Harder than it looks.


Ok. So, as a handful of people on this planet know, I make Youtube videos. They’re not widely subscribed to yet, (or ever?) but I keep on making them because they’re fun and interesting. Plus I need to remain involved with science somehow, instead of watching my degree moulder away on a wall. 

No, future in science, come back!!

I am learning a lot about the process of video production. There’s a lot to it; more than simply whipping out a handycam and filming something. 

I will attempt in this post to go through the basics of making short youtube videos, and various aspects of the whole business that make themselves apparent along the way. Here goes…

How a Ben’s Lab video happens

When I began my channel about six months ago I had no equipment,  save for my smartphone. That was it. No microphones, no ridgey didge software (except an app on said phone), no tripods, no nothing. Nada. Zip. Zilch. I did have the desire to do it however,  and that is far more important.

So true. Will propels us. A car is only as good as the foot on the accelerator pedal.

So, armed with said phone,  and with no idea what I was doing I jumped into my first video;  a little introduction to strange marine creatures called phronima. 

I remember the making of that video being a series of engineering issues: for example I had no tripod, so I made one from milk crates and a chunk of styrofoam. Hell, it did the job. You have to be MacGuyver sometimes.

That video taught me a few things from the get go. 

What’s my line?

Writing at least an outline of what you’re going to talk about is kind of essential. I am not one of these people who can get up in front of a crowd and roll out some beautifully crafted speech. I mumble and I speak too fast. I know this about myself. Getting flustered and tripping over my words is very easy for me to do. So, if you can’t stare lovingly into the camera like you’re making love to it while you rattle off fun facts…..read from a script. By this I don’t mean read robotically like a ten year old at a school assembly.  I mean have a written script handy (in your hand if need be) and refer to it periodically.

Referring to notes won’t detract from your presentation, despite what you might think.

Having notes will nudge your confidence just that tiny little bit, and that is all important. Just don’t spend the whole video checking them. This leads to another discovery.

It’s ok to ask for help. 

With one or two of my early videos (hell even now I think my delivery is lacking) I found that I absolutely suck at talking to a camera. It’s surprisingly tricky to do. That bloody thing just stares at you, and I always have the feeling that it’s an unimpressed stare. I think that if a camera was an animal it would be a cat.

I’ll let you know when I need you.

Yes, it’s a hell of a thing the little enemies we face every day. Ok, so I’m no public speaker,  but I’m not going to let some gadget shoot me down. I’ve got videos to make. What I discovered helped an awful lot was having someone else present. In this case my beautiful supportive wife:


I tend to mess around when I’m with people. Taking life seriously is something I try to avoid. It’s already serious enough. It doesn’t need my help. So, I found that when she’s behind the camera I relax a little. Or a lot. I could feel the difference in my demeanor when she was around. I’m not a baby. She doesn’t cut the crusts off my bread or anything, but she helps. A friend or even a pet can help you relax. 

These nebulous aspects of video making are big issues to address. In upcoming posts I’ll talk about other things I’m learning as I go…

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