In mid January, I
was roped into volunteered to help with what promised to be an exciting and fun day: a Making for Science Communication workshop, run by my ‘Science In Motion’ partner in crime, Morag Hickman.
Morag gathered 16 students and four techie assistants (myself included) into the Humanities department at Imperial College. For 12 hours on a Saturday, we brainstormed, planned, argued, made, photographed, filmed, recorded and edited. I was expecting something along the lines of a craft workshop; what the day actually provided was an insight into the whole process of storytelling and creation of a video, from a concept to completion.
The brief was wide open at the start of the day. The students had been asked to bring in audio clips of people talking around the question, ‘What is Science Communication?’. There were responses from scientists, children and science communicators, with lots of viewpoints represented. Having listened to the contributions, we had our task: put it together in some semblance of order, and then create visuals to go with it. Here’s the result:
It’s a gentle, thoughtful piece, peppered with Haiku poems written by children about science. What was more interesting was the process we went through. I learned just as much as the students, I think!
The quantity and diversity of the audio clips was always going to pose a challenge – probably about half an hour of it all up, and we needed to slice and dice it down into a digestible but still insightful mix. Morag led the group through the early stages of scripting, then let them argue things out. I must say this was the most difficult part of the workshop; Morag’s expertise lies in the creative making side of things, and scripting with a group of 16 is an almost unachievable task. Fortunately, Morag had assembled a team to help with such situations, and introduced Alia in the role of Exective Producer to whip the script quickly into shape. The result perhaps wasn’t ‘ideal’ given the material we had, but it pushed us through to the next phase: making.
Four groups split off, each storyboarding then animating a scene. They had half an hour to do each scene, start to finish; so each little clip in the video above was conceptualised and created, with no rough-cuts or test shooting, in a ridiculously short time. Some worked better than others, but all were an opportunity to experiment with different techniques and think outside of the box when adding visuals to audio.
Morag led this process very effectively: keeping an eye on the time, offering help and advice throughout and providing some great tips and tricks. I spent most of the time compiling stop-motions and helping with camera work; there may be a making-of video soon, which will document more of the process.
I drew a couple of things from the day, even from my slightly-outside-position. One was to see the condensed creative process, and where sticking points lie in such time-limited projects. The value of being able to mull over problems and ideas is huge. Another was to see just how much can be achieved in a short time using relatively simple techniques.
Clearly, the video is far from polished, but it was created in one day by a group with, functionally, zero experience! It was exhausting – 14 hours, in the end – but I’m confident that reflecting on the process, difficulties and success of the day will give the students a platform to build their skills from, which would take much longer to build through self-exploration alone.