CASE STUDY:  SCICONIC SCIENCE MEDIA (THE VIT REVIEW)

BACKSTORY

These days I work mostly for others. 

And that’s ok. 

Unfortunately, it means personal projects are put on the backburner.    

Creating animations on one’s own time (and own dime), comes with a swift reminder that working alone has its advantages and drawbacks.

The good news is that I have full creative control.  Having this level of control is hugely rewarding. 

The bad news is that I have full creative control.  Having this level of control means (far) more work. 

It seems that work grows exponentially when you’re responsible for all the research, script writing, editing, artwork, voice over and animation. 

But, some time back, I decided I would wear all those hats at least one time and produce… something. 

Enter the Vit Review.

These are short, impactful video versions of academic literature (lit) reviews, where I comb through peer- reviewed research to present concepts and ideas in a way the general public can understand.

But, this animation (my first personal project) came with several hard lessons and one or two mistakes.  You always learn more through failure.  By coming clean about the fun stuff, my hope is that you can apply some of what I’ve learned to your own projects.

 

GOOD TO KNOW

In the 1960’s, Paul D. MacLean proposed the Triune Brain Theory, which suggests the human brain can be divided into three distinct regions.  

The animation is based on the rumor that the most primitive of these regions, the reptilian brain, is responsible for decision making.

That’s right.  Despite all that evolution and brain power, your brain will insist on using its most primitive region (the one responsible for aggression and dominance) to make a decision. 

At least that’s the rumor. 

So, I dug into the literature and made a video about it. 

 

LESSONS

  1. Keep that topic simple

It wasn’t MacLean’s theory per se that caused problems.  But, diving into some of the intricacies of the reptilian brain (and the rumors that go along with it) also meant looking into some amount of brain anatomy, some psychology, some psychiatry, and some evolutionary theory.  Choosing a topic that spans a few disciplines is trying (particularly when you’re looking to summarize something in a 2 minute animation).  And, would be you believe that neither my doctorate nor my postdoctoral work is in any of these areas?  It meant more research than I anticipated, and more reading than I anticipated. 

Remind me not to do this in the future. 

To see the finished produced, you’d never guess how much time it took for me to rummage through some of that information and come to some sort of a conclusion.  And, like many things science, there’s not always a clear black and white answer (in fact, this is true in most cases).  It’s all shades of gray, and instead of hitting a clear YES or NO, you’re often going to be left with a strong MAYBE.  The sheer amount of time it took me to arrive at that conclusion was mind-boggling.  In future work, I’ll be looking to keep that topic a little more focused. 

  1. Script writing is nothing like writing an academic manuscript

Not that I expected it to be. 

I’ve done a fair amount of writing over the years.  Some of it has been academic, but some has also been for fun.  I’ve done an awful lot of it and I enjoy it.  There’ve been some periods over the years where I’ve written daily (if only to clear my head).  And building up this kind of habit has definitely helped with the work I do today.   But, like many things, learning to write conversationally takes time.  And a traditional academic background isn’t helpful here.

Remember that more words on a page will mean more artwork to be created and more animation to accommodate a longer script.  A number of animation studios (including mine) charge by the minute.  And, trust me when I say that creating a 3 minute piece is a lot more work than creating a 2 minute one. 

Never take three minutes to say something that can be said in two. 

A shorter, more focused animation stands a much better chance of being watched in its entirety.    

And sadly, if you can’t figure out a way to get to the point quickly, the production company you work with will charge you accordingly. 

So will I.

Whether you choose to write your own or would like us to assist you, it may help to remember one of the most important lessons of all.

  1. It’s all about the viewer

Your viewer.  Your audience.  Your supporters.   

What can they take away from your video?

What information do they need to give them a basic understanding or appreciation for a particular problem?

What’s the most important point for them to know?

What’s the big picture?

Your mission is to take that single point or concept and build the most targeted, succinct script around it that you possibly can, in the least amount of time possible.

  1. The learning curve can be steep

It’s this first video that laid the foundation for ‘Science Web Scripts.’  And, for every video I’ve completed since, these rules have been updated, revised and expanded.  At this point, I refer to them often as a reference for the script writing process. 

They haven’t failed me yet.

For your viewing pleasure see the link below, and please feel to save and share.

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NEXT STEPS

For more help crafting your own message, here’s a quick cheat sheet to get you started with your own science story.  Simply hover over the PDF below to expand, read and download.

web-scripts-brochure

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REPTILIAN BRAIN GALLERY