Video Production 101

On this page you will find information on: Pre-Production , Production, and Post-Production

Making a video from concept to completion is divided in three stages: Pre-Production (when you are designing or conceptualizing your video), Production (when you make your concept come true, film and shoot your scenes) and Post-Production (when you edit and arrange everything into the final video). We aimed to create a page that has all the links you might find useful so that you don't have to do the research yourself. Still, keep in mind that this page is only a guide, and not a hard requirement to making your iGEM video. It's up to you to decide if and how much of this you can follow in your own video making process.

On this page you will find resources for:

COVID-19 Warning & Safety Considerations

You must follow your local regulations and place your health and the health of others as a priority. You can also make a video even if you are not meeting or going outside. If restrictions are affecting your video, you might want to think about doing an animated video or filming a video from your homes.

iGEM's Rules of Conduct require teams to be safe, secure and responsible in their biological engineering. You must adhere to this in your videos as well. Do not misrepresent your projects in your video or show misleading information that might go against our safety requirements. Read more about working safely in iGEM.

Responsible Communication in Promotional Materials and Videos

No team member should pretend to have a disability, medical condition, cultural affiliation, or racial identity that they do not have in real life. This may happen with the best of intentions, but comes with a real risk of spreading stereotypes or otherwise failing to treat everyone with respect.

No country flags are allowed to be displayed in your videos, posters or promotional materials. We know many teams are proud of the place they come from. However, iGEM is an international competition, and country flags can unfortunately bring international tensions into what we want to be a collaborative, celebratory environment.

Don't include disturbing imagery unless necessary. We know you may be addressing serious and upsetting issues, but we ask that you consider whether disturbing imagery is truly necessary. Videos containing scenes of violence, death, drug use, or other potentially disturbing content may have warnings added or be removed from iGEM’s platforms.

Consider community impact. We want every member of our community to feel a sense of belonging, and we know that teams (and iGEM HQ) cannot perfectly anticipate what is needed to create a positive shared environment for iGEM’s diverse, global participants. Your promotional materials and videos may, despite your best intentions, have a negative impact on some members of our community, and in that case we may add disclaimers or ask you to revise them.

Stage #1: Pre-Production

Just like your iGEM Project, every great video begins with great planning and design. Pre-production is the process of brainstorming, creating a concept, and figuring out all the steps to creating your video. The videos should be engaging, easily understood by a broad audience, balance big-picture ideas with design details, and flow smoothly. What is the goal of your project? Who is your audience? What message do you want to get across, and how? What is the best style and techniques to show this message? How will you create all of this in the given timeframe? From simple brainstorming to detailed storyboards, pre-production is just as creative as every other aspect of video making.

Useful links / Sources:

Content Brainstorming

Your promotional video is your pitch and the summary of your work this season. It doesn't just include the problem and the science behind your solution, but also other aspects of your project, it's impact, human practices, maybe even proposed implementation. Some questions to consider:

  • What are you trying to achieve with your project?
  • How do you make an engaging video that people want to watch?
  • How do you make it easy for the audience to watch your video?
  • What is the video title?
  • How do you want people to feel after they’ve watched the video?
  • What’s the ‘big idea’ behind that will get people to actually watch your video?
  • Talk to people outside of your team, how do they understand your video concept?

Theme & Format

Think about the emotional power. You might want to go for a more serious tone to express a heavy topic, while cheerful emotions are better used to introduce lighthearted subjects. There are lots of different formats to a video. Check out a few below to see if they fit your theme:

None of these fit your story just right? These are only a few options, there are many more creative video styles or formats to promote your project. Surprise us!

Script & Storyboard

Now that you've brainstormed and conceptualized your video, what about the words and the story you are telling? Is it through narration, interview, acting, or? If you have time, a storyboard is a great exercise to visualize your video.


  • Start with a video brief first, turn your message into a story, use the brief to write an outline
  • hink about the best way to tell this story. Is it through a narration? What is being said by whom on-screen or as voice-over?
  • Read out loud to your family and friends. Do they understand the concepts behind it?
  • Be as concise as you can. Project Promotion videos are only 2 minutes long, you want to tell all the important aspects of your project.
  • Write for the audience you want to engage.
  • Scripts often also include brief explanations of the visuals in those scenes.


A storyboard is a graphic representation, a roadmap of how your video will unfold, shot by shot. If you have time to make it, it can be a fun activity to visualize your entire video. This ''blueprint'' helps identify any problem areas by thinking of your video in logical steps. Think about the feasibility of each shot. You might not be able to recreate that amazing scene you imagined in your mind. What can be an alternative?

People & Consent forms

Who in your team will make this video? Is there a sub-group interested in this? Who from your team is going to appear on screen? Do you have someone outside of your team appearing in your video? Are there any minors? There are legal regulations for the appearance of people in your video!

