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WUI Blog

Welcome to the WUI Blog. This is where you can read about what we're up to with news, current projects, behind the scenes stories, science communication, and all other things WUI. 

Photo of Eric standing in front of camera at the seed vault
Filming inside the National Laboratory for Genetic Resource Preservation at Colorado State University for the Seed Diversity Series.

Editor's Note Draft

Greetings subscribers, and welcome back to Reel Talk: Science & Film. Our newsletter continued to grow from our second issue, and we’d like to thank you for tuning back in for our third issue.

A few weeks ago, we attended the first-anniversary event for the CSU SPUR campus in Denver. It was a fun time for us as we got to chat with some CSU folk from both the Fort Collins campus and SPUR, as well as participate in some of their in-house activities like taste-testing sweets and some science-based games.

We also reconnected with a colleague from our work on the Hold Our Ground documentary film series on soil health in Colorado. It was a great day, and if you haven’t been to the SPUR campus yet, we highly recommend giving them a visit and checking it out sometime. 

In our first newsletter, we gave some examples of the types of videos that WUI produces to communicate science, but we didn't really go into the elements of what makes them so successful. For this month's newsletter, we wanted to take a closer look into why it works, who the viewer is, and how it can make a difference in sharing your science stories. 

So, without further ado, let's dive into our story to discover why video is so effective in science communication.

What Makes Video So Effective at Communicating Science?

Over the last few years, video has become an increasingly important part of communication strategies. From social media reels and stories, YouTube’s popularity, and TikTok’s emergence as one of the largest social media platforms, video has, in many ways, taken over our lives and is now so much more than movies, TV, and film. 

What does this mean for science communication? One realm in science communication that's seeing a surge in growth is the use of video to communicate science and education. According to Wiebke Finkler and Bienvenido León, (2019), video is the fastest-growing form of mass communication and provides the opportunity to connect various audiences to science. Pairing this insight with the latest online video consumption statistics, we see 92.3% of internet users worldwide watch digital videos each week, with 26% watching an educational video. This demonstrates how far-reaching video has become and the possibilities it presents to communicate science. 

Visual methods have been used to communicate science for years as research topics can sometimes be dense and complex to break down and make comprehensible to many people. Visuals such as graphics, infographics, pictures, illustrations, and more have been used to effectively describe and break down science and research. Video is a great visual method because it's able to combine all of these elements together to create a more powerful method of communication to make science more understandable. 

But how does video differ from other forms of visual science communication and make it stand out even more? Let’s break it down and take a closer look at some of those elements. 

Why is video a great choice to communicate science?

For starters, one thing that makes video great is the ability to edit its length to match the platform that hosts it. Need a shorter video for social media? Make it 30 seconds or a few minutes. Want to show it at a film festival? Make it a feature-length film. Video has the ability to be distilled down into a digestible size for a wide variety of audiences. 

Another great benefit to using video as a way to communicate science and research is that it can be produced to make the information easier to understand and comprehend. This is achieved through the subjects of the film and the script, as well as additional assets like graphics, text, diagrams, animations, etc. 

Because video is everywhere and in our face constantly on our mobile devices, computers, TVs, and more. Video has become a very approachable medium for receiving and absorbing information, even if it’s given in small doses like a reel or video story through a social media platform. 

Just like reading a well-written and highly detailed novel or story, video can create an immersive experience for its viewers and is done through careful planning, script writing, strong visuals, music score, and narration. 

Fraser et al. (2012) discuss that immersion into a film can allow audiences and learners to more easily understand scientific concepts, and offers benefits for learning by reducing cognitive load and increasing attention Yu et al. (2016). Furthermore, Jensen et al. (2022), talk about how literature suggests that the feeling of immersion could be an important factor in audience responses to cinematic scientific visualization.

Going back to the first part we mentioned, editing can open up many opportunities for the video to shine and find the right audience for its purpose. When in the early pre-production stages of producing the video, and even through post-production, deciding who your target audience or demographic is for the story you’re telling is incredibly important. It’s also a great strategic element that can make the video much more effective with engagement and immersion when the right people and stakeholders are watching. 

