Producing online films

Rebecca Atkinson, 15.01.2014
Case study from the Wellcome Collection
The Wellcome Collection in London has the capacity to host films on its website. But it also uses a variety of other platforms, including YouTube and iTunes, to reach others audiences beyond its usual demographic and for search engine optimisation purposes.

A seven-minute video produced to accompany the Wellcome’s 2012 Brains exhibition, which features the dissection of brains at Hammersmith Hospital, has had more than 80,000 views on YouTube.

“It’s got real visual appeal and allows people to see something that they wouldn’t probably have access to elsewhere,” says Christopher Chapman, the multimedia producer at the Wellcome Trust.  

Allowing bloggers to embed videos in their own websites also helps spread the word and drive people back to the Wellcome Collection’s website.

But Chapman warns against putting films on many different websites for the sake of it: “You’ve got to be strategic because all these platforms need to be moderated and maintained, which takes resources.”

The wisdom is that the shorter the online film the better. How long people watch for will sometimes depends on the channel; on YouTube, the average time is about two or three minutes because there are so many other distractions, which makes it an ideal location to place teaser films for exhibitions or events.

But Chapman says there is a trend for longer viewing, driven in part by the rise in the number of people watching film and television online through catch-up services and sites such as Netflix. Museums could consider producing longer films with shorter versions, in order to provide choice across their different channels.

The Wellcome has its own filming equipment, but museums can hire kit by the day. Freelancers and production companies will provide their own equipment.

“It's always difficult to keep pace with the latest equipment,” says Chapman. “Even with a large budget, there will always be a better camera/piece of equipment available within a few months. It's advisable to borrow, hire or buy second-hand if you're starting out – you can find good deals on eBay if you have the patience to keep searching.”

For post-production, Chapman says there are some capable and low-cost software options including:

  • Audacity (free audio editor)
  • Gimp (free photo editor)
  • Lightworks (free video editor. Chapman says this is better than iMovie or Windows Movie Maker, but you will need to buy Pro version for full functionality)
  • Adobe Premiere Pro (editing software used by the Wellcome Collection)
  • Blender (free, open source 3D modelling software)
  • Jamendo (community of music composers who release Creative Commons licensed music)
  • Creativecow (a large library of useful tutorials to get you up-to-speed using professional software)