Episode 14 – How to make videos about science

We all know videos are one of the most popular and effective mediums to share science and that it’s possible to make great videos on your phone. Gone are the days of needing specialist, expensive equipment! But we can still all benefit from learning about how professionals approach making exciting, engaging videos.

This week Michael and Jen are joined by our wonderful UniMelbSciComm colleague Dr Graham Phillips who has had a long and illustrious career presenting science on TV. As you would imagine, Graham has a heap of advice and tips to share! Two of our UniMelbSciComm alumni, Marie Kinsey and Charlotte Gerada also share their thoughts.

Plus here are a couple of resources to help you make better science videos:


Jen (00:00:00)
Welcome to Let’s Talk SciComm, a podcast by the University of Melbourne Science Communication Teaching Team. I’m Dr Jen Martin and my co-host is Dr Michael Wheeler and we believe science isn’t finished until it’s communicated.

Jen (00:00:34)
Hello and welcome to another episode of Let’s Talk SciComm.
I’m Jen and as ever, I am thrilled to be joined by my friend and colleague and co-host Michael. Hello Michael.

Michael (00:00:56)
Hey Jen, it’s great to be here as always and I’m very excited for this episode. We’re going to be talking all about communicating science on video, which I think we’ll all agree is a medium of communication that has exploded in popularity during COVID lockdowns and will continue to be an important element of how we communicate science going forward.
And to the listeners, just think of all of the recorded presentations you’ve had to give over the past couple of years with virtual conferences. Maybe you’ve had your research filmed for TV. Maybe you’ve been interviewed on TV or you’ve tried making a short video about your science for social media. And surely you’ve noticed these videos on your own social media feeds.
And there are techniques for communicating on video that television producers have been using for decades. That can be very helpful to improving our own ability to communicate through video and who better to chat about some of these techniques than our own Dr Graham Phillips. Graham, welcome back to the podcast.

Graham (00:01:57)
Hey, hello, hello, thank you.
Good to be here again. I had so much fun last time.

Jen (00:02:10)
We’re so excited Graham. Well, this time we’re not going to make you talk about the horrible things you did to your little sister when you were building chemistry labs and doing all sorts of strange things in your garage. We’re actually going to make you talk a bit more about SciComm today, so the pressure is on.

Michael (00:02:24)
Pressure is on.

Graham (00:02:25)
I can’t believe I said that stuff last time.
Anyway, yes, alright, I’m feeling the pressure, but I’m ready to go.

Michael (00:02:30)
And just to give the listeners a bit of background, you may be familiar, but Graham has some great insights here because as a reminder, Graham has had a distinguished career as a science journalist in print and on many television programmes such as ABC TV’s Quantum, Catalyst, Hot Chips as well as the Seven network’s Beyond Tomorrow.
So Graham, you’ve got a lot of first-hand experience of many of these techniques. But the first question that I actually wanted to ask is what you think about the rise in popularity of scientists communicating on video, and perhaps the power that this medium has compared to other mediums like print?

Graham (00:03:13)
Yeah, isn’t it interesting? I, I was giving talks to scientists about how to make better YouTube videos oh many years ago and I remember thinking you know how many of them are really doing this? It’s not… video is a thing, but it’s not that big a thing. But of course now it’s just exploded. You’re right, it’s on every social media platform. That’s what you gotta have, a video. Still pictures don’t really cut it any more, most of the time.
So I think it’s really an important way to communicate everything. And why is it so good? I think it’s, it’s really impacts you, video. They often say television and videos are non-intellectual medium because it’s very hard to explain the why of things and how of things because you got to show pictures, you’re showing pictures. So it’s very good for describing things. So it may lose a little bit in its ability to talk about all the theoretical stuff that you can in a print article for example. But the impact and the power it has is much, much greater than print, I think.

Jen (00:04:06)
Do you think that there are particular kinds of science that will only ever be explored in print though?
Because they don’t have sexy enough images to go with them to make it into videos? Or do you think you can make any science amazing on video?

Graham (00:04:22)
Look, I think you can make any science amazing on video, and I’ve certainly in the ABC made some programmes on some very theoretical stuff which was quite challenging. The one I’m thinking of is a half hour documentary on something called the Fine-tuning Problem in Cosmology, which [is] why all the fundamental constants seem to be set up to allow life to evolve. Very theoretical stuff. But you know, you can find ways around that to show things visually.