  • You have to get signed consent forms for anyone appearing in your video purposely. Random appearance in public places is exempt from this.
  • Parental consent is required for any minors (below 18 years old).
  • Regulations for this differ in many countries, please check if there are any local restrictions.
  • Consent/Release forms examples/templates: EForms: Consent
  • Prepare your ''actors'' for the camera.
  • StillMotion Blog: Why Release Forms?

Location & Timeline

Where do you want to shoot your video and what challenges could you have there? Are there lighting, audio or other possible problems that you will have to solve? Are you shooting outdoors or indoors? What happens if there's bad weather? A pre-location visit and a talk with anyone involved is often great way to start.

Don't be afraid to ask for great locations in your area. Maybe you know someone who can help you make contact? Your video can truly come together in an amazing setting. Green Screen can be a great budget version for creating a fake background to your video. More in greenscreen in the Production section.
Useful info / Sources:

Production Timeline? It shows how much the work has progressed and the tasks to be completed with a set deadline. It helps you to stay alert on the status of your production. What can you film, how, and when. Write down how much time you have left until the deadline, when you need to design the video, film it, edit it, make changes or reshoot.

  • Yamdu: Production Scheduler
  • Check out various gantt chart platforms, or time management apps. You might already be using this for your project.

Equipment & Resources

You don’t need a fancy kit and a professional team of videographers. You can actually shoot the whole video with your phone. The most important resource for great videos is often just 1 or more people in your team with a great vision, creativity, passion for videos and ambition to learn something new.

You do not have to own or buy equipment. There are often stores and sites for renting. Check with your university, local library, team members, family and friends if you can borrow some of the items below. Your university's art/media department could be a great start. They might have students who would like to help you produce your video. Remember - iGEM is a multidisciplinary competition and bringing in people with non-scientific backgrounds is always encouraged!

These are only optional recommendations. You don't need everything on the checklist below.

Checklist of potential equipment:

  • Camera (Smartphone? Photo? Film?)
  • External Microphone (Audio is the most important piece of equipment you should think about getting).
  • Lighting (everyday lamps, diffusers or reflectors, umbrella, etc)
  • Stabilizer (Tripod, Monopod, Handheld)
  • Green Screen Background & Stand
  • Memory Cards
  • Video Editing or Animation Software

Sources: Desktop-Documentaries: Video Production Equipment

Stage #2: Production

The meetings are over, the preparation is complete. Now, it's time to have some fun! The production stage is when the video is actually made. This when you roll camera, create animations, record audio, etc. Here is where the time and energy spent preparing culminates into something special. In filmmaking, this stage is often the most stressful but also most exciting and alive. You get to see your idea come to life.
The most important consideration here is your audio. Please read our tips below for getting good audio recordings.

Useful links / Sources:


Where is the camera placed? What is the framing of the shot? If it’s placed under me, all people will see is nostrils and chins. It may be better to place it at eye height. Will I be moving, and if yes will the camera shake? Here are just a few tips and useful links. This only refers to recording live action.


Many iGEM videos might include interview footage. Remember to adhere to all iGEM standards and human practices policies in relation to publishing survey data and anonymizing subjects (See here). Interviews and testimonials are a great way to emotionally showcase your story. They are also filmed differently than usual live action shots.

The background of each interview shot should be easy on eyes, and look nice without distracting focus from the subject and the story. Lots of interviews also include B-rolls, footage like close ups that can break the monotonous shot of 1 frame. When it comes to interviews, you should not just think about how to frame and record them, but also to ask questions and have your subject repeat questions or phrase answers in a way that makes it easy for you to edit it into a video.


It is a big factor to make a video look professional. Lighting can set the scene and portray emotion. Fortunately, great and professionally looking lighting can be achieved easily and with some affordable solutions for equipment. If you are filming outside, consider the natural lighting? Is it daylight? Will the lighting change throughout the day?

Smartphone Filmmaking

The camera lenses in our smartphones have become so advanced, you can produce quality videos without expensive equipment. Over the last decade, filming on a smartphone has become increasingly popular as the quality has been refined. Check out some links to make best use of your smartphone camera:


It's often forgotten, but audio makes 50% of your video. You should bring the same amount of attention to it, as you do to visuals. Having a low-quality audio is a quick way to lose your audience. If you want to get one piece of equipment - it should be an external microphone for your camera. Check out some resources below for tips on good audio recordings and voiceovers!


Usually, a lot of scientific videos are animated, to make it easy for the audience to understand, and have a fun way to show technical terms. We expect that iGEMers might also like to create animated and whiteboard videos, especially in times of social distancing! Here are some tips and platforms that can help you animate without professional expertise and software.

