Video Making

I create geoscience videos under contract – This is what you can expect from me:

These are the typical steps used when I am contracted to create a YouTube video of a science project. Note this is a guideline only. The actual process used is collaborative, iterative and by negotiation.

The information below will give you an idea of my thought processes, overall approach, strategy and tactics and what you can expect.

If you would like further information  you can contact me here

Video Project Process

1. Scoping discussion about the purpose and scope of the video and how it fits in to your overall Education and Outreach aims of your programme or project.- who is the audience
– what is the main message
– who will be involved in the filming
– location/s logistics etc

2. We create a storyboard with outline of the filming, narration and resources needed

3. Health and Safety requirements are discussed

4. Recording on location

5. Rough edit – share draft for comments and finalization

6. Creation of the video thumbnail and subtitles (closed captions for viewers who are hard of hearing

7. Sign off and publication 

8. Promotion – sharing the link via emails, social media, websites and subscriber list as soon as possible. The YouTube algorithm will show the video to more people if it has lots of engagement in the 24 hours following publication. Therefore it is good for all parties to share it as widely as possible once it has been made public, and engage meaningfully with any comments or feedback.

STYLE GUIDELINES – How I approach my science video storytelling. 

I make videos to educate and inspire interested non specialists about the way the natural world works and the value of the science process for our understanding of it. My focus is making the story super clear and engaging.

It’s about the science:

I concentrate on summarizing the science story accurately and with integrity whilst highlighting the authenticity of the presenters and the reality of the investigation process. Because of my teaching and science communication background, I have expertise in ‘getting into the heads’ of audiences and conveying information in ways that they find accessible and engaging.

I aim to maintain interest through the use of appropriate and varied imagery and language that is appealing for general non-specialist audiences. I keep the story moving and highlight some of the key details.

What do the videos convey?

At the core of my videos is a science story. Usually this is expressed as a description of

1. Where we are and why we are here
– the location
– the geological context
– the problem or science question be explored
– why this work is important

2. The science process
– The practical methods we are using and what this looks like on the ground.
– the technology used
– the challenges faced

3. Wrap up 
– summary of the question
– where we have got to
– any results
– what the results mean
– implications and where to next

Strategy and tactics

– Typically my videos appeal to people who are already interested in nature and learning
– The public, amateurs, nature explorers
– Teachers and school students
– Funders and stakeholders who want to see summarised evidence of progress with a project
– Scientists who enjoy seeing their work brought to the public attention


Tactical approach

Longevity of the videos – evergreen content:

– I mostly describe a science process rather than a time bound story that will be of no interest next week. In this way the videos can remain educationally relevant for a long time and continue to accrue attention for years after being made.

Videos for future relevance 

Natural hazard related videos may suddenly become particularly relevant after an event occurs. Strategically it is super valuable to have pre-made content that will come into its own the next time that hazard occurs, whether it be a tsunami, flood, landslide, earthquake or volcanic eruption.

Planned take-away learnings

The learning content of a science story will be on a few levels:

1. There are general visual messages (what the environment looks like, the sorts of equipment being used, the passion of the scientists, the overall context and value of the research)

2. There are also the more detailed descriptive insights such as specific techniques and tools, step by step methodologies and how the data is interpreted to reach new understandings. These elementss add up to show the unfolding science process.

3. Finally there are more diffuse emotional take-aways. These semi-conscious elements are what will inform the positive relationship of the viewer to the content and potentially bring  them back to see more similar content in the future: For example:

– scientists are real humans, passionate about their work and who have a sincere desire to serve society
– the power and wonder of geological processes being revealed
– science is an independent voice that reaches conclusions objectively
– science is important to help build a better and safer world
– being a scientist takes you to amazing places
– scientists can be young or old, and of any gender, racial or cultural identity

Video Length

In general the story and content itself dictates the minimum amount of time needed to cover the essential details. This usually falls in the range of 5 to 7 minutes per video as a very rough guideline. A video series can be created that relates elements of a large research programme.

My track record:

I created the GNS YouTube channel from scratch and added about 160 videos to it over the 13 years I was there, whilst also undertaking numerous other education and outreach projects such as school visits, teacher workshops, blogs, website content etc.

By the time I left (after 13 years) these videos had reached a total viewership of 5,000,000, growing at an increasing rate of well over 500,000 per year.

The videos on average were gaining over twice as many views per video as the next most popular science organization channel in New Zealand.