Michael (00:04:47)
Hmm yeah. And I suppose in terms of the technical aspects of communicating on video, I guess there’s a lot of variety in the ways that it can be done, and lots of different elements to that. I’m just curious what you see as some of the most important elements of video communication.

Graham (00:05:04)
I guess it’s all about communicating like you’re talking to someone, you’re communicating with someone. So you don’t want it to be too formal. Casual conversation. You write your scripts in terms of the spoken word. I always say the best way to do it is get your phone, push it on record and just say your research as if you were talking about it. Then they’re the kind of words, perhaps the exact words that you should be putting in a script.

Jen (00:05:30)
So what do you think that means then Graham for someone you know, the audience that we’re speaking with now? It’s probably unlikely that very many of them are gonna end up to go on and have TV careers, although apologies if that’s you as you listen. So we’re more thinking about those of us who[‘re] recording ourselves, whether it be for a social media clip or because we need to record a talk.
And you know that one of the things we teach our students is really try hard not to pre-script things. Because the minute you’ve written down words and then you’ve tried to memorise them or you’re gonna read them, you really lose your chance to come across as having any sort of genuine enthusiasm or passion and having an opportunity to connect with your audience. But yet, you do have to plan, don’t you? As you’ve just said, where’s the balance there? Some people can just go completely off script and just chat, but for many people that’s not possible. How do you face that conundrum?

Graham (00:06:22)
Yeah look it’s… and you know, if you’re doing it for a living, like on television, then you’ve had a lot of experience doing that kind of thing. But it, you’re right, it’s quite a skill to be able to deliver scripted words, sounding as if they’re natural. I mean, that’s what actors do. But it’s quite a skill to develop that.
So that’s right, the message to the students. The message I give them is “look, if you have those skills, give it a go” but you know, I’m guessing 99% of you don’t have them. If you don’t have them, then it’s much better to be speaking off the cuff, I think.
But once again, that difference between the spoken word and the written word as both of you know so well is so great. I always, when I’m talking to my students say “look, if you’re going to memorise your talk, which I don’t recommend you do, much better to talk from dot points. But if you feel you really need to do that, then give the talk to yourself, not from notes, just record it on your phone chatting as if you would chat and then go back and transcribe what you said on your phone and use those words at least. At least they’re the spoken word rather than the written word.” I still don’t recommend it because it is still really hard for most people to pull off. There have been a couple of students I’ve noticed that can pull it off, but it’s not a natural thing for most people.

Jen (00:07:30)
No, no, not at all. And these days you can actually just sit in front of Microsoft Word or no doubt many other programs and just speak and it will type in front of your very eyes.

Graham (00:07:40)
Yeah, that’s true, that’s true, you don’t have to even do the transcribing anymore.

Michael (00:07:44)
Yeah, and I guess there’s a lot of moving parts with videos as well. So you’ve got the ‘what you’re going to say’, the words that are actually going to come out of your mouth. But then you’ve got to think about what it looks like visually and you, I guess you also have to consider what it sounds like and whether there’s going to be any sounds in the background, or whether you’re going to use sound effects or anything like that. And trying to knit them all together in a way that conveys the, the story of the, the science that you’re trying to get across.

