Tips on making a good video abstract
Why make a video abstract?
Video abstracts are a great way to explain your research with greater freedom and variety than in a traditional paper. Our copyright allows you to host your video abstract on your own website as well as the IOP website so that you can disseminate your work and communicate its implications to the widest audience possible.
They are not intended to describe the contents of your paper in the way that a written abstract or a general scientific summary would. In a video abstract you can demonstrate your experiments physically, illustrate complex theoretical phenomena through practical demonstrations, introduce viewers to the equipment and tools you have used in your research and engage with your audience in a more informal manner. If you have visual data such as simulations or animations, video abstracts are a good place to showcase them and explain their implications in real time. As such, they should be engaging, interesting and offer viewers more than you could write in an abstract. The key is to be creative and make full use of the audio-visual medium.
Raise your visibility
In addition to our author-friendly copyright, which allows you to host your video abstract anywhere on the web, the Brightcove video platform used for hosting has excellent sharing functionality. This allows viewers to bring your video to the attention of the rest of the world too.
On the web
It is essential to design a video abstract that can be viewed on the web. When uploaded, the video will be compressed to ensure file sizes are small and playback times as short as possible. Your video will not have the same quality as one viewed on a television screen. However, there are a number of ways to ensure it looks and sounds good on the web.
What to film
Video abstracts should be a maximum of four minutes in length. To ensure your audience watches to the end you must hold their attention. Structuring your abstract to tell a story about your research is a good way to do this.
- We welcome creativity and you can include practical demonstrations, animations, interviews and anything else you can think of. Alternatively, you can keep the structure very simple but always try to engage with your audience
- You can have one or multiple presenters, and film group discussions
- Within reason, you can film at any location you like.
Before you begin
Many research institutions have a press department that may be able to offer assistance. They may be able to lend cameras and microphone equipment and may even be able to edit your video footage. Be sure to contact your university press officer for more advice before you start filming to see how they can help you.
Whether your video abstract contains lots of edited footage or a very simple single shot, audio-visual quality is essential to ensure your audience gets the most out of your efforts. If it is difficult to follow because of poor visual or sound quality it will not be watched.
Tips for improving visual quality
- Do try to ensure that you have as much light as possible when filming your video. Natural light gives better results and filming your piece to camera outside is a good way of ensuring even lighting conditions. Sometimes your own office or laboratory can be the best place to discuss your research. If you are sitting in your office ensure the lighting is adequate. Try to use multiple light sources to avoid creating too much contrast.
- Do not sit directly in front of a window or any other light sources.
- Do try to reduce vibration to a minimum by using a tripod or use a camcorder with a stabilizer. This will make the overall quality of the video better after compression.
- Do not attempt to film while walking and do not zoom in and out too often.
- Do ensure the background behind the presenter in your video is suitable if they are performing a piece to camera.
- Do make sure there is nothing moving in the background that might distract the viewer’s attention. The simpler the background, the better it will look on a computer screen.
- Do not use blank walls, empty whiteboards or blackboards as a backdrop. Stationary backdrops are better for compression but coloured backgrounds, posters or the bookshelf in your office might be better, more interesting alternatives.
- Do use a slight overexposure when filming as this reduces intricate details, resulting in less information to process during video compression. Also, some computer screens tend to make videos look darker, so added brightness can improve image quality.
- Do not underexpose your subject too much as the resultant video may appear even darker and more difficult to discern on screen.
- Do keep your frame simple. Trying to incorporate too much action or movement in a frame will make the eventual file compression more difficult. If a person is speaking to camera, try filming them from the shoulders up to avoid catching too much body movement.
- Do not film in areas where people or traffic are likely to appear in the frame.
Addressing your audience
- Do maintain eye contact with the camera if addressing your audience directly.
- Do choose to have someone standing off camera at whom you can look to maintain a constant eye level if filming your piece in the style of an interview.
- Do not get distracted by activity off-camera.
- Do use equations to describe your work where relevant. If you wish to display or write equations on a whiteboard or blackboard, ensure that the characters are large enough to discern and are legible.
- Do not use bright lights to illuminate your writing surface: white- and blackboards can reflect light and obscure the surface for the viewer, so please be aware of this and alter the position of your light source accordingly. A room with plenty of natural light is best.
- Do incorporate data, animations or simulations into your video to further illustrate your work and engage your audience.
- Do not display animations by filming them on a computer screen or a wall projection while you present to camera. This method makes animations very difficult for viewers to discern. If you want to use presentation slides, there are many ways you can convert them into online Flash movies.
- Do include a transcript for your video abstract. Our journals have an international readership and while we publish all research in English, it is not the first language of many of our readers. A transcript will allow anyone to follow your video abstract and help them get the most out of your efforts.
- Do speak clearly at all times.
- Do speak to your audience. Silent films with no narration are far less engaging.
- Do ensure that your transcript is written in correct English.
- Do not submit a transcript that differs from the narrative on your video.
Tips for improving audio quality
- Do ensure that background noise is kept to a minimum if you film in your lab: loud extractor fans/motors, etc, will reduce the sound quality and will be very difficult to edit out.
- Do not film next to busy roads or in high wind if you film outside.
Do use a lapel microphone if possible. However, if you do not have such equipment, ensure that background noise is reduced as much as possible.
Do not add music in your video abstract. Unfortunately, we no longer allow the use of any music in video abstracts. Clearing rights to use music is incredibly complicated as there are often many rights holders, in both the master recording and the underlying song. Attaching music to images, such as overlaying a piece of music with the images in the video abstract, also requires us to obtain a separate synchronization licence. Licences (i.e. permissions) generally have to be negotiated with the copyright owners, usually the record company and the publishing company. Unfortunately, music taken from royalty free sites is not an answer to the problem. Generally, these sites cannot guarantee that the music has not been copied from elsewhere. Therefore, we cannot include music taken from royalty free sites or stated to be in the public domain. The risk to IOP, our partners and our authors in getting this wrong is too high, as we do not want anyone to be sued for copyright infringement. We appreciate that this may be disappointing, but this is the safest option for everyone.
Extra hints and tips
There are lots of great resources online to help you make the best of your footage and storyboard. You may already have movie editing software on your computer and there are numerous websites that offer advice on how to make the most of these resources.