Who can benefit from science communication videos?

Whenever you are creating a video for science communication, it’s important to think about who the video is for and where you want it to go. If your intended audience is the general public, your video can pull back the curtain of the complexities of science and connect the viewers to the people behind the science and their personal stories. One of the great things about targeting a general audience to watch your film is that people connect and resonate very well with stories about other people. Angelone (2019), discusses the power film has when accompanied with science communication: 

“Films are powerful tools of scientific communication and can be used in a number of different contexts ranging from a documentary record of fieldwork and laboratory experiments, via multimedia exposure and public exposition, to science outreach aimed at bringing the general public into closer contact with scientific research (Pasquali (2006), (2007).”

Going beyond a general audience, your science video can be produced to target stakeholders who have invested interest in your research. In videos created with stakeholders in mind, you can take a more technical, educational, and inspirational approach. This is exactly what we did for the Hold Our Ground Series about soil health, as each part of the film was produced with a targeted audience of farmers and ranchers. The goal of this film series was to inspire them to take on soil health practices because of the exciting science that was showcased in each film and how adopting these practices can increase sustainability and profitability while decreasing input costs.

Lastly, another audience that science communication videos are great for is internal audiences for an organization, school or students, or any private group or entity. These types of videos can come in the form of training videos about how to utilize the latest research and technology, educational for learning, or any other use that the private audience can learn from. Training and educational videos save a ton of time for your staff or students and allow for consistency when implementing new techniques. With training and educational science communication videos, your team can be up to date with the latest science in an efficient manner.

How else can science communication videos be used?

Now that we’ve gone over some great reasons why video is good for communicating science and who it can be made for, we also wanted to talk a little bit about how video benefits those who are doing the science and research themselves. 

Traditionally, science has been communicated through extensive research papers that are peer-reviewed and published in a variety of print and online journals. While these are great and serve a very important role in the advancement of science and education, they can be hard to acquire and read, and they lack a connection to their audience outside of obtaining information and using it for their own research or paper. 

For example, organizational overview videos, such as the one we did with researchers at the ROSS Syndicate at Colorado State University, can connect viewers with the team of researchers and specialists of a lab, the stakeholders who are behind the grants, or those funding the research. These videos can be produced in a way so the topic and lab group can connect even further with their desired audience to make that human-to-human connection, while also allowing them to absorb and learn about their research and findings. 

Video can even be used as a tool to accompany your research paper. One method that’s gaining popularity is to create a video abstract. By creating an animated or filmed abstract, the researchers can spark interest in reading their paper by having it accompanied with an engaging and visually appealing introduction to the concept and reasoning of the research. 

Videos can also benefit those who are seeking funding or grants or looking to connect with stakeholders, government organizations, collaborators, and more. By creating a video product that highlights who you are and the work that you do, you might be able to make stronger connections with those who can support and fund your research. 

As we’ve gone a little deeper into the effectiveness of video and communicating science, we hope you have a better understanding of how it works and some of those who it benefits. In further issues of our newsletter, we might take a closer look at each of these elements, such as engagement, immersion, transportation theory, and more. 

Reel Wrap

This past month, we’ve been looking and planning ahead to the opportunities that a new year can bring us. We’ve discussed working on a film about local conservation issues, starting an ad campaign for our corporate video business, and looking into how to apply for and receive grants for future projects. 

We’ve also been busy working on a variety of projects, both for WUI Productions and for our own personal media projects. 

Eric has been plugging away at working on a short film that he and fellow Fort Collins filmmaker Zach Myers received the Voices With Impact production grant for a film about cliques and echo chambers. This narrative film has been a new challenge for Eric compared to his usual documentary work, with intensive set design and casting calls being major parts of this project. However, these challenges have been fun to tackle, and the film is really starting to come together.

Matt has been working on growing his wildlife photography business through increased social media presence, revamping his website, and working on opening a shop to sell some of his prints. It’s been a fun and challenging experience as printing is something that’s new to him, and he’s been learning a lot about editing images for specific paper types and printers. He’s hoping to have his print shop open within the next few months and will keep us updated on his progress. 