Graham (00:08:15)
Yeah, and that’s, that’s the other thing with television. I… Because I came from print, I was doing, writing a lot for newspapers and then went into television after that. And the thing that struck me in my own head: With print, you’re sitting down with a blank page or a blank screen on your word processor, whatever it is and you can write anything you like. If you think gee I want to get into a really, into the story in a really unusual way, you can do it, or you can get into it in a standard way. You can do whatever you like. You have a lot of freedom with print.
Whereas I found with television it was a totally different feeling inside my head. It wasn’t like I had a blank page in front of me. It was like I had a jigsaw puzzle, [with] a whole bunch of pieces that I just had to put those pieces together in some way to make a good coherent story. So in many ways it was much more restrictive than print, you know.
And you would often find yourself when you’re in the edit suite, you’ve just edited your story together for the first draft, you get the executive producer in to come and have a listen, to get a fresh pair of eyes on it, if nothing else. And the executive producer will say, “I don’t really understand this bit here. What do you mean?” I say “oh, what I’m trying to say is” and I just say it. And then their invariable comment is “well, just put that in the script”.
But often it’s, often it’s hard because you’ve got to show it with pictures. You can’t just put that in the script because you’ve got to kind of tell a story with pictures, and that’s the, the real challenge for making an entertaining video I think is to think OK, and this is what I want to say, but how would I show things to say that? And ideally it’s good if the pictures can tell the story and the narration if you like, the words just add to the pictures and help with the pictures. If pictures themselves can tell the story, that’s really powerful, people will just get sucked into that.
Often in science, you’ve got explanatory stuff and you can’t, you need other techniques or you, you can’t, you have no pictures if you’re talking about… I did a story once on a new kind of microscope, I think it was and there were no pictures to show at all other than maybe of the microscope, which is a bit dull. So we, we made this analogy of people in a swimming pool and showing how I, I can’t remember the details of the story now, but there’s lots of people in the swimming pool doing certain things to convey what we’re trying to talk about in this microscope. So then there was something to look at. So people are looking at the swimmers and they kind of get it then, they’re seeing things as you’re explaining them.
So I think you can be a bit creative and think oh okay, there are no pictures to explain my research. But wait a minute, using an analogy or something like that, maybe there are pictures. So I think that is, number one rule is trying to tell it with pictures and because if you don’t, people will get distracted. They will still look at the pictures no matter what you put up there. If you have, if they’re not really relevant to your research or explaining something that you’re talking about, they’ll get distracted, they won’t listen to you, they’ll just watch the pictures. We watch the pictures rather than listen to the narration.

Jen (00:10:59)
So Graham talked to us a bit about camera angles and shots and things. ‘Cause I, I have heard you speak about this before and and I know you sort of talked about the impact you can have with a close up and you’ve just talked about panning before.
But of course we live in an age now where most people when they’re making their own videos, they’re just making selfies. So there’s, there’s not a lot of opportunity there. How important is it that we think about the creativity that can come with looking at things and making these pictures from different angles and in different ways?

Graham (00:11:25)
Yeah, look, I think you want to, you want to grab attention, that’s what it’s all about in the world, in general these days it seems. But certainly with your video you want people to watch it and you want people to watch it through to the end. So if you can make it interesting to watch, visually interesting, they’re more likely to watch what you’re saying, what you’ve made. And of course, that’s what television has been doing since whenever television started or film indeed been doing for 100 years, is that finding ways to keep the audience interested.
So the natural thing to do for most of us as you say is to pick up the phone and do the selfie thing or wave the camera around and get some pictures of what you’re looking at. But that’s sort of pretty boring in the scheme of things. So it’s much better if you’ve got a thing you want to film rather than just think of OK, I’m going to wave my camera around and see what we show, show everyone what’s there, what my eyes can see. It’s much better to think about doing different shots, which is of course what they do in movies and television.
So you know, you think about if you’re in a scene with someone… I’m lecturing in a class, whole bunch of students in there, taking notes maybe on their laptops, maybe handwriting them. What I could do is just get out the camera and film the scene of that room, just waved my camera around. It’s pretty boring. But if instead I think, well, wait a minute, I’ll just think of this scene in terms of different shots, and then I’ll edit those shots together later, I can make a much more interesting film of what is really a visually boring kind of situation.
There’s a whole lot of different shots. You know there’s the, there’s the close up, where you’re maybe just seeing the person’s head. There’s the midshot where you’re seeing their waist up. That’s a wide shot where we might see the whole room, this whole lecture theatre room. There’s some… there’s a top shot, a drone shot, you get your drone out in principle, fly it over the top. You could get a extreme close up of just the student’s eyes, or just the lecturer’s eyes. You could get a close up of, extreme close up of them just writing one letter on their screen or typing one letter or their fingers just on one key of the keyboard.
We could get 15 different shots of that same scene. And then when you edit those together, rather than just waving your camera around, you edit those together. You can make a really visually interesting sequence. You could start off with just the person’s eyes as the first shot. You’re drawn into that as a viewer because you’re not used to watching someone that close up. It’s called harassment if you go up and stare at someone that closely. So it’s a really… interesting different shots, so you’re, you’re intrigued by that.
And then you might go to the drone shot where your drone’s flying over the the audience and you think I’m, I’m never up there floating around at the ceiling, that’s a really interesting shot as well. So the more of these kind of interesting shots you can put in there to describe the same scene that you would have by waving your camera around, then you’ve got a much more interesting, visually interesting way of telling your story. So that’s kind of the way that television works as the way the films work. And it’s I reckon the way people should make their YouTube clip, social media clips. They will get much more interest if they’re interesting to watch.

