A blog about Modern Communication for Modern Science

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ScienceFilm Workshop Announcement: Friday Harbor Lab, WA, May 22-29, 2016

We often get emails from people interested in taking a ScienceFilm workshop. Most of our workshops are ‘chartered’ these days (this is where an organization brings us in to teach their people about science film-making. It is uncommon for non-affiliated people to be accepted into these workshops, but your time has come! We announce a ScienceFilm workshop at Friday Harbour Laboratories, May 22 – 29, 2016.

This workshop costs US$1799, and includes 7 days of instruction and hands-on practice with Jeff and Colin, plus meals and accommodation. We offer discounts for graduate students, and for those not requiring room and board. For more information and registration materials, please visit our website for this workshop:

We hope you can join us!

Drones and Salmon

The fast evolution of consumer drone technology is a boon to the science filmmaker, particularly those who work on systems with large spatial scales. This video, about salmon migrations in Alaska, is mostly eye-candy (not a lot of narrative), but images are compelling enough to keep our attention for 5 minutes. Aerial shots can be used to set the scene, to give viewers that rare top-down visual that develops our understanding of a place, and to contribute to a diverse array of creative shots. Enjoy.

ABOVE ILIAMNA from Jason Ching on Vimeo.

Beautiful, informative, and educational!

We’ve posted several links to great animations about science before, but here are some particularly excellent examples of the marriage of narrative, beauty, and science history. The paper cutout animation by Flora Lichtman and Sharon Shattuck continues to inspire.

Check out these great films:

How to use your GoPro effectively

GoPro cameras are ubiquitous, for good reason. In Science Filmmaking, they can get you into small spaces that are essential for supporting your narrative, and capture action in a hands-free way. Here is a great summary from B&H about creative ways to use your GoPro:

For an example of a Sciencey video filmed using a GoPro, here is something put together during a class experiment about kelp biomechanics. It’s a bit older now, but shows some neat angles.

Aerial Videography with Drones: A Primer

The landscape of aerial videography is changing so quickly! What was possible only with very expensive helicopter time is now a snap with a little investment and some practice. If you are interested in embarking on a foray into aerial videography with a drone, here is a great primer from B&H to get you started.

I have a DJI Phantom Vision 2+, and it is an incredible piece of equipment. I crashed my Phantom 1 into the ocean (with GoPro and gimbal, a $1500 loss). Mistakes aren’t cheap, but the perspectives are unbeatable.

Michael Moore’s top 5 suggestions for documentary

These are good tips! Remember that a science film is just a documentary about science!

GoPro releases HD Hero 2!

I love my GoPro HD Hero camera. For versatility/quality/size/value/price you really can’t beat it. Except, GoPro did beat it, by releasing a new version of the camera today. A quick run down of the key new features:

– new sensor and processor
– faster frame rates (up to 120fps)
– 11 MP stills (up from 5)
– wider (170 degree) angle of view in 1080p
– Sweet Wifi streaming (to come with as yet unreleased Wifi Backpak)
– redesigned LCD interface

All your old accessories still work too. Awesome!

Check it out here

The practice vs theory of science communication

Here is a compelling blog post by Chris Mooney about the gap between science communication theory and practice. “What does the science of science communication look like?” Read more here

Make friends with an animator…

There are many science concepts that are too small, too far away, or too complex to actually film. These topics are still worthy of communication, and video technology is certainly the best way to help people understand. One solution is to use computer animation. I’m not suggesting that you learn how to do animation, but, as the title of this post suggests, make friends (or at least a connection) with animators. There are often student animators looking for good topics to work with. This synergy can no doubt result in some technologically advanced, visually pleasing, and informative short videos.

I was at a bonfire in Squamish a week ago, and we saw the Northen Lights (aka Aurora Borealis). What a magnificent sight. None of us really knew what causes Northern Lights to occur, so some digging around yielded this cool video: a great animation about the science of Auroras.

The Aurora Borealis from Per Byhring on Vimeo.

Creativity in wildlife shooting

60-minutes has posted a great behind-the-scenes look at a new Animal Planet program called ‘Spy on the Ice’. (click here) It is a close-up look at polar bears, filmed with extremely creative techniques: remote control cameras disguised as ice, cameras that move on skis, etc. This is the work of John Downer, who pioneered many of these creative approaches. (Learn more about John here). Early in his career, John reared a duck from an egg to enable himself to get closeup shots of a flying duck.

I love this stuff! These are such clever ways to approach filming, it makes me want get out there and build such things. Take inspiration from people like John: the only thing that limits you is your mind!

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