Video abstract toolkit
At EGU, we want all our members to have the opportunity to share their research as widely as possible, so we have created this step-by-step guide on how to create, upload, and share your own video abstracts on EGU's journals, all of which permit video abstracts to be uploaded.
How to navigate the toolkit
We have created an index with hyperlinks to different parts of the toolkit, so that you can jump around to the content that is most relevant to you.
We realize that not all of our EGU members will have access to the same kind of expert resources and video equipment as each other. So the toolkit has been designed to be useful to people with different levels of experience and different levels of support available to them.
You have never made a video before and you are unlikely to get much assistance from your university or institution in the creation of your video abstract.
You have some experience making videos, for example, you might have created behind-the-scenes videos of life in your lab or done a bit of filming while doing fieldwork, and posted clips to social media.
You might not have much experience making your own videos but you can count on production support from your institution's media team, or you have a bit of funding to outsource help from video production professionals.
No two videos are exactly the same, but the process for creating them usually follows a similar process. The video production process can be broken down into three core phases:
- Planning: Every successful video project starts with planning. Before you start to write a script or press record on your camera you need to ask yourself some questions about what you want to achieve from your video abstract and come up with a plan for how to achieve your goals.
- Creation: This is the bit when you can finally unleash your creativity and start producing the video itself. This part of the process comprises three distinct phases: script writing, filming, and editing. It is the most challenging part of the process but also the most rewarding (and hopefully fun!) and by the end of it you will have a fully formed video that you can release into the world.
- Dissemination: Having done the hard work of creating a video abstract, now is the time to share it. This can be done by uploading directly to the journal itself but to get maximum impact you will need a strategy for dissemination that includes other sharing platforms, such as social media.
Questions to ask before you start
There are some questions that everybody should ask themselves before starting to produce their video abstract.
- Who is your audience?
- What visual material do you have that you can use to create the video abstract?
- What kind of format do you want your abstract to take?
1. Consider your audience
The first thing to ask yourself is, 'Who am I trying to reach?'
There is a tendency for people to want to create a video for a wide variety of different audiences, including specialists from other disciplines, members of the public, university students, school children, journalists, funders, and policymakers. But trying to appeal to everyone can mean you end up appealing to nobody.
Identifying your target audience ahead of time will help you craft a video with the right tone and style to appeal specifically to that particular group of people.
2. Assess available material
What visual material do you already have that could be used in your video abstract?
Through the course of your research, you may have amassed material that can help bring your research to life, such as photos of experiments, or of you and your research team; illustrations; charts; models; and perhaps even video footage of lab or field work. All of this material could come in very handy when putting your video together.
And if you are reading this while you are still in the middle of your research, then do yourself a favour and start capturing images and video clips now, as this will make it far easier to create your video abstract when the time comes. This does not have to be highly polished work, anything you can capture that gives an insight into your work could be helpful when it comes to making your video abstract. See shooting video for guidance on how to film engaging video content.
3. Determine format
One of the first decisions that you will have to make when planning your video abstract is what format it will be. There are a number of different options you could go for:
- Will it feature interviews with the researchers?
- Or will it be driven by a scripted voice over?
- Or a combination of the two?
- Do you want someone to act as a presenter, introducing their research by talking directly into the camera?
There are pros and cons to all formats (see the examples linked below). For example, interview set-ups where the interviewee is answering questions that are put to them by somebody sitting behind the camera often encourage more natural, conversational responses. While with a scripted narration you have more control over how the research is explained and it makes for an easier editing process. But it can feel less natural, especially if the person in front of the camera is not used to presenting and explaining their research on screen.
Ultimately, the format you choose will depend on your personal preferences and how comfortable the people who will feature in your video feel about appearing on camera. To help you decide, it might be worth doing a couple of small test shoots to see which works best.
Example formats (YouTube):
Writing your script
Once you have identified your target audience, assessed what visual material you have at your disposal, and decided on a format, you can start writing your script. It does not have to be a complicated document; we have provided a simple example format below. This is the document that will help you to clarify your thoughts, identify and explain your key messages, and act as a blueprint for the other phases of production.
If your video is going to feature a narrated voice over then the words that you write in the shooting script will be the same ones that your narrator says. If you are planning to interview people, then this is your chance to write down a version of what you want them to say. They do not have to say exactly what is in your shooting script. It is better if they answer naturally in their own words. But knowing before you conduct the interviews what your key messages are and how they’re going to be explained is vital.
