Bringing science to life

Quote of the month

The essence of cinema is editing. It’s the combination of what can be extraordinary images of people during emotional moments, or images in a general sense, put together in a kind of alchemy.‘ 

Francis Ford Coppola

Welcome to our September 2013 newsletter: Communicating through video
Smartphones, cheap cameras and easy-to-use software make it easy for anyone to produce video. This month, we offer some tips on shooting, editing and scripting video, and using it in interpretive contexts.What are your tips or experiences with video? Let us know on Facebook, Twitter or email us.
Regards from the @EconnectTeam:

Immerse me

By Alison Binney

Time and time again, I find myself wandering into dimly lit video installation spaces in museums, and walking back out in a matter of seconds.

A talking head on a screen in a dark room is not my type of museum experience.

Self-confessed museum geek Suse Cairns says immersion in museums comes from more than just being engaged in a story. Her thoughts resonate with how I want to feel when I watch a video in a museum.

‘I was transported… disengaged – separated – from the everyday, from the context of real life’, she says.

Her experience in a submarine at the Australian National Maritime Museum in Sydney was one of the most affecting museum experiences she’s ever had.

‘Immediately upon entering the submarine, I started feeling light-headed. My heart rate went up… The submarine flooded my senses. It had a smell of ageing metals and dust; like an old hospital. The skinny corridors curtailed my natural movement.’

In this case, the submarine is real, but it is possible to immerse people into a deeper level of engagement using video.

The Immigration Museum in Melbourne ran an installation in 2011–12 called Belonging: Reflections on place. which used videos to transport visitors into the lives of Australian migrants.

The 2012 Belonging: Reflections on place installation at the Immigration Museum in Melbourne used video to immerse visitors into the lives of Australian migrants and refugees.

Footage taken on board trains and buses was projected onto walls to immerse you into the sense of travel and movement. At the same time, you could wear headphones and listen to and watch personal interviews with immigrants and refugees. Six video monitors played excerpts from various interviews—the idea was to create a sense of community.

Ambient sounds from on board trains and buses were played through a sound system. Each video and audio device engaged a different sense, layering the experience.

While museum budgets will determine the depth of an interpretive video experience, as communicators we need to be spending as much time thinking about how to install an experience as we do in developing the content.

I can watch TV at home. I like it when museums tell stories using video as an experience that I can take home.

Preparing for a video shoot  the 5 C’s

By Robbie Mitchell

Remember these 5 tips and you’ll be prepared for almost anything:

  • Contact your talent – Organise a date and time to film. Tell the talent how much of their time you need and how many minutes of overlay footage you need. Work with them to conceptualise what footage you can capture on the day. You may need to ask them to set up experiments or action shots.
  • Check the weather forecast – Do this far enough in advance so that you prepare for the elements or alter your shoot accordingly.
  • Create a shoot list – List all the things you want to capture on film. On the day of your shoot, tick off each item on the list to make sure you get all the footage you need.
  • Charge your batteries – You’d be surprised how many times you will get caught out with half-charged or dead batteries. Charge all your batteries in advance, including your back-up batteries.
  • Confirm that you have all your equipment – I’ve created a final checklist of all the equipment I need when I go out into the field. I use this checklist when I’m packing my film bag to make sure I have everything I need.

Have I forgotten anything? Send me your tips @RobbieMitch

Outdoor filming – 3 tips for dealing with sun and wind

By Robbie Mitchell

Farmers and even some researchers often feel more comfortable being interviewed in natural surroundings.

Filming outdoors also means we can get some great overlay footage to complement the interview, as we have done for the Climate Champion program.

The drawback is dealing with the weather, mainly the wind and sun.

Here are 3 tips that can help:

  • Make the sun work for you – Never have the sun in the frame unless you are trying to film a rising or setting sun. Try to always have the sun behind you or to the side of you. This will help light your subject without making the footage too bright. If you’re interviewing a person outdoors, try different positions and angles so the sun is lighting their face but they aren’t squinting. You may need to move to a different location to achieve this.
  • Don’t rely on the camera’s built-in microphone – Invest in an external microphone that you can connect to your camcorder. In windy conditions, if you are using a hand-held or boom microphone, put a thick sock or beanie over it so that the sound is not distorted.
  • Use headphones to hear what you’re recording – Before you start the interview, listen through the headphones to make sure your microphone is working; the sound coming through is audible; and there are no background noises, wind whistles, scratches, bumps or echoes to spoil your quotes.


Editing video efficiently – 6 tips

By Robbie Mitchell

I can happily spend days in a dark room scrolling through hours of footage to piece together a story, adding the perfect background music to convey emotion, and rendering the final product to make my subjects shine.

When I began editing videos professionally, I had to reel in my immersive tendencies and find ways to edit high-quality videos to a budget and schedule.

These 6 tips help me to edit video professionally and efficiently:

PC or Mac?
What specifications are important?
How do I get video into my computer to edit?
What editing software should I use?
How can I share my video?

  • Choose an editing program that you are comfortable with. Pre-installed editing software—Windows’ Microsoft Movie Maker and Apple’s iMovie—are easy to use and great for beginners. If you plan on buying advanced editing software, such as Apple’s Final Cut or Adobe Premiere, download a 30-day trial, and spend a couple of hours editing some sample footage. Lance Carr explains what to test for when choosing video editing software.
  • Organise and backup your raw footage and edits. Name and file your footage and projects in a way that makes them easy to find and back up. I like to be super vigilant and backup all my raw footage and my edits to an external hard drive too.
  • Have a plan for your video. If you have a script, stick to it. If you don’t have a script, consider transcribing your footage and creating a script, particularly if you’ve conducted an interview. Either way, it’s important to organise your narrative before you start adding overlay footage, music or effects.
  • Learn keyboard shortcuts. Common commands for Play, Pause, Split, Copy, Paste, and Cut make editing much quicker.
  • Keep your video short and simple. Know what you want to say and then say it. 2–3 minutes is ideal for an online video. And don’t go overboard with video effects and transitions. Simple fades and colour adjustments suffice in most cases.

Scripting  it’s all about the pictures

By Jenni Metcalfe

Technology has come a long way since I worked on ABC TV’s CountryWide 25 years ago when we used to cut film.

Yet, videos are just moving images designed to communicate a message to an audience, and writing a video script relies on the same basic principles I learnt all those years ago.

  • Focus on the pictures not the words, otherwise you may as well be writing something for people to read or listen to (which would be a lot cheaper and faster).
  • Consider the messages you want to get across to your audience and imagine the pictures that would help convey these messages.
  • Describe the pictures in sequence, writing in the left-hand column of your script document. Later, you will create your storyboard from these descriptions, which will determine what pictures you need to video.
  • Write the words that the viewer will hear or see, through a narrator, interviews and/or graphics. Place these words in the right-hand column of your script to match the pictures.
  • Let the pictures tell the story. Go back over the words and cut them back to the bone.
  • Note where sound effects and music will add impact.

Storyboard example showing visual image, voiceover, sound effects and special effects (Source: Xie Zhi Jie)