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Video Techniques for Effective Science Communication

This is the seventh part of a short guide for researchers on simple and effective techniques for making compelling science communication videos. It’s based on a two and a half day workshop organized through the ASU Risk Innovation Lab, and is provided under a CC-BY-NC Creative Commons License. Written and produced by Andrew Maynard

The guide provides step-by-step instructions for producing sketch-style (whiteboard) videos, using a smartphone and basic editing software. It’s broken down into 8 sections:

  2. FOCUS


Editing brings together your video clips and voiceover to create a near-complete version of the final video. This is is followed (in the process we are covering in this guide) by final touches, where the last elements of the video are added (such as titles and soundtrack) and the video is polished up before being released. While we’ve separated out editing and final touches here into two parts of the production process, they are often combined.

There are many different approaches to editing. The one we’ll use here draws on my workflow — it isn’t the only approach, but it is quite an efficient one. (Workflow refers to what is done in which order to combine different elements into the final video).

In this approach, we fit the video clips to the voiceover, by altering their speed and adding still frames.

How this is done will vary between different editing programs. I use Final Cut Pro X and iMovie on a Mac, which both allow clip speed and the insertion of still frames to be managed easily. Both should be easy to do in other programs. However, we’ll be focusing on the process, not the specific mechanisms of how to do do it in different programs. That said, the iMovie/Mac combination is a clear winner here in terms of the ease with which videos can be edited. And the software’s free!

The bad news is that, if you are using a PC, the range of free/good video editors is limited. I’ve had workshop participants produce good videos using Movie Maker in Windows, but the program’s long in the tooth these days, and is clunky. Many video makers use Wondershare Filamora these days, but in workshops we have had uniformly bad experiences with the program, and would not recommend it!


1. Import video clips to your computer

Import your video clips onto your computer, from the iPod. How you do this will depend on whether you use a Mac or a PC (or something else).

For video clip import on a Mac, the easiest way to import clips is to connect the iPod to your computer and use the Image Capture app on the Mac.

IMPORTANT: VIDEO ORIENTATION: If you were using the pencil and paper method with the iPod positioned horizontally above the table, you may find that the orientation of your video is incorrect — as in vertically oriented rather than horizontal (this is not a problem with whiteboard video).

This can be corrected after importing to your computer. However, a much easier solution is to correct the orientation before import.

To correct the orientation on the iPod, open the Rotate and Flip app. Select the video clip you want to rotate from the list, and press “Select”. Then, on the next screen, choose how you want to flip the video, and press “Export”.

Do this for each clip you want to flip.

2. Import your voiceover to your computer

Voiceover import/export will depend on which app you used to make the recording (see the voiceover notes). To import it to your computer, follow the instructions in the app.

3. Import the clips and the voiceover into your video editing program

How you do this will depend on the program you use.

4. Create a new video project

Different programs have different terms for video projects — but what you are doing here is the equivalent of opening a blank document in a word processor.

5. Add all of your clips to the new video timeline

Add the clips in the same sequence as the storyboard. (I either add all the clips and then remove/edit clips from the video timeline, or selectively add clips to the timeline — both work just as well as each other, but for this exercise, we’ll start with everything, then remove what we don’t want).

6. Speed up all the clips in the timeline by a factor of 10

The way you do this will vary from program to program — on the Mac, you need to select all clips in the timeline and set their speed to 1000%. Note: in some programs you may need to render the video at this point for it to display properly.

At this point, you’ll also have to remove any audio that incidentally recorded along with the video (this is separate from the voiceover you recorded). Do this by selecting all clips and either setting the audio level to zero, or detaching the audio from all clips and deleting it.

7. Add the voiceover to the timeline

Once you’ve added the voiceover and before doing anything else, tidy it up. There’s usually a bit of noise at the beginning and the end, so remove these by starting the track after the initial noise, and stopping it just after the narration finishes.

If you recorded the voiceover in one take, you can move on to the next step. If not, go along and remove what you don’t want (such as fluffed lines and additional takes), and add in any additional takes. You should end up with a smooth voiceover track that has no audible joins or glitches.

Once you are happy with the voiceover, position it so that it starts where you want it to — this may be at the start of the first clip, or just before it.

8. Match the clips to the voiceover

Starting from the beginning of the voiceover, for each clip:

i) Delete it if it is a duplicate take or not needed (keep the best take!);
ii) Trim the beginning and the end of the clip if necessary;
iii) Create a freeze frame at the end of the clip;
iv) Adjust the speed of the clip and the length of the freeze frame to match the voiceover;
iv) Go on to the next clip.

A freeze frame is where you convert a single frame in the video into an image. Using this combination of speeded up video and freeze frames, it’s easy to match the video to the voiceover.

Use your judgement to gauge how fast or slow to make the clip, and how long to make the freeze frame. This will depend a lot on the voiceover — I typically vary the speed of my clips between 5x and 20x speed, but always start with 10x speed.

Sometimes, it also makes sense to add freeze frames in the middle of a clip.

At this point, you should have a reasonable looking video, that is just missing a sound track, opening and closing credits, and some final finessing.

Next up: Finishing Touches …