Participate in the Virtual Research Exhibition
Want to create a video about your research or creative project? Whether you are creating a video of your Honors 110 presentation, for the Mason Celebration of Student Scholarship, or for a virtual scholarly conference, this page will help you get started.
If you can talk coherently about your project and already have some visualizations from making a poster or PowerPoint presentation, you are already most of the way to making a video.
It really isn't hard and can be very rewarding.
This page answers a lot of questions you might have along the way, but don't feel overwhelmed: you probably already have the tools you need, can get help from the Honors College Communications team, and can find a way to make a video appropriate to your technological resources, abilities, and aptitudes.
Most of the students in this playlist weren't sure that they could make a high-quality video, but by following the tips on this page and by getting some help from the Honors College communications team, they were able to make truly inspirational videos. You can do this too!
Planning your video
Having even a short clip of you talking before and after your slides will dramatically improve most presentations. You can achieve this in a "live" video recording of your presentation or by editing a video you make afterwards.
If you are able, it's often helpful to intersperse your video with shots of your face, since this tends to help humanize the video. It's not that hard and we're glad to help!
That said, you can definitely make a perfectly acceptable video with just a voice over slides.
You can do it either way. There are advantages to both approaches.
Some people find it easier to just record a live video while they control a PowerPoint presentation, since this is a lot like giving a class presentation. If you decide to do that, tools like Zoom or Kaltura can make it pretty easy, but you should probably be prepared to do multiple takes before you get a version that you like: the advantage of an in-class presentation is you do it once and then you are done. When you are recording, it is easy to find parts to be dissatisifed with and end up recording a lot of versions.
While a lot of us think about video editing as a hard and time-consuming process, it really doesn't have to be. What's more, most of us either already have easy-to-use tools like iMovie or can get free easy-to-use tools like OpenShot to do the editing. If you edit afterwards, it's a lot easier to fix little mistakes, edit out bloopers, and make the video look more professional. This might end up saving you time and often ends up producing a better quality video. It does, however, require that you learn some simple software like iMove or OpenShot. Tutorials for using this software are below.
There are a few ways to handle this:
- Begin and end with video of yourself, but just narrate over slides in the middle. Starting and ending with video of just your face can really help establish your voice and help your audience connect with you. Even if you are planning on trying to record your video live without editing, you can do this using the tools in Zoom or Kaltura Capture that you will be using to record the video.
- Include video of yourself throughout, interpersed with slides. If you just give the talk looking at the camera, then cut out the parts you don't like, you can edit to add the slides where they are needed. If you do it this way, you can even use the slides to smooth over the places where you made cuts in the video, so that it isn't so evident that you cut parts out. You also have more flexibility to add or subtract slides, as is most appropriate to your presenation.
- Small rectangle of video in the corner. A lot of tools allow you to have a little video of yourself in the corner while you go through a slide show. This is definitely better than no video at all. With some practice, you can combine this with the other techniques. Be mindful that the video isn't covering over content you need in the slides: you may want to design them with this in mind.
- Side-by-side video and slides. Some tools allow you to have side-by-side video and slides. This can be kind of awkward when viewed on small screens, since the slides are often too small to read.
You probably will want some kind of visualizations other than just your face.
If you've already given a presentation about your research, you probably already have some PowerPoint slides, a Pecha Kucha or Ignite-style slide deck, or a poster that has some visualizations on it. You can just use what you have. If you are starting with a poster, try to pull the most visually rich parts of the poster onto individual slides.
The best slides help your audience think about relationships between concepts, visualize data or evidence, or understand the organization of the words you are saying.
You'll want to avoid having too many words per slide and will want to be mindful that many people will watch the video on a small-sized screen, so the kinds of details you can put on a research poster or in a figure in a paper might not be visible.
If you are already planning on editing your video, consider adding the slides to the presentation after you give it, rather than trying to include them while you talk. You can also use them to smooth over cuts in the video.
Most of the time, it will sound and look better if you are not just reading a script. Of course, you definitely need an idea of what you'll be saying, but that could just mean having a few talking points: they don't necessarily need to be written down. It's probably better just to practice talking through your talking points a few times, but it wouldn't hurt to do this with the camera or audio recorder on. If you are editing after you record the video, you can even combine some of the best parts together from several run-throughs or cut out the parts you don't like.
If you decide to use a script, you'll need to practice a few times until you can do it without sounding like you are reading or giving a speech. A more conversational tone is good.
For videos that will be shown at Mason Virtual Celebration of Student Scholarship, we generally recommend keeping your video to 3-5 minutes in length. That said, group projects and some more advanced, complex, or long-term individual projects might take longer to explain. We've had successful videos that were more like 8-15 minutes in length. If you think you are going to make a longer video for this event, you should probably consult with your faculty member or mentor as you develop the video.
