My commute is a chance to listen to podcasts. Once a week, on a Wednesday morning, I listen to an almost-final version of our own show, the Nature Podcast. My job is to pick up any minor mistakes that might have been made when the various segments and music were mixed together on Tuesday afternoon. I also give the team general feedback on the tone, structure and content of the show. (You can read how the Nature Podcast is produced in Benjamin Thompson's blog post). From time to time I also host the Nature Podcast, but as chief multimedia editor my main responsibility is for all Nature-branded, editorial video content. We are a team of three: myself, Noah Baker and Shamini Bundell. As well as producing news videos as part of Nature’s magazine team, we work with the supplements team (on multimedia for Nature Outlooks and Outlines) and with other Nature-branded titles such as Nature Immunology. You can see the variety of content that we produce on the Nature Video Channel on YouTube, which has more than 300,000 subscribers.
I arrive at the office, coffee in hand, and read e-mails. I happen to be working on a film about an upcoming paper and am relieved to find an e-mail from the corresponding author. He’s attached a signed Licence to Publish form, giving us permission to use Supplementary Information (SI) from the paper in our film. Another author has uploaded extra video footage and animations to Google Drive. It’s exciting to find high-quality animations that help to explain a tricky aspect of the work. I download the files and add them to a rough edit of the film in Final Cut Pro X, the editing software that we use.
Another e-mail is a pitch from a manuscript editor who’s just accepted a paper that might make a good Nature video. I read the abstract and take a look at the SI. Sometimes the video potential is immediately obvious — as was the case when I saw footage of a pyroclastic flow in a lab! That paper was published in Nature Geoscience in April 2019 and this is the video that Shamini made. Nature’s weekly News & Views meeting is another good source of stories. If a paper has a strong visual aspect to it, or is likely to be a big story in the mainstream press, I arrange a time to sit down with the manuscript editor, to understand the context surrounding the work, and its significance.
And then occasionally there are days, like a recent Monday, when an e-mail demands urgent attention. Nature’s physics reporter, Davide Castelvecchi, is going to a press conference in Brussels on the Wednesday. We’re anticipating a big announcement from the Event Horizon Telescope, a global network of radio telescopes. We assemble a team and discuss how Nature should cover the announcement in multiple formats and on multiple platforms. We book a Eurostar ticket for Shamini, who goes to Brussels with Davide and turns around this compilation of video interviews within hours of the announcement. We coordinate with the US news bureau, which is sending a reporter to the parallel press conference in Washington DC. In London, Noah scrambles to prepare this three-minute guide video in two days — a great feat, given that it involved sourcing multiple animations, writing a script and filming Davide in our studio. It’s stressful and exhilarating work!
I have a pre-arranged phone call with the corresponding author whose e-mail I opened earlier. I ask questions about her work, to make sure that I fully understand what her team did. Then I ask her to talk me through the SI videos; I need to understand exactly what is happening at each stage in the videos. I might ask her to explain why a cell is a certain shape or why it’s moving in a certain way at a certain point in video 2.
Before lunch, I check in with a freelance animator we have commissioned to produce a three-minute animation. I wrote the script a few weeks ago and recorded the voiceover in our basement studio. After some back and forth by e-mail, discussing the appropriate shapes and colours for the body cells and bacteria that are the central characters of the animation, we agree on the storyboard. I’m expecting the animator to deliver a first draft of the animation today. This is when our ideas come to life, so I’m looking forward to seeing it.
I top-edit a film that another team member is making. I comment on the overall structure of the film, the transitions between clips, the choice of B-roll (scene-setting shots that illustrate what the interviewees or narrator are saying). I might also suggest small changes to the wording of the voiceover. If the film is almost ready to publish, I also check the audio levels and proofread name captions, labels and credits.
I meet with colleagues in Nature’s magazine team to discuss an idea for Nature’s 150th anniversary issue. We are planning a special collaboration with the magazine’s Books & Arts section, so we have a chat about the structure and broad themes of what we could make.
At the end of the day, I deal with a video that’s almost ready to publish. I add the video to Core Media, our content management system, and archive the project files. Here’s one I produced recently on the discovery of a previously unknown species of human: New human species found in the Philippines. This single video project consists of 82 gigabytes of data! I send all the rights information to our editorial assistant, Rebecca Wild. We often receive requests from television companies, museums and teachers who want to screen our videos at events or use clips in their own productions. We use the rights information to determine which requests can be granted, and which can’t.
Before going home, I check in with the other members of the team. We might discuss the logistics for some filming that’s happening tomorrow and check that the camera batteries are charged. Then I take the train home to my other job, as a mum.