Let us take a look at an example script based on Zander, P. et al.: Hyperspectral imaging sediment core scanning tracks high-resolution Holocene variations in (an)oxygenic phototrophic communities at Lake Cadagno, Swiss Alps, Biogeosciences, 20, 2221–2235, https://doi.org/10.5194/bg-20-2221-2023, 2023.
Some tips on script-writing
- Keep it simple: Simple does not mean 'dumbed down'. Keeping things simple simply means identifying your key messages and being ruthless about communicating only those messages. Stripping out anything that is not core to your message, so that viewers can easily digest and remember. If they want more detail after finishing the video, they can read the paper itself. In fact, that is what you want them to do! By keeping things simple you will increase the chances of viewers understanding and remembering what your paper is about. And it will also help to keep the duration of the video down.
- Keep it short: You should aim to keep your video abstracts between 2 and 3 minutes long. There are two advantages to keeping them short: (a) When people are online their attention spans are short and there is an endless stream of content enticing them away. Keeping your video abstracts short increases the chances that people will dedicate enough time to watching them all the way through. (b) A short video abstract will generally take less time to produce than a long one. Of course, there are lots of factors that influence production time with videos but usually it will be quicker and easier to produce a 2-minute video than trying to write, film, and edit something that is 10 minutes long. (c) By committing yourself to get your message across in just 2 or 3 minutes you will be forced to make decisions about what information to keep and what to cut out. This editing process will help you get to the core of the message, making for a more engaging final video.
- No jargon: Jargon is defined as 'special words or expressions used by a profession or group that are difficult for others to understand'. Scientists are more guilty than most of using jargon. That is fine when you are talking to other specialists in your field. In those cases it speeds up communication and prevents misunderstandings. But when you are speaking to people outside your specialism, jargon has the opposite effect. In your video abstracts you should try to avoid using jargon wherever possible. And if you do have to use a technical word, make sure you explain what it means, or offer an alternative way of describing it in a more accessible language. How do you know if the words that you are using could be classified as jargon? Just ask! If you are unsure, share your script or video with somebody who does not work in your field and ask if the meaning is clear to them, and if it is not, what they would change.
Gathering your 'ingredients'
Having written your script you will now have an idea of what elements or 'ingredients' you will need to help tell the story of your research. You should already have assessed your available visual material by now. If you are lucky you will already have everything you need but the chances are you will need to source additional material to make your video abstract. Those might include:
- Interviews: These can either be filmed in-person or remotely. If you are recording an interview remotely here are some tips on how to get the best quality recording. If you are filming in-person then there are various options (see below for shooting tips).
- Presenter-led pieces to camera: These are video clips where a presenter (in the case of video abstracts, this is likely to be a researcher who was involved in writing the paper) talks directly into the camera. Usually the lines are scripted.
- B roll: This is video footage or stills imagery that you or a production partner will capture to help tell the story of your research. It might include filmed scenes of a researcher in a lab environment, or out in the field and it could be recorded with high-end camera equipment, by a professional crew, or by you, using just the smartphone in your pocket.
- Stock images/footage: Stock material consists of images or video clips that have already been created and stored, and which can be used by members of the public in their own video projects. Sometimes these resources are free (such as Pixabay), but you might have to pay for images and clips that are more niche or hard to find. Commonly used paid stock libraries include Shutterstock, Alamy, or Adobe Stock.
- Voice-over: If your video abstract has a narrated script then you will need to record the voice-over. How you do this will depend on what kind of budget you have. See the sound section for tips.
- Graphics & Illustrations: In some cases it might be enough to simply include the charts that are already featured in your written paper, especially if your primary audience is other scientists and specialists, who can easily decipher the meaning. But if you are looking to reach audiences who come from outside your field, then you might consider creating some simple graphics to help explain your science in an accessible and memorable way. Once again, how you do this will
depend on what level of budget and support you have:
- Level 1: Perhaps you or someone on your team has a good eye for design. If that is the case then there are free resources that you could use to create simple graphics, such as Canva.
- Level 2: If you have a bit of a budget then it will always be worth getting help from a specialist. Sites like Fiverr or Upwork can be a good way of finding support from designers and other creatives on a budget. But if you use one of these lower-cost services then you will likely end up with a generalist who does not have much or any experience communicating complex topics. That means you will have to clearly communicate exactly what you want and expect a few rounds of revisions in order to get it right.
