Data stories contest visualization

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Creating your video

How to be a contender

Putting together a good video is no easy task. Neither is scripting, narrating, and adding all the bells and whistles that help tell your story … to say nothing of gathering and analyzing all those good data in the first place! That’s why we’re using a three-part rubric for judging.

The first thing our judges are looking for is creativity. How original are your ideas, and how original is your presentation? Our judges are particularly keen to see presentation techniques and styles that they have never encountered before—if you can do this, you’re going to be more than just a contender.

The second thing our judges are looking for is complexity. How many data sets have you incorporated into your story? How do they interact? And how difficult was it to find the right tools to present your data in a clear and compelling manner?

Finally, our judges are looking for clarity. It doesn’t matter how interesting your ideas are or how cleverly they're packaged if we can’t understand them! Imagine that you are making your video for educated professionals outside of your field or for discerning undergraduate students, with equally discerning attention spans.

Final point breakdown is as follows:

33% Creativity

33% Complexity

33% Clarity

Video tips

Your visualization can be as simple—or as complex—as you choose to make it. But before you get cracking, here are a few tips and tricks from Science's award-winning team:

  • Know your audience: Is your visualization targeted to the general public or a special audience? (Hint: The answer starts with “general” and ends with “public.”) A common mistake is making something that you would like to see. But instead, you should be making graphics—and telling stories—that your audience would like to see. And, perhaps more importantly, you should be telling stories that they can understand!
  • Find your story: It’s not enough to lay down your data and assume that everyone will automatically see what’s important. Your role—as researcher and artist—is to expose the relevant patterns and relationships that make your data so interesting. What is the story that you are burning to tell us? Don’t make it subtle. Make it obvious.
  • Start simple: There are a lot of tools out there to make data beautiful. But you should start simple. A wise designer once said, “Function before aesthetics.” He meant, or so his disciples tell us, that truly effective visualizations start with the data and then use the right tool to convey them to a wider audience. Beauty is a byproduct of the process.
  • Use the right tool: What is the right tool? Is it a line graph? A bubble chart? A scatter plot that changes over time? You should figure out which of these (or others) will be the best vehicle for your story. Once you’ve done that, you can focus on details like color, typography, scripting, animation, and sound.

A few more words from our video experts:

  • Audio: Make sure the quality is good! Bad audio will tank your presentation. For tips on voiceover techniques and recording equipment, check out this tutorial.
  • Video: If you are shooting video, use the highest quality possible. If you can shoot in high definition, do it! When you finally upload your video, you’ll want to do so using a resolution of 720 by 1080 pixels.
  • Captions: Consider providing subtitles or closed captions to make your video accessible to all. Automatic captioning rarely works as well as you wish it would!