. Rehearse. It may be short but it’s not easy.
  7. In the interview, begin by explaining the point of the story in a couple of sentences.  Stick to the main point. Don’t stray – you need to be disciplined.
  8. Best style for video? Friendly, informal, knowledgeable, enthusiastic.

Where do you look? When you’re talking, only into the eyes of the journalist. If the journalist is in another studio, look where the camera operator says, or down the barrel of the lens.

Can’t answer a question? Be honest, explain why (“not my area, results aren’t in yet, a policy matter you should address to the CEO”); and then add “But what I can say…” and bring out one of your points.

Think about what picture opportunities you can offer: laboratories, experimental sites, interesting machines. Make sure they’re accessible and suggest this as a meeting place for the interview.

Who can tell your story from another perspective? Someone who will benefit from the research: a medical patient, an environmentalist, a farmer. Reporters want a second perspective and they’re busy, so if you can organise a second talent and good pictures, they will love you.

Most of the above applies to YouTube, blogs, and other social media. Humour works, too.

Grow your viewing audience
By Michelle Riedlinger

Even the most engaging science videos on YouTube won’t get the viewing audience they deserve without promotion. Here are some tips for gaining a bigger YouTube audience for your science channel.

1. Make your video titles engaging.  Your titles have to deliver what they promise—Google downgrades a video in the search results if viewers start clicking away from it within the first few moments. Sprout Social has some nice tips on engaging readers without resorting to clickbait.

2. Help YouTube direct interested viewers to your site. YouTube is the second largest search engine in the world so make cataloguing your videos easy. Emphasise key words in your video titles and descriptions and say them in your videos so that YouTube has a good sense of what your videos are about. Use “Categories” to help YouTube know who to show your videos to and use “Tags” to give YouTube more understanding of your content.

3. Become part of your community. YouTube is more than a video hosting platform—it’s a community of communities. If you’re starting out, look at other similar science channels and see what formats and content your potential viewers like. Read their comments. If you’re already posting videos, reply to every comment. Be the first person to like your video and be the first person to comment. Asking questions is a good way to encourage community members to engage with you.

4. Keep track of your viewers. YouTube has a good analytics tool to help you work out who your viewers are, and what they like and don’t like. Check out “Audience retention” under the “Interest viewers” tab. Look for spots where audience viewing drops off. What was happening in the video? Are your videos too long to keep viewers engaged? Aim to keep at least 50% of your viewers watching to the end.

5. Promote your video through social media channels. Post links to your videos on Twitter and embed your videos as native content on Facebook (you’ll get a lot more views that way). Cross-promote by inviting other science YouTubers to contribute to your videos and offer to contribute to their videos.

Check out the YouTube extension TubeBuddy. It’ll prompt you to keep up with these, and other, best practices.

Image: PC Magazine and freepic.com.

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