Some contexts call for longer videos, however. For instance, many scholarly conferences have gone online and have asynchronous panels. If that's the case, ask your panel chair what length is appropriate. Very often the answer is either 12-15 minutes or 15-20 minutes. It will take more time to plan a longer panel presentation.
Capturing your video
The easiest approach is probably to just use whatever you already have. Do you have a mobile phone? If so;, that means you have a good camera and microphone. Does your laptop or computer have a webcamera too? If so, that means you have a choice between two camera/microphone combinations. Test them out and see which one works better!
You almost certainly already have all of the software you need to record your video as well.
By following a few tips, you can use the software and hardware you already have to make a good video. The Honors College communications team made this tutorial to help you get started:
You don't need a fancy camera.
In most cases, the best camera available to you will be on your mobile device, but many laptops have decent cameras as well. If you use your mobile device, you will need to edit your video afterwards to incorporate any slides or visualizations you might have, but this isn't too hard to do.
You need a microphone, but it doesn't need to be special.
The microphone on most mobile devices is quite good and many laptops or webcams have good built-in microphones as well. If you have an external microphone or a microphone of some kind, you could try it, but it probably isn't necessary.
The audio is probably the most important part of the video, however. So we do recommend that you test your microphone(s). Very often, your mobile device will have a much better-sounding microphone than your laptop, but not always. Experiment with the microphones available to you and find one that sounds okay when you listen with headphones.
If you are using your mobile device, the camera software that comes with your device can probably capture the best-quality video of all of the tools available to you.
If you are using a laptop, you might need some kind of video capturing software. The good news is that you probably already have easy-to-use tools:
- Camera Application. Most laptops have a webcamera these days and there is built-in software that enables you to capture video using the webcam. This is the best option if you plan on adding your slides to the presentation afterwards. On Windows devices, you can use the Camera application. ChromeBooks also have a Camera application. On Mac devices, you can use the PhotoBooth application.
- Videoconferencing Software. You probably have used Zoom-like tools for videoconferencing already, but you can also record a video using these tools. Just open up a meeting with just yourself and turn on "record." You can even turn on screensharing, if you'd rather capture the slides as part of the video, rather than editing them in later. If possible, record to your local computer rather than the cloud so you can get a higher-quality video file. Here are instructions from Zoom. You can achieve similar results with Blackboard Collaborate Ultra, Google Hangouts, WebEx Meetings, and other similar products.
- Kaltura Capture. If you open up Blackboard and go to the "MyMedia" tab, you'll find options to use Kaltura Capture, which enables you to record video, video and a presentation, or just a presentation with a voice over. This software is exceedingly easy to use, but sometimes can produce lower quality or laggy video on some computers.
- PowerPoint. The desktop versions of Microsoft PowerPoint have tools for recording narration and slide timing. Once you are done, you can export to a MP4 video file. This is a very easy way to create a recording, but has some limitations because the narration is attached to individual slides.
- Experiment with lighting.The most important thing is to be in a well-lit room. The video may look grainy or worse if your camera is trying to compensate for low or uneven light levels. Consider moving lamps around in the room until you are well-lit, but not washed out. It is very important that you don't have any bright light sources behind you within the frame.
- Position yourself. It's often best to position yourself near the middle of the frame from the waist or chest up. Hand movements can expressive, so if you are someone who speaks with your hands, you can experiement with getting closer or further away from the camera so that you can incorporate them. If you are awkward with your hands, you might want to just do a chest-up video and act like a talking head.
- Position the camera. You really want it close to eye level. If it is looking up at you, everyone will be looking up your nose, or you'll look like you are looking down on the viewer. If it is above you, you might look like you are craning your neck. Set your mobile device or laptop on some books and get it as close to eye level as you can manage.
- Use landscape mode. Tik Tok-style/portrait videos might have some uses, but the video you are making should be in landscape mode.
- Check your camera resolution. Most devices allow you to set your resolution. Full HD (FHD)/1080p (1920 pixels wide by 1080 pixels tall) is plenty and will look great. You'll have a hard time working with a higher resolution file, so there is no reason to set it at 4K or another higher quality setting, if your device even allows this. If you device only captures in HD/720p (1280 pixels wide by 720 pixels tall), that's going to work great, too. You can definitely work with lower resolution like 480p (848 pixels wide by 480 pixels tall), but it mgiht not look as good as you would like. It will be fine, though!
- Be aware of your background. A lot of video applications have tools that can replace your background, but they often look kind of bad. If you can find a plain background or something that looks professional, like a bookshelf or something like this, it might be better than an artifical background. Things like spinning fans the background can be remarkably distracting, so if you can find a still background, that's best.