Michael (00:14:26)
Yeah, well, that’s the thing I suppose with technology and the improvement in cameras and the affordability of equipment like drones and things like that I suppose. It is becoming more possible for scientists to maybe do this work themselves.
We’re all familiar with those videos where you’ve got a scientist talking about their research to a lay audience, and there’s a, just one background I suppose for the entire video. But you’re saying, Graham, that if, if scientists can start to introduce a little bit of visual variety, maybe a couple of different shots that that will really start to enhance how engaging the video is?

Graham (00:15:10)
Absolutely, and I’ve shown the students some, some of the video abstracts that scientists have submitted that you do these days and I’ve shown them one that’s pretty standard. And one that’s let’s use these kind of techniques of using different shots and the, the difference is just enormous. One is just so much more watchable than the other.
And you’re right with the equipment becoming very cheap. I mean you, the camera on your phone shoots very good quality video. And just little tricks like if you wanted to film a scene in your lab, so you could just hold the phone up, you could say to someone, “take that rack of test tubes, pick it up and put it in the fridge over there” and you just hold your phone up and you film it. And there you’ve got a shot of your lab. But what about intercutting that with a more interesting shot? What if you film that and then you then get your iPhone or your, your smartphone, put it inside the fridge. Just prop it up, close the fridge door. I’ll push record, close the fridge door and then do the same scene.
So this time the person’s walking up with the tube of racks. What the camera sees is blackness, sees the door of the fridge open, sees this big hand come in right next to the… to putting the racks down in the fridge and then closes the door. So now you’ve just got two shots but edit those together, they’re much more interesting because you never sit inside a fridge and watch someone come in. So just little things like that, just done on your iPhone, are very easy to do, but will really enhance the quality of your video and the, and the watchability of your video.

Jen (00:16:37)
Everyone who’s listening is now quickly running to the lab with their phone to put it inside a fridge to see what shot they get as the next person goes to the fridge.

Graham (00:16:46)
That’s right and you can answer that age old question of ‘Is the fridge light really off when the fridge is closed’, you know?
You’ll now know, because you’ve got the recording in there!

Jen (00:16:54)
Exactly. Oh my goodness, that’s important Graham.

Graham (00:17:00)
That’s important information.

Michael (00:17:02)
Oh yeah.

Jen (00:17:03)
So Graham I’m, I’m also thinking about Zoom, because obviously some people have now had great interest and success on TikTok or on YouTube, you know. We know there are many amazing scientists who are sharing their work on those mediums.
But I think the reality is that for a lot of people Zoom is going to be the place where really they’re most exposed to this idea of my goodness, I’ve got to make a video. I’ve got to submit this, this talk or whatever it is. We’re all on zoom a lot of the time, or whatever your equivalent platform is.
What tips do you have to help scientists who want to do better communication on Zoom? Obviously there are limits. You don’t have all the options that you’ve just been speaking about. Are there things that we can do to make that sort of communication better?