Stage #3: Post-Production

This is the stage where your video starts to take shape and fulfil your idea. From sound effects, music, to coloring and VFX, there's an incredible number of things you can do in post-production to make your video look better and more professional.
Want to increase your editing speed? Don't focus on details - create a rough draft first and see how it looks. Organize everything! You want to have all your footage and files neat and easy to find. Don't worry about audio edits at first, and edit it after the draft. Avoid going through every take of your footage. Use placeholders for spots in your video you can't quite figure out yet. Learn all the keyboard shortcuts of your video editing software!


Editing Software

This is your chance to learn a complete new skill - video editing. Check out our recommendations for best software ranging from free options, to more professional and top tier software. Editing a video can be a highly enjoyable creative process, but it can also be frustrating when you can't figure something out. Since this area is already popularized everywhere, tutorials for these are available online.

Use Free Trials: Most video editing software comes with a free trial of a month or longer (even the top tier ones). If you are not planning to use it after you are done with your video, you could edit for free during the trial and cancel the software before the subscription.

Free options:

Top Tier / Professional:

Other options:

Music & Audio Editing

Music can drive your story and enhance the message. Your project promotion video should contain some music, and sound effects! Make sure that the music you are using matches the pace of the video. Don't use repetitive music as it can become annoying for a viewer. Copyrighted music or any other material is not allowed!

Music Libraries (Free and Licensed):

You might have to edit the music too! Don't be afraid to cut up the track and make it fit in your video better. Popular software for audio editing is Audacity. We will be updating this page with more tips on audio editing soon.

Motion Graphics & VFX

Motion graphics are animations, but with text as a major component. Essentially, it's animated graphic design. They are great for explainer videos, especially when you have complex or abstract concepts. It is probably the best style when it comes to showing numbers, statistics, and facts.

Motion graphics can also be mixed with live action or combined with character animation. Check out more Reasons to use Motion Graphics by YumYumVideos.

The standard for animations, motion graphics & VFX is Adobe After Effects (For Windows and MacOS). However, it's not a simple software and might take a while to learn how to use. You might also think of other online platforms mentioned in the Animation section of the Production stage above.


Using green screen in video replaces the background of a video with a digital or virtual background. From being a very complex procedure in the 1950s - nowadays, green screen is something you can easily do in the comfort of your home, with minimal equipment and technical expertise.

You should still pay attention to a few things while doing a greenscreen shoot. If it's not properly set up, it could end up looking very unprofessional or unrealistic. If you ask a videographer for tips on greenscreen - they will mention lighting about a million times.

Replacing a greenscreen in post-production with a fake background is called ''keying''. In technical terms: green screen, blue screen, keying, chroma key, chroma key compositing - all refer to the same process. Most software are able to do this, and with near perfection. Technically, you can use any colour background. A vibrant, almost neon green is the standard choice because it’s strong and usually a distinctly different colour from anything on the subject (e.g. the actor’s clothes, eyes, hair, accessories). But green doesn’t work for everything. In this case, you’d typically use a blue screen, the “second-in-line” colour. Check more tips from InFocus Film School: Filming With Green Screen: Everything You Need To Know.

Nowadays, there is actually software that can remove a background of a video without any use of greenscreen! Think of Zoom's virtual background option, or even TikTok.
A lot of Hollywood movies are made with a Green Screen. Check out here for all the VFX removed: All Hollywood VFX Removed! What Movies Really Look Like

Subtitles & Narration

We want iGEM to be accessible to everyone. This is why we are asking teams to submit subtitles, or transcripts of their videos. Subtitles should not be part of the edit itself. You should submit subtitles as a separate .vtt file. We also encourage teams to translate subtitles into different languages.

You don't have to manually write down everything from your video. There is software that does this job for you automatically. For example, did you know Zoom has an automatic audio transcription feature? You could get the file directly from there by running your video through it. Other options could be uploading your video to a platform like YouTube - it has an automatic caption feature and you can download the file.

Export Settings

Finally! You have your finished video. It's time to export it. Most software have a million types of formats, encoding, and all kinds of settings to choose from. Your videos should be in .mp4 format with a resolution of 1920x1080p or higher (4K). Rendering a video can take a lot of time depending on the complexity of your tracks and the specs on your computer.

Usually, laptops or computers with bigger RAM, and higher graphics are going to give faster results. Make sure your laptop doesn't overheat. Check out some of these recommendations to get the best out of your rendering/export settings. You usually don't have to set these yourselves, because most software come with pre-optimized export settings and templates. Sometimes you have to troubleshoot if you are not happy with the result.

Have we missed something?

Let us know. We will be actively working on updating this page with new info. It will be a collaborative effort. If you come across very useful tutorials - send it to us.

Contact us at: video[AT]igem[DOT]org