- Level 3: For those who have the budget it is worth commissioning motion graphics from a professional to help you create highly engaging, animated explainers to bring the data alive. If you use a production company to create your whole video then the design/animation work should be included as part of the cost. But you could also consider hiring a freelance motion designer to create a handful of animated scenes that you could add to the video, if you prefer to create the video yourself. For more experienced, skilled creative professionals you can post an advert on a site like The Dots, Rolo or Storyhunter.
How to shoot video is a topic that fills countless books, blogs, and thousands of hours of video tutorials. In this toolkit we are going to keep things simple and stick to a few core principles that will help you film footage that will make your video abstracts as high-quality as possible.
The good news is that you do not need fancy, expensive equipment to shoot a video these days. Most modern smartphones have the capacity to film high-definition video at the touch of a button. But it is not enough to simply hit record and point the camera at your subject.
Vertical vs horizontal
The first thing you need to consider is which way up to hold the camera. When people film personal videos to share on social media they often shoot them vertically (aka portrait, or 9:16, 3:2, 4:5 or 1:1). Vertical videos are fine when you are viewing them on your phone and on social media platforms. But remember that your final video will be shown on YouTube, Vimeo, and the journal's website in a horizontal format (aka landscape mode, or 16:9).
If you film vertically then try to use that footage in a landscape video you will end up with unappealing black bars down the side of the screen to fill the empty space. So, when it comes to filming video abstracts make sure you turn your camera horizontal before you press record.
StabilityThere is nothing more distracting than trying to watch a video that has been filmed by someone with a shaky hand, so the first thing you need to consider is how you are going to stabilize your camera, especially if you are filming an interview.
There are a number of stabilizer options, ranging from the very simple, such as a basic table top mount, to larger-scale tripods, to complicated and expensive gimbals that allow you to move around with the camera while keeping the shot smooth.
If you have ever worked with professional videographers then you will probably have been struck by how much time they spend fiddling with the lighting when filming. That is because lighting is one of the most important factors when it comes to making attractive video content. Thankfully, you do not need to spend a fortune on professional lighting kit in order to get good results. In fact, the best kind of light available is totally free – the sun! If you have zero budget then working with available light, including sunlight, is your only option.
If you are using sunlight as your main source of light then consider the time of day that you are filming. Avoid the middle of the day when the sun is brightest and beaming down. Filming in the morning or later in the afternoon (sometimes referred to as golden hour) is a better time to film, when the sunlight is softer, warmer, and it comes in at an angle. Natural light can be great for interview lighting. But make sure you do not film against the sun, or your subject will be cast in shadow (also known as 'backlit'). Keeping the sun at a 45° angle will fill your subject's face as well as giving shape to it through shadows.
Using indoor light
Sometimes an outdoor setting is not appropriate for filming and you will have to shoot indoors. Even when indoors use natural light where possible, such as filming next to a window (but again, being careful to avoid your subject being backlit). If there is no natural light then you will have to use what is available. Avoid rooms with overhead strip lights, which are generally unflattering and cause shadows under the eyes. If you cannot avoid them then either switch them off or move your subject away so they are not directly underneath them.
If you are going to be doing a fair bit of filming over time, and you have some budget then it might be worth investing in some simple lighting equipment to help you elevate the look of your videos:
How to shoot b-roll
Video footage showing you and your team at work, either in the lab or in the field, helps to give viewers a behind-the-scenes glimpse of how your research is carried out. It is also used to help cover cuts in interviews, so getting plenty of b-roll is useful when it comes to editing your final video. There are a few things to consider when it comes to filming your b-roll.
As part of your planning process and when you write your shooting script you should be drawing up a shot-list, including all the material you will need to illustrate how you do your research.
2. 3 versions
If you are shooting some action, e.g. somebody looking into a microscope, you should always aim to film 3 versions of the action: a wide shot that sets the scene and shows the person in their context, a medium shot that shows only the action, and a close-up shot that lets the viewer see the action in detail. For example:
1. This wide shot from behind the shoulder (BTS) shows a scientist in a lab
2. This medium shot shows the action, and gives more information about the scientist
3. An extreme close-up lets the viewer see the action in detail
3. Multiple angles
Shooting multiple angles can also give you different options to cut between to build a coherent and seamless sequence. Different angles should always have a difference of at least 30°.
