Lessons Learned: A Year in the Life of an Educational Video Series


Lessons Learned: A Year in the Life of an Educational Video Series

Last year, Studio B and UC Berkeley’s Lawrence Hall of Science teamed up to create an educational video series for middle schoolers. Headed up by UC Berkeley’s executive producer, Kathryn Quigley, the series consisted of  23 videos, spanning a wide range of subjects within the sciences.  Our challenge for the series was to spark the imagination of the students as we introduced these concepts.

The experience was highly rewarding for the Studio B team!  

Not only did we learn new scientific material, we learned what makes for a successful education video series.

Here are our lessons learned:

  1. Research, research, research!

With any educational video series, you want to make sure all of your information is accurate. Your script may be about a fictional scenario, but any information you present should be fact-checked. Thankfully, we had access to some of the top-minds at UC Berkeley who could authenticate all of our scripts!

But authenticity goes beyond the writing. For instance, one of our videos called for paleontologists digging on a mountainside in Pakistan. Unfortunately, we couldn’t take a 20-hour flight to film on location, so we had replicate it as best as we could, here in the Bay Area. That meant learning about the Pakistani landscape and terrain and scouting various locations.

Even our art department conducted research to make sure even the props were as authentic and accurate as possible. Some videos called for very specific items: dinosaur eggs, seismographs, rocks and minerals from various parts of the US. All of these were carefully researched and sourced.

  1. Create an engaging story

There is a story that unfolds over the course of a 3-minute video. Sometimes, educational videos can feel formulaic– a narrator speaking to camera, location featuring a classroom, and bullet points filling your screen. Nothing is wrong with these classic approaches, but sometimes you want to keep things fresh!

In partnership with Katherine Quigley, we found ways to take some of these videos “beyond the classroom,” to new locations. We filmed in a museum with life-size t-rex skeletons, created a mission control center, and formulated mock emergency scenarios, always looking to deviate from the expected.

Sometimes, the videos were best suited to be filmed in a classroom or lab. As mentioned, they don’t make for poor locations, but it’s always nice to find ways to make them more lively! We filled one of our labs with dinosaur bones and eggs and a classroom with an abundance of rocks and minerals. It’s a good way to bring more character to a location.

  1. Play to your audience  

Learning about the thermal energy and evolution can interesting, but to younger audiences, it may be harder to pique their interests. Our audience were pre-teens, so we tried to find ways to appeal to this specific group.

Props and new locations make things fun and memorable, but you can also use genres to diversify your content. Some of the videos featured some comedic elements in the script while the editing style in others made the videos feel like a scene out of an action movie. Dark and dramatic lighting creates a dramatic feel, as seen in here: 

  1. Keep them thinking

Educational videos are all about learning and curiosity, so your videos should leave your audience with a greater knowledge of the subject and hopefully wanting to know more. All of our videos left the viewer with some sort of question. Why are newts becoming more poisonous over time? Can an artificial lake really create gargantuan storms?

Educational series can be daunting, but by adding a little creativity, they can be both informative and fun!