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Video abstracts for beginners

We queried a half-dozen aficionados of video abstracts for advice on how to make a video worthy of the red carpet. This is what they told us.

BY UA/AU | FEB 06 2013

Keep it simple. Don’t get stymied by thinking you need animations, clever edits and shots of your research site – all of which will, admittedly, make your video more dynamic. A laptop with a built-in camera and a quiet space are all you require to create a video that will garner viewers on YouTube. “Something is better than nothing,” notes University of Calgary physicist Barry Sanders(see his article on the topic and his video abstract).

Short is sweet. Less is more in this three-to-five-minute genre.

Follow the guidelines. Each publisher or journal that accepts video abstracts has technical guidelines posted online that specify file formats and other key technical information. (See for example, Cell, Dove Press and Libertas Academica.)

Ask for help. Talk to colleagues and to your university’s communications department before making the video – someone with experience may be willing to help. “I was lucky to have had a grad student who had some training as a TV cameraman,” says physicist Achim Kempf of his video abstract experience at the University of Waterloo.

Tell a story. “Avoid a recitation of facts,” advises online-journal editor Tim Smith. Convey your own interest and excitement in your research by using simple language to share the motivation and key findings of the journal article.

Sound and lights. These are the two key technical quality issues. Use a lapel microphone, ideally, or else a very quiet room. Ensure that lights are facing the speaker and avoid backlighting, which happens when you situate the interview subject against a window.

Be yourself. “Don’t over-rehearse,” instructs John Kuemmerle, a veteran of the video abstract. The medium’s power is the way it allows you to personally connect with colleagues, old and new.

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