Thanks for tuning in again for this month's issue of Reel Talk: Science & Film and since it’s award season, stay tuned for next month’s issue, where we will take a lighter tone to talk about some of our favorite science communication films and how they influenced us as filmmakers.

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Photo of WUI Productions on location filming in recent burn scar.
Matt (center) and Eric (with camera) interview fire officials in Grand County, Colo. following the aftermath of the East Troublesome Fire.

Editor's Note

Welcome back to Reel Talk: Science and Film, and happy New Year! Last month, we released our first newsletter on LinkedIn, and it was a good experience for us. We got a nice amount of subscribers and new page followers, and even got some good feedback from our readers, so we wanted to continue telling our story with our first monthly(ish) newsletter of 2024.

Last month Eric was able to attend the Colorado Food Summit at the National Western Center next to CSU’s Spur campus to do some networking within the agriculture, food, and ranching community. We have worked a lot in the agricultural sphere on recent projects, and it’s always great to keep those connections going and make new ones. And speaking of that, we will both be back down at the Spur campus on Friday, January 5th, as it’s their first-anniversary event. It should be a fun time, and hopefully, we’ll see some of our past collaborators and maybe even some of our newsletter subscribers! 

Well, enough about what’s new with us for a moment. For this month's newsletter, we thought we would discuss what WUI is, why it’s so important in places like Colorado, and how it helped us become the production company we are today. 

Enjoy the read, and we look forward to seeing you next month. 

Cheers, the WUI team. 

What is the WUI, and Why is it important? 

This funny-sounding acronym stands for the wildland-urban interface (WUI), which is the mesh point between wilderness and developed land. In this transitional zone, a lot of environmental and scientific issues are at the forefront. To help understand the scope of the WUI, here are some fun facts: 

Picture of download Grand Lake with the burn scar in the background
Image of downtown Grand Lake, Colo. taken in fall of 2023, two years after the East Troublesome Fire ravaged the area and burned nearly 200k acres of WUI space.

Our Connection to the WUI

Way back in the winter of 2020/21, Eric, Matt, and our classmate and friend Zach began brainstorming for a documentary film that we would produce while taking a documentary filmmaking course in the Spring of ‘21. We all had an interest in doing something involving nature/environmental topics, so we talked through some ideas and finally settled on a film about wildfires in Colorado.

The inspiration for this film was really two-fold. We had just experienced the two worst recorded wildfires in Colorado’s history, the Cameron Peak and East Troublesome fires, and one of us, Matt, had first-hand experience in living through a wildfire and being evacuated from his home as he was living in the foothills of west Fort Collins, a populated WUI area. 

In the class, we enlisted a fourth member to the team, Olivia, and we would spend the next three-plus months working on the film. We had a great time putting this film together, and we’re very happy with the results of the finished product. The production process of the film connected us with so many professionals, residents, and even politicians who care so much about the natural world that so many of us enjoy, whether it’s for living or recreating (or both) around the state. 

We’ll talk more in a future post about the experiences of producing a film like Lasting Embers, but the moral of this story is how the WUI brought us together and has shaped us as a video production company and why we chose it as our name. 

We were so inspired by working on the film and the response it received, Matt and Eric decided to create this company with the mission of producing more films based on environmental issues and how they affect the people and places of Colorado and beyond. 

Why is the WUI so Important?

A few things that stood out to us since we began producing Lasting Embers and naming our company WUI Productions is how few people know what the WUI is or have even heard the term Wildland-Urban Interface. It’s also been very surprising how many people who live in WUI spaces in Colorado and around the world don’t really understand the importance of these lands where they've chosen to live, work, and recreate. 

In many ways, the WUI is more than the definition we described at the start of this article. Yes, it’s where wildfire is the most commonly associated natural phenomenon, but there are many other important factors that exist within and are affected by WUI spaces, including clean drinking water sources, wildlife travel corridors, and tourism, to name a few. 

