New FREE outreach training class for scientists: intro to video

New FREE outreach training class for scientists: intro to video

The SciFund Challenge video class: your ticket to fame and fortune Spielberg-style.

UPDATE: We maxed out on applications for the video class, so registration is closed early. Not to fret though, as we’ll be doing this class again. If you would like to be the first to know about our new classes, sign up for our e-mail list.

SciFund Challenge is offering yet another outreach training class for scientists! This one is all about learning to make short videos!

Scientists, do you want to learn how to tell the public about your science through video? Do you want to have the skills to put together short videos that are compelling to general audiences?

But how do you get started with video? Join the SciFund Challenge community for our free online course aimed at helping scientists get started with video. Over 5 weeks, we’ll demystify the business of communicating science through video and equip you with the tools and confidence you need to get started. Plus, at the end of the class, you’ll have completed a short video about your research (perfect for your website or YouTube). 

I am very excited to announce that one of the instructors of the course is Elliot Lowndes, a wildlife videographer and photographer with shooting experience all over the world. To give you a taste of that experience, check out his highlight reel:

Unlike with previous SciFund outreach classes, participants will obviously require some equipment for this video class (like a video camera). To minimize costs for class participants, the video camera that participants will be using is a smartphone (as many people already own them). In particular, we will require class participants to use the same brand of smartphone (an iPhone, 4 or newer), so that we can provide a standard set of video shooting instructions to everyone in the class. Further, we require that class participants have access to a Mac with iMovie installed, as iMovie will be the video editing software that class participants will be trained on. Lastly, we require that students have a few extra audio accessories and a tripod (details below). What if you don’t have all of these things, but still want to take the class? It’s possible (see the details below, as well).


Video Outreach 101 for Scientists: engaging the public with your science through video (class details and application)

Cost: FREE (but see below for required equipment for the class). However, we aren’t just giving this course away. Course participants must pledge to share what they have learned with their colleagues.

When: November 2nd-December 13, 2014 (five week course over six weeks skipping Thanksgiving week, week of November 23rd).

Where: The Internet! This course will be highly interactive and will take place largely through short videos, Google Hangouts, blog posts, and Twitter.

Who: Active scientists in any country in any discipline at any level (from graduate student to emeritus professor to government scientist to NGO scientist). This course is intended for scientists who are new to using video for outreach, but are interested in getting started with it.

How the class works: each week, participants will be given a new assignment that is partially done alone and partially with others in the class. In short, this class is highly collaborative!

What course participants will gain from the course:

  • Understanding of how to communicate their science in a manner that is compelling to a general audience.
  • Basic comprehension of the key elements needed to make a short film, such as storyboarding, script writing, editing, and lighting.
  • Confidence to get started with video outreach.
  • A short video about their research.

Time that course participants should expect to spend on course: About 5 hours per week. Please note that this course is going to take time for participants. If you don’t expect that you will have the time, please don’t apply.

Expected number of course participants: Maximum of 100.

Required equipment: This class is based upon using an iPhone (4 or newer) as the video recording device and iMovie as the software for video editing. Therefore class participants will need to have access to both an iPhone and a Mac with iMovie installed. In addition, class participants will need to have four items for this class: a lapel microphone, an extension audio cable for the microphone, audio adapter, and a tripod. For those in the United States, the total cost of these items should be between $85-100 (depending on your local shipping and sales tax rates). Do not buy any equipment until you have been accepted into the class.

  • Lapel microphone. Though the iPhone has a built-in microphone, you will get much better audio quality with an external microphone. We recommend the Giant Squid lapel microphone (on the page, you want the “Omnidirectional Mono Microphone” for $40). Although there are cheaper microphone options out there, we found the Giant Squid lapel mic to be reliable and very good value for the money. This microphone is not iPhone specific, so if you graduate to other cameras in the future, the Giant Squid can continue to serve you.
  • Audio adapter. As the iPhone does not accept standard audio inputs, you will need an audio adapter for the microphone to work. We recommend the MyMyk adapter.
  • Extension audio cable. As the cable that comes with the lapel microphone is short, you will need an extension cable in order to be an appropriate distance from your camera. Here is the cable we recommend.
  • Tripod. This is essential for framing your video successfully. We recommend the Joby Gorrillapod, an affordable tripod designed for smartphones.