Graham (00:17:44)
Yeah look, I think the, the key one is probably… well, the key two I feel like are lighting and background or the key three, sound like an old Monty Python sketch I remember. But anyway, they are, there are, I mean you, you want the sound quality to be good. So if you can get a proper microphone, that will make a huge difference. But the other two things are, are lighting and the background.
So [you] don’t need to buy a fancy ring light or or whatever to get the good lighting. You just have to be aware of the basic principles of lighting, which is umm… you want a bit of light on the front of you, but you also want a bit of light in the back. Most of us, we pick up the camera and we turn away from the sun and get the sun you know, pointing in everyone’s faces and take the photo. But that’s not necessarily going to give you, make you look the best.
And for a Zoom chat it’s all about you. You’re effectively doing a piece to camera or whatever. Your, the better you look, the better your communication will be. So you can just set up in your home or your office where you’ve got, you’ve got a window in front of you say that will give you some front light, but then maybe just have a door open. I actually got this setup here right at the moment, a door open behind me that will just give you a little bit of backlight.
And the other thing is, think about your background. And your background, you can’t all see it there, but background doesn’t necessarily mean having a nice picture up there, it just means having something that’s aesthetically appealing and interesting. So I’ve sort of got a doorway with a set of stairs in the background, and there’s different sort of lighting levels just as the way it’s worked out. A beach town hanging in the corner, that’s probably not meant to be there. But just sort of have a, an interesting background is all you need. You don’t necessarily have to have a perfectly lit, beautiful television set that you’re talking from, but just pay attention to those things and also pay attention to what you’re wearing, that makes a difference as well.
If it’s a business meeting, you probably should be dressed in business attire and not have the snorkel or the goggles on your hair or anything like that. You probably should be looking professional. So I think it’s just paying attention to that. And the other thing, introducing a 4th thing now, but to look at the camera when you’re talking, it’s different. You know, when you’re looking at a Zoom screen you might be looking down on your far left corner because that’s where the person you’re talking to is. If you’re doing a Zoom recording, though, it’s always best to be looking directly at the camera, because when you’re looking at the camera you’re looking directly at the person you’re talking to.

Michael (00:20:01)
Hmm. Yeah, it’s such an important point, isn’t it? Makes such a massive difference when someone is looking directly down the barrel of the camera and giving eye contact to the audience as opposed to looking at the faces that they see on the screen, which is kind of the natural thing to do.

Graham (00:20:16)
Yeah, absolutely, especially if you’re recording something. And of course, that’s, that’s what happens in the movie world. You’ve rarely see anyone looking straight down the barrel of a camera in a movie because it’s all about once someone looks at the camera they’re looking at you. This person is now, you’re not watching on from your lounge room at this movie happening, suddenly someone in the movie is talking directly to you.
If you go around interviewing other scientists, don’t have them looking down the barrel of the camera. Have them looking off to one side like you would see on the television for an interview on the news or something like that. The only person who looks down the barrel of a camera is you, the reporter, because you’re kind of a, you’re telling the story. You’re the conduit between the audience and what’s happening.

Michael (00:20:59)
Yeah, and Graham, so what do you think about this idea of how the technology is, has changed over the last decade or so and where it’s going in the future? I mean, presumably it’s, it’s kind of gone in a direction where it’s, it’s more, more available to everyone now to be making videos and it’s easier for people to do that compared to, say, 10 or 20 years ago, which is a good thing. But then on the other hand, does it create kind of an expectation that scientists have to be doing this? And maybe that kind of presents a bit of a challenge? What do you think about that?

Graham (00:21:33)
Yes, good point. I, I think it probably does create an expectation that scientists should be doing that, that everybody should be doing that. You know, it’s very hard I think to avoid the advances in technology. You, you might think I don’t want to jump on board with any of that stuff, but the reality is you kind of do get left behind a bit if you don’t, I think so. I think there probably is an expectation to communicate through video.
It’s a lot… I mean I’ve, I’ve seen a few technology changes. I don’t want to say how many years it’s been over but I’m not that old. But I, I mean, when I started we were shooting on film and now we were shooting on film in 1992, there we go, I’ll, I’ll put that, that date out there, which is not that long ago in the scheme of things to be shooting on film. The editing involved splicing the film, you know, cutting the bit of film up and sticking it in. And…

Jen (00:22:25)
Are you that old Graham? Whoa.
Sorry, I’ve just had to be rude for a moment.

Graham (00:22:31)
Yeah, I’m sure yeah. Yeah so, but, but as the technologies changed, the ability to make more casual and listenable stuff has improved. Like when it was on film, you couldn’t waste a whole lot of film doing experimental stuff, or… you certainly had to memorise your scripts then. Because if you messed up one take, it’s another lot of film you got to do again.
So it’s made… the once we move, when we move from film to video and now to digital, each time it’s become cheaper and cheaper to make stuff. And now it’s incredible. I mean you can, you can shoot a film on your phone, you can edit it on your phone, you can do it all on your phone. In principle it costs nothing other than the phone that you already have, the smartphone you already have.

