Science Filmmaking


Overview: This class will introduce participants to the use of video as a means to communicate scientific and natural history information. Topics will include story selection, planning, scripting, camera technique, voiceovers, technical aspects of video and audio production, video and audio editing, project output, and distribution. These technical elements will underpin the main focus of the course:  effective storytelling through video. The “hands-on” approach will be emphasized, and participants will put concepts introduced in lecture into daily practice. Opportunities will exist for shooting in the field and studio, and certified divers may have opportunities to try underwater videography. Students will also critique existing documentaries, and during the latter part of the class, teams of students will spend time producing a short film.

Research skills: Students will either work closely with BMSC researchers, or work independently to delve into published research, to craft compelling science narratives. This will include detailed planning and vision. We will also evaluate the films of others to develop skills for critical evaluation of existing visual media.

Practical Skills: Students will engage in camera work, editing, lighting, audio, and working with human and non-human subjects. Storytelling skills will also be emphasized.

Boat Use: Some field trips will take place using boats, and students will use BMSC boats as necessary for final projects. Students who wish to drive boats at BMSC must hold a PCOC and valid first aid certificate and will participate in an introductory boat check-out on the first day of orientation.

Prerequisite: Some knowledge of basic natural history of coastal organisms

Physical Requirements: Ability to carry filmmaking gear, including camera, tripod, and accessories. Editing of films will require extended periods of sitting. Ability to walk on uneven and sometimes slippery surfaces, such as gravel roads and rocky shores. You should be mentally prepared to focus for extended periods of time during editing sessions (we call it the ‘black hole of editing’ for a reason!)

Required Equipment: Required Equipment: Students require the following: 1) a video camera that can record high definition (minimum 720p) footage. Recent smart phones are adequate, but other solutions such as DSLR/mirrorless camera with video capabilities and headphone jack and external mic jack are preferred. 2) a computer with processing power and storage space (external hard drive is fine) adequate for high definition video. We teach using Mac OSX (iMovie or Final Cut Pro X), but students with PCs will need to acquire recent and capable video editing software (e.g. Adobe Premiere); 3) a tripod 4) USB stick for sharing completed assignments.  There is no required text, although we recommend this resource.