Pine Fiction: communicating research to a wider audience

Pine Fiction –a three minute stop-motion video by Alessio Mortelliti and Christina Thwaites.

The aim of our video was to present the results of a relatively complex scientific study to a wider audience (to scientists and non-scientists) and to bring attention to the paper “Experimental evaluation shows limited influence of pine plantations on the connectivity of highly fragmented bird populations” by Alessio Mortelliti, Martin J. Westgate and David B. Lindenmayer.

We did not want to substitute the paper or synthesize it but instead we wanted to communicate the ‘take home message’ of the paper in a fun and creative way which would entertain and inform.

Making this video was a joint effort between me and my partner Christina (an artist) – it’s been fun and interesting working together on this project, with lots of heated discussions around relevant content to include, creative ideas to try and editing decisions to be made. For me as a scientist it was a great challenge to accept that to communicate things successfully in this way, you need to simplify them as much as possible – not easy when you are used to giving all specifications when writing papers.

The whole process was pretty time consuming – especially since we had not done anything like it before– but we are sure our next one will be quicker and easier!

We were awarded the first prize in the Environmental Decision group competition for video communication – a great bonus after all that work!

Here the video (and remember to turn on the volume)

5 tips for making a stop-motion video for promoting a scientific paper:

  1. Details, caveats, etc. should stay in the scientific paper. The video is not peer-reviewed: keep it as simple as possible with only one main message!
  2. There are a number of video editing softwares to choose from, including a lot of freely available options. We don’t recommend Windows Movie Maker as it jams a lot… but if you do end up using it, you can make it work by splitting the video into chunks then merging them at the end.
  3. Work with low resolution pictures, the quality of the video is still fine and the editing is much easier.
  4. Music is fundamental. Chose the music before making the video as it will give the rhythm.
  5. Kit list: a camera, tripod, consistent lighting, colours, scissors and lots of blu-tack for moving things around quickly.

Guest post written by Alessio Mortelliti

2 thoughts on “Pine Fiction: communicating research to a wider audience

  1. Thanks for sharing your video and information about the process. Animation seems to be a great vehicle for science communication, but can seem out of reach technically for a lot of scientists. Stop motion is a very interesting DIY approach that also has very aesthetic results. Do you have any resource you can link to with more information on how to produce stop motion animation?


  2. Thanks for your comment Maria. I’m sure there are lots of instructions online, but I don’t have any specific suggestions. If you find something useful please do post it on here. Good luck!


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