- Avoid busy patterns on your clothing. Certain busy patterns - especially narrow line patterns - can produce a suprisingly vertiginous effect when they appear on video recordings.
- Be careful with cue cards. It might be tempting to have cue cards or a script, but if you do so, you'll want to be careful about how you use them. If your eyes are moving all around in the video, people will notice and it can be kind of disconcerting if you are looking away from the camera or looking back and forth. You can either lean into this by making your cue cards visible in the video or try to avoid it by making sure that each time you look at a cue card or script, you take a minute to look directly at the camera and breath deeply before your begin talking again. You can then edit out the gaps afterwards.
- Look at the camera. It is tempting to spend a lot of time looking at your Slide Deck or at pretty much anything else, but if you can look directly at the camera for most of the presentation, it will look more professional. It sometimes is useful to put something to focus on near the camera to help with this. (Googly eyes on either side of the camera works great.)
- Find a reasonably quiet place. There's nothing more annoying than making a great video and then realizing you can hear your roommate, the washing machine, or the air conditioning in the background. That said, a little background noise isn't a big deal and sometimes it can't be avoided.
- Listen for fans. It's really hard to reduce the white noise in the background of a video. If you have a fan or climate control system running, consider turning it off while your record or at least moving away from it. If your laptop has a loud fan - many do - consider using a mobile device instead. If you need to use the laptop and the fan runs intermittently, see if you can get a take when the fan isn't running.
- Listen for echo/reverb. Some rooms have a lot of reverberations in them. If you can find a room that echoes less, your audio will sound better. Some big open rooms are especially bad, while a smaller room with a bed mattress, some couch cushions, or clothes tossed around (really!) can sound pretty good.
- Speak clearly, confidently, and loudly. The software you record with may try to compensate for voices that are too quiet, but the result is that they amplify the background noise in the room. You don't want to be yelling, but if you can be louder and still sound natural, it will help a lot.
- Record all of the audio at once. If you plan on editing your video, make sure to go ahead and record any parts that have audio all at once, even if it take multiple takes to get it all. This way, you'll be speaking at nearly the same volume and the sound will be similar between different clips. If you have to re-record some audio on a later day, try to do it in the same room, with the same microphone, using the same software, with the same settings. Try to speak at the same volume, if you can. Changes in audio quality and volume during a video can be jarring. Some issues like this can be fixed while editing and minor issues are no big deal. The goal is just to do your best, not to make a perfect recording.
Editing your video
Students with Macs or iOS devices may either already have iMovie installed or be able to get it for free. We've created a little tutorial to help you with using this software and would be glad to schedule a time to help if you get stuck.
Students with Windows computers may need to install new software, but the free OpenShot.org software is as easy as iMovie and works fine on most computers. We've created a little tutorial to help with using this software and would be glad to schedule a time to help if you get stuck.
You'll want to export each slide from to PNG or JPG files. To do this in PowerPoint, follow the instructions on this page. If your slide deck is a PDF, you can also export to PNG or JPG using Adobe Acrobat Reader or Apple Preview.
The iMovie help file is remarkably good and there are a ton of great videos on YouTube.
The Honors College communications team made this brief tutorial, which you might find useful.
If you run into problems, email the Honors College Communications Team for help.
The first time you open OpenShot, it will walk you through a tutorial that helps you get started. There's also a pretty good User Guide and several good video on YouTube.
The Honors College communications team made this brief tutorial, which you might find useful
If you run into problems, email the Honors College Communications Team for help.
If you need help, the Honors College Communications Team Interns are available at any stage of the process.
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Planning and practicing
Sometimes it is useful to get help as you plan out your talking points, develop your visualizations, or practice what you will say. We have several Honors College Communications interns who can help you by providing feedback on the content of your visualization or talk.
Graphic design consultation or assistance
We encourage you to develop visualizations and graphics that help support your own vision, but sometimes it is helpful to get the opinion of a graphic designer. Sometimes you might just not know a good way to visualize something and would like a graphic designer to take an active hand in shaping your visualizations. Our graphic design intern is available to help you at any stage of this process, from conceptualization to execution to polishing.
Video and audio recording
Sometimes you either would like help figuring out how to set up your camera and microphone to capture high quality video and audio or you run into unexpected issues. The communications interns can help with this.
This page offers some easy-to-follow tips for editing your own presentation, but you might discover you need help or that you feel overwhelmed with the editing process. Our interns can give you one-on-one help via videoconferencing software or even do some of the editing for you.
The Honors College offers all presenters the opportunity to have their videos polished by our communications team. They can do things like improve minor issues with the audio, make adjustments to the video quality, improve rough cuts, trim content off the beginning or end of a video, add a professional-looking thumbnail or bottom third graphic that identifies you, and/or add an Honors College graphic to the end of your video. See the playlist under "Get Inspired" above to see some of these elements.