Make an engaging video - it's easier and more rewarding than you think

Where to begin with your video

Never made a video before? Don’t worry. This is a science Challenge, not a film competition. So we aren’t expecting your solution video to be a cinematic masterpiece worthy of the Discovery Channel or Sundance. And we don’t expect you to suddenly morph into David Attenborough.

But the better and more authentic your video is, the more persuasive it will be. And the faster your solution will build up a base supporters, all over the world. Here are some tips.

1. Gather your tools and team

Point and shoot. All you need to make a compelling, high-definition video about your solution is the camera on your smart phone. Literally anyone can do it. And it can be great! Some of the most popular videos on the web have been filmed on a phone. Download a free video-editing program to easily add text, trim footage or include voiceover audio.

  • Got a Mac? iMovie provides a free and easy editing tool.
  • Got a PC? There's a multitude of free movie editing software available for download. And don't forget, in more recent versions of Powerpoint it's possible to save your presentation as a movie!

Choose your spokesperson. Who can best speak for your project? Is it you, someone else in the team or a well-spoken ally? Or should you let the facts speak for themselves, graphically? There’s no right or wrong choice. Video testimonials from others could work best of all, if you can get them. So get networking.

Camera shy? Have no fear. Talking direct to camera is just one of the available options. It might not even be the best of the bunch. Consider making an animated demo instead. Or recording a voiceover to add to footage of your prototype or your team in action. Or focus on clips of people giving their first-hand impressions of what your solution can do – and what scaling it up would mean, for their lives and for society.

Recruit a volunteer video-maker. Consider connecting with a budding filmmaker or supportive pro to make your video great. Can you get communications students or your university’s PR department on board? It could be a win-win for everyone involved.

2. Tell a moving story

Start with a bang. The first 10 to 30 seconds of your video are vital. They’ll set the tone for the whole video and determine whether your viewers choose to see it through to the end. One good option: start with the big societal problem or “what if”. Need some ideas? Watch our Modern pioneers videos.

Show off your solution. Video offers the chance to show, not just talk about the change your solar or energy storage solution can bring to the world. Try to film on site, in the labs, in the field. Or incorporate graphics or simple visual effects (like hand-drawn pictures) to give your video visual oomph.

Choose a storytelling device. There are lots of ways to structure your video, to make it compelling and interesting for viewers. You could show people a day in the life of your team, document a particular milestone or ritual, go “behind the scenes” or provide a “how to” look at the benefits people – and society more broadly – can get from your solution. Be creative with it, and people will notice.

3. Lights, camera, action! (a few production tips)

Tilt your phone on its side. Important notice: your Bright Minds video needs to be shot horizontally, not vertically. Vertical videos don’t have that same movie-like vibe. And they won’t fit the Bright Minds template.

Keep it short. Around 90 seconds is ideal. Good for short attention spans and social-media sharing. Keep it to under 4 minutes, maximum. Most viewers will only remember three points from your video, so think carefully about the key messages. And make every second count.

Choose your location. Try to film in natural light, but not right in front of a window or in direct sun. If your video looks grainy or washed out, try filming it again somewhere else. Make sure your voice comes across clearly by shooting in a room with a muted acoustic – with carpet – and no background distractions, unless they’re part of your story.

Talk to a person, not a lens. If talking to a camera makes you uneasy but you feel that a straight-to-camera pitch is the best option for your entry, try this: talk to a friend instead. You can literally have someone stand next to the camera and listen. Or you can simply imagine you’re talking to a real person, not an inanimate object. Either way, your presentation – and confidence – should get a natural boost.

Don't forget the end credits. End your video with a bright call to action – something like ‘Support (your solution name) in the Bright Minds Challenge!’. Plus the key information people need in order to do that: your Bright Minds solution page URL and the Challenge hashtag, #BrightMindsChallenge. This way, your video will work hard for your solution no matter where it ends up. Like when it gets shared by thousands or even millions of people on Facebook or Twitter.

4. Be authentic

Go for simplicity. Don’t overdo the graphics or movie magic. And don’t try too hard to be funny or clever. It might only get in the way of your message. Puns and jokes can leave people from other cultures and disciplines scratching their heads. Your solution’s potential should speak loudest.

Find your inner presenter. Scripted or ad-libbed? Straight to camera or voiceover? Experiment with a few different approaches to see what works best. And remember: even experienced presenters often have to do multiple takes to get it just right. So keep going. You’ll feel more at ease with every attempt.

Do it your way. This is your video. It’s your solution. And it’s your choice how to open it up to the world. Be as creative and true to yourself as you dare. If in doubt, you can always do the Hollywood thing and focus group your video before uploading it (i.e. share it with friends or colleagues to hear what they think).