But what if I don’t have an iPhone or a Mac? What if I have alternative video/audio/editing gear? It is strongly recommended that class participants use the equipment that we suggested. However, class participants can use other video recording devices, editing software, and microphones, but we will be unable to offer any trouble shooting or technical guidance for other devices. It is mandatory that video recording devices in this class record in HD at a resolution of at least 720p (1080p preferred).  Additionally, class participants must have an external microphone with at least ten feet of audio cable and a tripod that works with their video recording device.

Deadline for completing course application: October 31, 2014 (note: registration closed early). Please note that our courses tend to max out within a week of enrollment opening,  so don’t wait to apply if you are interested. Decisions on applications will be done on a rolling basis.

Requirements for course participants. Course participants must:

  1. be fluent in written and spoken English
  2. have the equipment on the equipment list (or if they have alternative equipment, be comfortable working with that gear on their own)
  3. have access to a computer with a webcam
  4. have broadband access to the Internet (minimum connection speed: 1 mbps upload, 4 mbps download)
  5. want to have fun

Course instructors:

  • Elliot Lowndes, Wildlife videographer and photographer.
  • Jai Ranganathan, Conservation biologist, University of California, Santa Barbara and co-founder, SciFund Challenge.
  • Anthony Salvagno, Biophysicist and board member, SciFund Challenge.

Our class is based upon students engaging with each other in many ways during the course (via Google Hangouts, Twitter, and other means). As a result, the identity of every class participant will be known by all other participants. You won’t be able to take this class anonymously or with a pseudonym.

SciFund Challenge has done lots of science crowdfunding in the past. Is this course connected to crowdfunding?
Not directly. The purpose of this course is to get scientists started with video outreach. However, our analysis of the almost 200 SciFund Challenge crowdfunding projects shows that audience size is a key determinant of crowdfunding success (read our manuscript here). Conducting outreach in a sustained way is the number one way for scientists to build an audience over time. So, this outreach course could be considered a first step for scientists who are considering crowdfunding for their research in the future. And of course, a solid short video is essential for successful crowdfunding.

Other questions? Contact Jai Ranganathan (

9 comments on “New FREE outreach training class for scientists: intro to videoAdd yours →

Comments are closed. You can not add new comments.

  1. I would love to participate in this course, as I have lots of photographic experience but just started branching into video. Unfortunately I am a PC/Android girl without access to a Mac or iPhone. But I do have a pretty high tech video camera and learn quickly on my own. So I would love participate and learn more about using video for outreach. You can see the video my lab and I put together for our crowdfunding campaign here:
    I am currently enrolled in your outreach course and have learned a great deal. Would love to keep expanding my toolkit for successful science outreach.

    1. Hi Kirsten. It sounds like you’ll be well set to take the video course, even though you’ll be using some different gear. Please do apply! Jai

  2. Is there a schedule (as for webcasts or interactive classes), or can participants pop in and out at any hour? Please advise, thanks!

    1. Hi Alison. Thanks for the question. SciFund classes work on a weekly basis (each week is a separate module). Every module has three parts. Part 1: do something on your own based on instructions given at the beginning of the week via blog post. Part 2: do something with a class partner (varies by the module). Part 3: let’s talk about the week’s activity via moderated google hangouts. In every week, there are many hangouts scheduled, so you should hopefully be able to find a time that works with your schedule. Jai

  3. Dear Jay, how long does it take to receive the answer after the completing of the course application?

  4. How do I know if you got my application? (Or, how quickly are you turning around accept/decline notices?) Want to make sure both that you got my application and that I’ll have enough time to acquire any equipment that I’ll need to buy prior to course start if I’m accepted… Thanks.