The issues facing the WUI are often complex and require the public, organizations, and government to come together. These collaborative efforts require a lot of effective communication about science, safety, and prevention, and that’s where WUI Productions found its inspiration to create a video and documentary production company focused on the important issues and challenges facing the WUI.

The Reel Wrap: 

This past month, we’ve been busy working on updating a corporate video series we produced for Larimer County earlier this year. Yes, we do corporate videos, too! When we took on that contract, it included making annual updates as some of the contents of the videos would require new information as it changes each year. 

Photo of video production setup with the lights, camera, and actor.
Behind the scenes of our recent video shoot for Larimer County.

It was a fun experience as we needed to do a production shoot with the same talent as the original video, and also work with the county’s team to make sure the updates were as seamless as possible with the already existing footage. This was also our first time doing an update to an existing video series, so we also got to learn how to work with making the changes through Premiere and After Effects, color grading the new footage to match existing footage, as well as sound and music. 

Overall, it was a positive experience for us as filmmakers, along with working with our client on communicating exactly how the updated and finished product would look and meeting their expectations.

Another new experience for us at WUI is looking at a marketing strategy to better get our name out in the world. We met with a friend and colleague, Sarah, who specializes in working with small local businesses to create social media strategies and web design. She gave us some great feedback on how to approach our own strategies and some new social content to create and spice up our website. Overall, it was really helpful to have an experienced set of eyes to examine what we’ve done on our own and give some great feedback. Hopefully, we’ll be able to implement these changes over the next few months.

Thanks again for tuning in to this month's Reel Talk: Science & Film, and stay tuned for next month’s newsletter, where we’ll take a closer look at what makes video so effective in communicating science.

Filmmaker recording a video at a vet hospital
WUI Productions filming a documentary profile piece on Dr. Douglas Thamm at the Flint Animal Cancer Center. Photo by Sadie Stalker

Editor's Note

Welcome to the new WUI Productions newsletter, Reel Talk: Science and Film, a publication established to talk about all things WUI, science, research, and film. You can subscribe to our newsletter on LinkedIn. Our decision to create this monthly(ish) newsletter and take a non-video approach to communicating with you is twofold. 

The first is to keep in touch with our colleagues, customers, and anyone else who is interested in learning more about science communication and video production through the lens of documentary film, media production, photography, and more. 

The second is a way for us to communicate what’s new with us as a company, the work we’re currently producing, any news for films that we’ve been involved with, and to also recap our previous month in the Reel Wrap section, which can be found at the end of this newsletter.

In this month’s newsletter headline article, we decided to take a look at how scientists, researchers, and other organizations can use film and video products to communicate their science, research, or message, along with some examples of films that we’ve produced to highlight a variety of ways that using video is an effective science communication tool. 

Thanks for reading our inaugural issue, and we hope you subscribe to join us on our journey of communicating science and creating films for your enjoyment. 

Cheers, the WUI team. 

The WUI Proudctions team smiling with Smokey the Bear
The WUI Productions team at the From Burn to Bloom event this fall. Photo by Anika Pyle

This Month’s Topic: Elevating Science Communication through Film & Video

Over the last few years while working on a variety of video projects with scientists and researchers, there's one sentiment that's been repeated over and over - they want their work to reach a larger audience and have a bigger impact!

While we can all agree that writing research papers and being featured in science-based publications is incredibly important to communicate the hard work scientists and researchers produce, it does have limitations to the audience it reaches and the direct impact that it has - especially the general public. 

This is where sharing and communicating their work through video can be a more effective way of reaching and engaging a broader audience and having that bigger impact that scientists and researchers desire. 

Plus, communicating science can be a daunting task. However, it’s something that can be a fun and informative process when collaborating with a team of communication and film experts, such as WUI Productions.

Let’s take a look at some examples of video products that can be created to tailor-fit how you want to communicate with your audience.

Filmmakers recording a deer during a golden fall day.
WUI Productions filming some nature and wildlife content for its new YouTube channel. Photo by Sadie Stalker
  1. Documentary Series

Producing a documentary series can have a tremendous impact through in-depth and engaging narrative storytelling, stunning visuals, and immersive soundtracks that can not only educate an audience about its topic, but can inspire them to take action as well. 

