SciCast – Film School


It’s only video: it’s not worth your getting injured for. It’s also not worth anyone else getting injured.

1. Your safety

Doing a demonstration? Great! Just make sure you’re in one piece to do it again.

Think through what you’re going to do, and how it might go wrong. If you’re in a school or youth group, the teacher or group leader will probably need to write a formal risk assessment before you even start rehearsing. While these can be a bit of a pain, they’re less of a pain than, you know, pain.

Don’t cut corners: the evidence is going to be on video, after all. It’s rather hard to claim that you took reasonable precautions if you’re clearly doing something silly on camera.

2. Your team’s safety

In addition to thinking through your own safety, you need to think how what you do might affect the people around you. In a normal classroom environment this might be easy enough, but you’re adding cameras to the mix — and that can complicate things.

Be careful of tripping over cables and tripods, and of bashing people on the head through clumsy camera handling. But also, make sure somebody’s watching your film crew’s back. For example, you don’t want them blocking fire exits, getting in the way, or being so focussed on finding the perfect angle that they put themselves in danger. The old cartoon gag of the photographer trying to include the whole group by walking backwards… right over a cliff? That can happen. Don’t let it be you.

3. Your audience’s safety

You’ve another level of responsibility, too: how safe your film is for people to watch.

SciCast films won’t always be seen in a school with a teacher present. You have to assume that the audience for your film is a young child, viewing on their own at home, without adult supervision.

So, things like candles should ring alarm bells. It’s a stretch, but a ‘worst case’ scenario involves someone fumbling a tea light, the curtains catching fire, and the house burning down. Encouraging your viewer to repeat the experiment doesn’t exactly reduce that risk.

So, style and tone are important: how your team handles apparatus, whether they appear gung-ho and reckless or take appropriate precautions, and how they encourage or warn the viewer about repeating the experiment — all contribute to your viewers’ safety.

It’s not just performance, either: sometimes the camera flattens things, making it look like you’re closer to a Bunsen flame than you are, for example. Or it can exaggerate, making the scissors you’re using look huge and lethal, and distracting the viewer.

We’ll be watching your back on this one, and we won’t publish a film that we think encourages dangerous behaviour. We’d rather not turn your film down, obviously, but our responsibility is to the thousands of visitors to the website.

You can still have fun

No, really, you can. We’re absolutely serious about trying to keep our film-makers and viewers — bluntly — alive. But once you’ve identified the potential problems and worked out how you’re going to address them, you can relax and enjoy the process.

Oh, and if you want a little amusement on the subject of child safety, this video from TED Talks is wonderful. It’s even titled ‘Five dangerous things you should let your kids do’!