Jen (00:23:13)
Is that a problem though Graham, in the sense that because it is so accessible and relatively cheap and easy. I’m just imagining in the film days that it would have been very costly to make a mistake, so there was a lot, potentially more pressure to rehearse or go over your script or you know, get things as, as right as possible the first time. Do you think now that it’s more a case of kind of anything goes because you can just film it over and over again if you have to?

Graham (00:23:36)
Look, I think that’s true as well, and it’s interesting about the ‘anything goes. That’s another thing that I’ve noticed change over the years is that the rules of filmmaking have changed enormously, and technology changes those as well. But things that were once frowned upon are now absolutely fine, and become a part of the art form if you like.
Like you know when we had the, I guess the famous one I’m thinking of is when the, the wobble cam we used to call it where you suddenly see camera shots that are really wobbly. Of course they would never be in the business before, but they became an art form in the end, that we were deliberately putting wobble into the shots, to make, give it that sort of real look, that reality kind of look.
But I think yeah, I think it is a case now of a lot, a lot more goes than it used to, but it’s often determined by the subject matter. So if you’re filming something that’s really exciting and happening now… an earthquake is happening and you’re running around filming the footage, then anything goes there. Yeah, ’cause the…

Jen (00:24:32)
Then it’s really wobbly.

Graham (00:24:34)
And it’s, it’s, that’s right, that’s real wobble cam there. But it’s because the subject matter is so inherently interesting, those pictures, you just intrigued by those pictures, then it, what the camera techniques don’t make a lot of difference. The camera techniques become more important when visually what you’re filming is a bit dull.
And also you know, there’s another thing if you, if you want to make something look real. If something is not inherently believable, if you have too many edits in there with different camera angles, people will think you’ve set it all up. In that case, just the old traditional holding the camera up and getting the shot in one take adds a level of credibility. Because you know, there are no edits in it. So it’s, it’s kind of horses for courses I guess.

Jen (00:25:08)
So when you find your aliens Graham, you’ll be just using one shot then, right?

Graham (00:25:13)
That’s right, I won’t be saying to the aliens “Hold on, hold on, I gotta get another shot back in the craft. Now when I say action, you come out, walk to the left”. No, probably, probably won’t be that. But actually that, that reminds me of one of the key things about when you get all these different shots. One of the key things you have to do, which a lot of people don’t do because it doesn’t come naturally, is you have to make sure they all match.
We go back to the example of me lecturing to a class full of students. If I start off with the shot someone’s writing the word cat. I don’t know why, during my class, I must wonder… Anyway, they’re writing the word cat on their notepad, and you know, I see in the wide? shot we see them writing the C, and then the A and then we go in for the super tight shot and we see them writing the C again. I mean, that doesn’t make any sense, you’ve just gone back in time. So you have to make sure that the same action is happening in all those different shots, so that’s a, that’s a really important rule when you’re using, getting different shots.

Michael (00:26:12)
So Graham, if you had to pick one top tip for effective video communication of science.
And I’ve heard you like talking to doorknobs, maybe you need to explain yourself to the audience there. Or maybe you have another tip.

Graham (00:26:25)
Yeah, I started talking to doorknobs. I don’t know how good I felt, I certainly didn’t find talking to myself in the mirror worked. Yeah, it’s one of those things when you’re, when you’re talking to a camera. It’s quite an unnatural thing to do although interestingly, a lot of people have become very good at it in the age of the selfie. Ten years ago you get someone to talk to camera and they will be very… wouldn’t usually. But now because people are so used to talking the camera in selfie style, it’s, it’s easier for them.
But yeah, I guess that was the trick for me is it’s like I’m, when I’m looking at someone and talking to them, it’s very easy. But suddenly if you’ve got to talk to them and you can’t see anything, you’re just talking to this inanimate object which is a camera, then it’s very hard to have the same level [of] enthusiasm because you’re not getting feedback. I think most of us are used to getting feedback from the person we’re talking to. We’re looking for a nod or looking for a smile or something like that to sort of think we’re thinking, oh yeah, good, I’m saying good things. But you get nothing from the camera lens. So that takes a bit of getting used to. So yeah, I used to prac… people told me to practise by looking in the mirror, but it really put me off looking at myself in the mirror. So yeah, I used to talk to doorknobs to, to get used to that.
One tip. I suppose… I mean that is a, that is a good tip if you, if you’ve got to record yourself with the video, is try to get used to talking to an inanimate object. People say oh, think of your mother being at the other side that camera or whatever. I didn’t find that work for me so much. But I in the end just made friends with the camera lens. I actually got used to that camera lens and felt very comfortable with it and sort of treated it as a person and spoke to the camera lens and that, that worked for me.
So when you’re talking to camera I guess it’ll be my number one tip. And maintain eye contact and smile at this. You love this camera, you know? You’ve smiled at it. You’re talking to it in an intimate way because really, well, that’s with, with film is you’re talking to one person, even though thousands, hopefully hundreds of thousands, hopefully millions will be watching your YouTube clip. But really, you’re talking to one person each time. That’s what you should have in your mind, not the big booming voice of talking to an audience. You’ve got one person that you’re just having a intimate as you can conversation with.

