A blog about Modern Communication for Modern Science

Category: Technology

Paper puppets and beautiful {de}composition

Sweetfern Productions has produced a wonderful and novel science film about the decomposition of a whale. What? Awesome and inspiring:

Whale Fall (after life of a whale) from Sharon Shattuck 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!

Final Cut X is here

Despite being Final Cut Pro users since 2007, we use iMovie ’11 as an editing standard for our ScienceFilm courses. And why not? It comes free with every Mac, and it really covers the basic needs of an editor quite well. In fact, it does things better than FCP7 (faster output, ease of image stabilization, automatic transcoding of video). Yet, there is many things that iMovie can’t do, which was frustrating at times. With the release of Final Cut X, we can now have the best of both worlds!

Final Cut X really looks like iMovie ’11, but it has a lot of power under the hood. There is a really great overview here

Although we are giving up a few things with FCPX (like the ability to edit projects from FCP7 and previous, and to use 3rd party plugins, I think there is a great deal to be gained by moving on up. Exciting times!

ScienceFilm Forum is live!

We have created the ScienceFilm forum, a place for everyone interested in science film making to discuss gear and techniques, make announcements, and connect with others who share the same interest. There is also workshop-specific forums for participants to connect before the workshop, and stay in touch after the workshop. We hope it will be a useful addition to the site,

check out the forum here

$14 camera stabilizer

One of the easiest ways to improve the quality of your video production is to make sure that your camera work is either rock solid (i.e. use a tripod), or that your camera movements are fluid and smooth.

There are software plugins (e.g. Stabilizer in iMovie ’09 and newer, or SmoothCam in Final Cut Pro) that allow you to fix shaky video clips. But, we all know it is better to shoot properly in the first place, so you don’t have to spend time fixing your shots later.

There are numerous commercially available ‘SteadiCam’ units, but these tend to be rather expensive. I am always looking out for DIY ways to cut down production costs, so I was pleased to find… the $14 camera stabilizer.

Johnny Chung Lee has a great website with plans, demo videos, and general good advice for making your own camera stabilizer. It may not look as nice as the commercial units, but whatever gets the job done is just fine!

Check out the $14 camera stabilizer here

14$ camera stabilizer

Code of Best Practices for Sustainable Filmmaking

The Centre for Social Media at American University has a great webpage outlining the ‘Best Practices for Sustainable Filmmaking’. They cover everything from feeding yourself ethically on a shoot to calculating the carbon budget for your project. Some great tips here to help you practice what you preach if you are making films about environmental awareness. It may not be possible to do everything on this list immediately, but lots of food for thought.

See the Code of Best Practices for Sustainable Filmmaking here.

Make sure to read right to the bottom; you can download a PDF and all the related documents there.

Some of the earliest ‘science’ films

The roots of science filmmaking are revealed in this short video from New Scientist. There are some ingenious techniques described here, including a neat intervalometer (for doing timelapse) based on several tin cans and some water. Check it out: is online!

Check out, a new web magazine and online community dedicated to visual communication about science and the environment! 

Click here for more info


Creative research about your improvising brain

In the process of discussing creativity with scientists (and trying to encourage scientists to engage with their own creativity), many questions arise about the origins, the process, and the nature of creativity. In this emerging field of research, there are more questions than answers!

I am always looking for new insights about the creative process, so I found this TED talk to be very interesting. Creative research about a creative topic.

Check out Charles Limb: Your brain on improv:

Welcome to the ScienceFilm Blog

Hello past and future ScienceFilm participants!

We are pleased to launch our new website and blog. Check back here frequently to get updates on ScienceFilm activities, workshops, links, contests, tech news and more!

Colin & Jeff

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