4. Be experimental
Add a little movement to your shots to make them feel more dynamic, e.g. revealing your subject from behind an object; play around with different angles and the placement of your camera; perhaps you could use the time lapse function on your camera – set it up as a wide shot to capture activity in one location over time? Have fun with it and see what comes out!
One crucial element of video production that often gets overlooked is sound. At best, bad quality audio can be horribly distracting for viewers. At worst it will make them switch off entirely. So it is important to get right, especially when it comes to recording interviews or voice over.
Smartphones do have inbuilt microphones, some of which are reasonable quality but for them to work well the source of the sound has to be very close to the microphone.
Steps that you can take to improve the quality of your video's audio without spending any additional money are:
- Do not record near obvious sources of noise, e.g. ventilation hoods in a laboratory or a noisy air conditioning unit.
- Avoid large, empty rooms, which are likely to sound echoey.
- Soft furnishings and carpets are good, as they help to make sound soft, unlike hard surfaces that make voices sound hard.
- If you do not have access to a sound booth to record a voice over then the next best thing is a duvet over your head. It will help to block out any external noises, while also making your voice sound soft and warm.
- If you do have some budget and you are planning to make videos regularly then it is worth investing in some basic audio equipment for best results.
Level 2: Use your smartphone to record, with an external microphone plugged in to improve the sound quality.
The edit is one of the most satisfying parts of the process, as this is the moment when you start to see all your material come together and the final video takes shape. But it can also be the most time-consuming phase, especially if you do not have any prior video editing experience and you are having to learn as you go.
If you are going to seek help at any part of the process then this is probably the best time to consider it. There may be editors on a platform like Fiverr who can do some of the technical work, if you provide them with very clear guidance on what you want. Or perhaps your institute has an in-house media team who would be happy to help or give you access and training on some editing software.
If neither of those options work, or if you are simply keen to flex your editing muscles, then here are some useful steps to follow, along with tips and links to resources that will help you edit your video.
What you use to edit your video abstract will depend on a number of factors:
- What type of computer you use – Apple Mac or PC.
- What kind of budget you have – some editing software you have to pay for, other apps are free.
Paid-for software like Adobe's Premiere Pro and Apple's Final Cut Pro offer a great range of functions, while free-to-use applications tend to be simpler and offer fewer options. But the free-to-use applications are likely to be sufficient for most beginners' needs. And in many cases they will be easier to navigate than the versions that offer masses of functionality. Here are a number of different options:
- Adobe Premiere Pro
- Final Cut Pro (Mac)
- DaVinci Resolve
- Imovie (Mac)
- Movie Maker (Windows)
Each piece of software will look and feel a bit different. And you could spend months exploring the more complex platforms without getting close to finding everything on them. Our advice is to try out a couple of the free ones, work out which feels easiest and most intuitive to use, then stick with that. Then, if you discover that you absolutely love editing and you want to work with something that gives you more, you can always consider upgrading to a paid option.
Whichever piece of software you end up using, the following steps have been designed to get you started.
Step 1 – Gather and organize your material
Editing is far easier and more pleasurable if you start the process in an organised way. Before you start cutting, collect all the audiovisual material that you have gathered and organize it into folders within the editing software. An example organizational structure is shown below:
Step 2 – Start with the interviews
- If your video abstract features interviews you should start by editing those.
- Take each interview, lay it on your timeline, and play it through multiple times.
- Select your favourite sections, where the interviewee gives a particularly clear, engaging explanation of the science, or where their passion for the topic comes through.
- You might find it easier to work with a text transcript of the interview, alongside the video version. Some editing platforms have their own in-built transcription capabilities. Otherwise there are transcription services, like rev.com, where you can get a 20 interview transcribed automatically for $5.
Step 3 – Create a rough assembly
Once you have selected your favourite bits of the interviews you can start to piece them together to create a structure for your video. If you have written a solid shooting script and you managed to get what you wanted from your interviewees this should be a straightforward process. You can simply take the selected interview clips and place them in the correct order. This is your first chance to make sure the video flows well, the explanations work together, and the video is running at the desired length.
Step 4 – Cut, cut, and cut again!
The first version that you create is likely to be too long. And explanations might not be as concise and clear as they could be. Often when people talk, especially on camera, they pepper their sentences with 'ums' and 'ahs' and other filler words. You should remove as many of these as possible, as it disrupts the flow. Play the video back multiple times, each time making cuts and trimming the interviews until you have the most succinct version possible.
