Lights, Camera, Action! – Making your own physics videos

 

Here’s a quick cheat sheet on how to make your own amateur physics videos. Big thanks here go to the people at IOP Scotland, SUPA, Education Scotland and SSERC, without whose advice and support I never would have gotten behind the lens.

Plan:

  • Who is your intended audience? What is their background?
  • What is the main message of your video? For a short video (approx. 5 mins), you should have a maximum of 3 key points you wish to convey. Adding too many messages can confuse your viewers.
  • How long will your video be (roughly)?
  • What will you use to show your key point(s) to the viewer? This might include animations, diagrams, images, spoken explanation or a combination of the above.
  • Write a script that incorporates the key points, and links them together. Think about the background of your audience – what physics do you need to explain to them? Your script will have visual and audio elements, e.g.:

[Video of spinning top]

“Now we’ll look at the motion of a spinning top.”

  • Look at your script and decide what visual elements you need to produce. List these, along with how long you would like any animated elements to be on screen for.
  • Share your draft script with others and get feedback.

Produce:

  • Create your visual elements – this can be done in a huge variety of ways and this list is not comprehensive!
    • Mathematica – good for animating mathematical functions/plots
    • Blender – allows you to draw diagrams that can move, and can create a 3D view by moving camera angle
    • Inkscape – vector graphics package, good for diagrams
    • Explain Everything – iPad based software, animated hand drawings
    • PicPac – Android software, stop-motion videos

Think about what you want your animation to show, what colours/labels you will use on any plots/diagrams, and how long you want your animation to be displayed for.

  • Record your audio: this can be done on a smartphone or similar. Go somewhere quiet and reduce background noise, and read out your script. Keep the recording device about a hand’s width from your mouth when recording, and speak slowly and clearly. Don’t be afraid to do several takes – it’s natural to stumble at first. Listen back to yourself, or ask someone else to. Try to record all the audio in one session, as your voice will change from day to day.
  • Combine your audio and your video by using a video editing package such as Corel Video Studio Pro, which has a free 30 day trial. You can speed up or slow down video clips, add still frames, enter subtitles and much more. Once you’re done editing your video, publish it (in Corel Video Studio, this is done in the ‘Share’ tab).

 

Congratulations! Of course, you should now evaluate your video in order to make an even better one next time, but we’ll leave that to a future post…