Jen (00:28:32)
And I think we’ve all sort of learned that, haven’t we? And that’s why I find it interesting, speaking with some of our students who say “I, I feel like I should be more at ease talking on Zoom because I’m in the safety of my own home and and I’m not in front of a live audience, I should feel more relaxed. But actually I feel less relaxed because it feels, it feels intimate.”
And once you train yourself to look down the barrel of your camera, which I, I certainly feel like I’ve learned in the last couple of years. There is this strange intimacy that you know you’re connecting with people but you can’t see them and it is, it’s a very strange experience we’ve all had during this pandemic of learning to talk.
Well thank you so much Graham, it’s such a delight to get to hear more of your experiences and expertise in something that you really have had a very long and illustrious and amazing career. And actually take out the long, I know you don’t like it when I say that, but…

Graham (00:29:26)
Hahaha, I’m getting used to it, yeah.

Jen (00:29:29)
Thank you for your time and I guarantee you we will be inviting you back on the podcast to discuss future topics.
But thank you for sharing your wisdom with us.

Graham (00:29:38)
Absolute pleasure and looking forward to the next one.

Michael (00:39:40)
That was absolutely fantastic. Thank you.
And now it’s time for the student tips.

Marie (00:29:54)
Hi, my name’s Marie Kinsey and I’m a science communicator. I’ve worked in sustainability for a marine research centre, as a presenter at Scienceworks for Museum Victoria, and a science curriculum writer at Stile Education.
My tip today is about presenting in videos. An important thing to remember when it comes to presenting on camera is unlike presenting in person, you now have a medium between you and your audience, a screen. This immediately means that there’s a barrier to the connection you may be able to create in person if you are in front of an audience. So how do you break this down? With energy. And I mean lots of energy. I encourage you to try at least doubling your energy when it comes to speaking on camera compared to presenting in person.
It may feel a bit outrageous as you record, but a good trick is to watch your presentation back afterwards. Now, not everyone enjoys seeing themselves recorded, but it is a good exercise to see whether you are effectively getting your message across. You will find that even with that amount of energy, if it feels over the top during recording, on camera it will look quite authentic and we’ll capture a good amount of enthusiasm.
Feel free to practise and make as many recordings as you need to get a sense of what this energy feels like when presenting. And as with all communication, it goes without saying: know your audience.
Good luck.

Charlotte (00:31:31)
Hello science communicators, my name is Charlotte Gerada. I’m a biomedical student and aspiring immunologist.
Communicating science on video can be pretty overwhelming. There’s so much to consider. We must determine what we want to communicate, then how we want to communicate it both verbally and visually. So my recommendation is to make the most of editing. This will take your raw videos to a whole new level.
Allow me to give you an example. Some scientific words can be cumbersome, especially when spoken in video. So why not have the word pop up on the screen as it’s explained in the video? This can help the audience comprehend what we are saying by reinforcing the speech with text. Better yet, use emojis, the universal language of our generation. Stating a concerning statistic? Show the surprised face emoji to highlight this. These familiar symbols can help the audience engage with unfamiliar concepts.
Science videos are the perfect opportunity to communicate science creatively so… most importantly, have fun.

Michael (00:33:24)
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