Step 5 – Add music
If you are planning to use music on your video abstract, then now is a good time to add it. You cannot just take your favourite Taylor Swift track and stick it on your video though! To use music on your video abstract it will need to be licensed.
There are a number of sites that offer free-to-use music tracks, but note that there are different types of free to use music tracks, each of which have their own rules on attribution. This blog post gives some guidance on how to use free music while ensuring the artists are correctly credited.
Step 6 – Cover with images and b-roll
Once you are happy with the length and flow of your interview you can start adding pictures. There are two reasons to add visuals to an edit:
- To help illustrate what the speaker is saying;
- To cover edit cuts.
Review the visual material available to you – b-roll, general views (GVs) archive material, photos, infographics, etc. – and start dropping it onto the timeline above your interviews.
If you followed the suggestions for filming then you should have plenty of options to work with, moving from wide shots that establish a scene, to close-up shots that show the action in greater detail. Try to avoid using b-roll as a 'sticky plaster' to simply cover up interview cuts. Instead use multiple shots to build up sequences of action. Every shot you use should be motivated and help to illustrate and elevate what's being said in the interview underneath. Think carefully about the messages you want the images to convey to your audience. But also consider when not to use b-roll. If an interviewee is saying something particularly important, or they are delivering information in an animated and engaging way, then give them their moment on camera!
When all your interview cuts are covered and you are happy that the pictures tell the right story then the hard-work is over!
Step 7 – Add subtitles
Adding subtitles is an essential step in the video production process. Subtitles help with accessibility, plus most people watch online videos with the sound off, so captions will help you engage with as wide an audience as possible.
All editing software should have the capacity to add subtitles. If you would prefer to outsource the task then you can simply upload your completed video to a platform like rev.com and for a small fee they will create the subtitles for you.
Closed captions are those that can be turned off by the person watching your video with the click of a button, whereas open captions are part of the video itself and will be visible to all.
Step 8 – Export your video file
When you are happy with your final video it is time to export it as a file that you can share and upload. You will probably have a few different options for the format and specs that you can export your video in. Generally speaking you should be looking to export as high quality a file as possible that will still work with the platform that you are uploading to.
You have lovingly crafted your video abstract, hit export, and saved the mp4 file. The question now is, what to do with it? All too often we see great videos languishing in obscurity because the dissemination phase has not been given as much thought as the creation. But there are some simple steps that you can take to ensure that your video abstract is seen by as many of the right people as possible. EGU have created a handy primer on how to promote your work.
1. Upload it alongside your written abstract
In collaboration with the German National Library of Science and Technology (TIB), Copernicus Publications provides authors with the possibility of uploading video supplements and/or video abstracts relating to their accepted article. During review file upload, if your video is already important for reviewers, or production file after final acceptance of your manuscript, you are asked to define assets. Provide the TIB DOI of your video abstract file. If you uploaded to other platforms, please provide the URL.
2. Share it with your institute's communications department
Universities and research institutes are always looking for opportunities to shout about the amazing research that is happening. It is worth getting in touch with your organization or department's communications team to find out if they would be willing to share your video on their own channels. They are likely to already have a large, existing following. And at the very least they should be able to give you some advice on how to broaden the reach of your video.
3. Share it on social media
This might seem like an obvious one but it is really important to share your video on the social media channels where your target audience will be able to find it. And do not be shy about posting it more than once! Especially on platforms like X, where most of your followers will not see all of your content, it is fine to post about it several times over the course of a few weeks.
4. Split it up
A good way of giving yourself more material to share on social media is to cut the main video up into smaller, bite-sized chunks. That way you can post about it multiple times with fresh content each time and drive traffic to the main video on another platform, such as YouTube.
Jen and Clare decided on a conversational approach to their video abstract. The back and forth between the researchers and the natural style make the content dynamic and give license for a longer video.
This abstract focuses on the purpose of the paper, the people who will get most out of it and also utilises figures used in the paper to illustrate some of the tools and concepts that feature.
Carrie documented a test flight as part of her research, which created some interesting visual opportunities to illustrate the device built to solve a problem in measuring pollutants in the air. This video abstract shows how helpful it is to document your research with photos and videos. Material like this will give you plenty to work with when it comes to creating your video abstract.
With the processes, resources, and skills outlined in this toolkit, you should now be ready to go forth in the world and disseminate your research through compelling and engaging video content! This can add real value to your vital research, ensuring it achieves the reach and impact it deserves, and we hope that you enjoy the process of making great accompanying video content as much as we do.