With that in mind, let's take a closer look at how a documentary series can be filmed and edited to reach a targeted or specific audience. Documentary series can help audiences in making more informed decisions about the film's story and the information contained within. 

The Hold Our Ground documentary series on soil health, in which WUI was the field production team and was produced alongside the Center for Science Communication at Colorado State University, the Star Program, and the Colorado Department of Agriculture, was created with a specific audience in mind, ranchers and farmers. 

It also goes further into targeting specific audiences, as each episode has a more narrow scope. For example, the film below was created primarily with ranchers in mind, as it features how they are implementing and utilizing soil health sciences in the management of their ranch. 

Creating targeted documentary content enables stakeholders to take action through the education and inspiration presented in the film and shows your audience that your science team cares about making a difference. Similar methods of targeted storytelling can be seen in the work done by the Global Initiative for Childhood Cancer’s workshops that used films to engage with stakeholders and could be implemented for your project as well.

 2.  Organizational Overview

Having a video that highlights your organization's work is a great asset for communications. You could use it on your website as an eye-catching visual for your homepage or for a communications campaign to send out to new clients or those interested in what your organization does.

In just a few minutes of viewing, people unfamiliar with your organization can be introduced to what you do while also making a personal connection to your team. WUI has produced videos like these for organizations such as Working CircleAgNext, and the Radical Open Science Syndicate (Ross)

For this type of project, we typically conduct interviews with those directly involved and impacted by the organization and accompany them with footage of your organization in action. Examples of this footage can be employees or staff working in the lab or field, talking and meeting with collaborators, or at an event. This can all be created to match the organization's needs and the intended outcome of the film, which can have different goals, such as an explainer video, story, or campaign

 3. Event Promotion or Recap

Hosting an organizational or science communication event with partners, collaborators, or the public? Expand your reach with a promotional video, behind-the-scenes social content, or an exciting recap video to re-engage with your audience.

An event video showcasing the hard work that your organization does, such as one we created this fall for the ROSS Syndicate’s From Burn to Bloom Event, can be a fantastic marketing and social tool for anyone interested in what you do. 

This example takes on a long-form approach to provide a more in-depth story as it was published on Planet Forward, an organization that supports environmental communications. Even though this example is on the longer side, multiple edits of a video can be made, such as a reel for social media or a quick one-minute edit for a newsletter. Producing multiple edits from the event footage is a great way to reach your audience and can provide material for other videos like organizational overviews or documentaries.

If you or your organization wants to start sharing your science through video in one of the ways we profiled in this newsletter, please reach out, and we would be happy to discuss your project's vision and goals.

The Reel Wrap

This past month, WUI has been taking a closer look at how to grow our business and share some of the things we like most, specifically environmental videos. 

One element that we decided to add to our repertoire of visual communications was to start creating short videos, or Reels as the cool kids say, for our social media accounts. We feel this is a great way to showcase our love for nature and demonstrate that a short video (10-15 seconds) or short film (60-90 seconds) can impact our viewers and attract attention to our work. 

We also created a YouTube page (I know, welcome to 2011, right?) that we plan to use to increase our reach to a broader audience and an increased customer base. 

It’s also a great way to get feedback from our viewers in addition to our other social media channels, as we do like to engage with others over our videos and the messages and stories that they deliver and tell. 

So far, we’re enjoying it. It keeps us busy, gives us a reason to use some of the extra footage that we’ve shot, and opens us up to new people to connect with. We also plan on expanding this into more than just pretty and serene nature videos, with content like behind-the-scenes clips, instructional videos, gear reviews, and, of course, our new films. 

Ok, now it’s shameless plug time. If you’d like to connect and follow us on our new YouTube channel or any of our other social accounts, please click on the links below and hit the follow or subscribe buttons; we’d really appreciate it!  We’re also open to suggestions for new social content, so please let us know! 

Thanks for tuning in to this month's Reel Talk: Science & Film, and stay tuned for next month’s(ish) newsletter, where we’ll take a closer look at what the real WUI is and why it’s so important to us and you. 

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