VIDEO: Particle Accelerators and beyond

Two new videos produced recently for the Royal Institution that take you inside the ISIS Neutron and Muon Facility in Oxfordshire.

This is a scientific research facility that uses a high-energy proton accelerator to generate neutrons which are then used by visiting scientists to research the structure and properties of materials.

Find out about how they power the facility and an example of the cutting edge research taking place in the videos below!

Proteins and Particles

How to Power a Particle Accelerator

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Audio: Oxford Sparks – Big Questions Podcast

The University of Oxford’s Big Questions podcast which I’ve been producing is now available online to listen to!

Each episode features narration from Chris Lintott and explores a ‘big theme’ in science, from matters of scale to hidden worlds. Featuring interviews with scientists from the University of Oxford the series incorporates music and colourful sound design to bring concepts and details to life – have a listen to a couple of my favourite pieces below!

You can subscribe to the podcast on iTunes or through their Soundcloud page. Episodes are available both in feature length (30 mins) and as individual parts (three per episode)!

Video: The Magic of Consciousness

A short, meditative film I directed and produced with Professor Nicholas Humphrey exploring the scientific significance of consciousness and the problems we face in understanding its existence.

After working with each other last year Nick and I were keen to explore consciousness in a short form piece – quite the challenge considering the complexity of the subject matter.

Our intention was not to be too heavy handed with the facts and figures, but instead to present the viewer with some of the key questions and problems that scientists face in understanding consciousness from the perspectives of evolution and neuroscience.

One of the greatest challenges with this piece was always going to be in constructing compelling images to go alongside the narration and pieces to camera. It was with this in mind that we chose the Botanic Gardens as the lush and colourful backdrop in which to explore these ideas against.

The film was shot primarily on a Canon 6D over a couple of days, on location at Cambridge University Botanic Gardens and at the Royal Institution. I was really impressed with the footage coming out of the 6D (aside from a few moire problem) and it received very little grading. I also paid a little extra attention to the audio, mastering it outside of FCPX and in Ableton Live – just to give it a bit more polish!

Video: Structure and Order – A Century of Symmetry

Chemical crystallographer Judith Howard reflects on the beautiful aesthetics of crystallographic exploration and her career, including time spent with Nobel laureate Dorothy Hodgkin.

The end of the video provides links to some of the other videos in the crystallography collection!

Crystal Clear: Exploring Crystallography on Film

X-ray Crystallography – ever heard of it? Perhaps not, but it’s arguably one of the most important scientific breakthroughs of the 20th Century. Why? Well, it’s an incredibly powerful technique that allows us to look at really small things, like protein molecules or even DNA! Once we know how these molecules are assembled, we can begin to better understand how they work.

How does it work? Essentially you take your sample, crystallise it and then fire X-rays at it. You then measure the way in which the crystal scatters or diffracts the X-rays – the resulting ‘diffraction pattern’ is what you need (and a bit of maths) to work back to the structure of the molecules that make up the crystal. So in theory, as long as you can crystallise your sample – you should be able to work out the molecular structure!

To find out more watch this simple animation we recently published:

The technique was developed over 100 years ago and it has led to some incredibly important discoveries, including the structure of DNA – since it’s inception, work relating to Crystallography has been awarded 28 Nobel prizes. To mark the continuing success of Crystallography – we received funding from the STFC to produce a series of films that helped explain and celebrate this technique.

The above animation was scripted in house and animated by the awesome 12foot6 – it also features the voice of Stephen Curry, a structural biologist based at Imperial College London.

Understanding Crystallography

I produced and directed this two-part series, working with Elspeth Garman of Oxford University and Stephen Curry. The two pieces aim to explain how the technique works and what’s needed to grow your crystals and subject them to X-ray analysis. The films take us from a microbiology lab at the University of Oxford to the Diamond Light Source, a huge facility that hosts a particle accelerator designed to generate incredibly powerful beams of X-rays.

As always, the hardest part in producing these pieces was in deconstructing the explanation of what is a very complicated process… hopefully we pulled it off – see for yourself below!

Part 1 – why proteins need to be crystallised and how this is done.

Part 2 – what it takes to shine x-rays at your crystals and how we work back from diffraction patterns to determine structures.

Crystallography and beyond

Producer Thom Hoffman also worked on this project – he produced two pieces, one exploring the history of farther and son team who helped develop the technique

and the other looking at the application of this technique on the recent Curiosity Mars rover.

 

Video: Chromosome Trailer (RiAdvent 2013)

It’s almost December which means we’re bringing back the Royal Institution Advent Calendar series. Watch the the trailer below to preview some of the stuff coming up over the days of December – it was a lot of fun to make.

Inspired by this year’s Christmas Lectures ‘Life Fantastic’ by Dr Alison Woollard we’ll be releasing a new video each day throughout December, taking a look at the human chromosomes, one by one.

You’ll be able to access the films through an interactive calendar or through our YouTube Channel.

The Plankton Chronicles

A creative mix of beauty and knowledge

Recently on the Ri Channel we featured a new collection of videos from the Plankton Chronicles – a gorgeous web-video project created by research biologist Christian Sardet working in collaboration with Montreal production company, Para Films. Although I tend to refrain from reposting content from the Ri Channel on this blog, I’m really captivated by the work this project is producing, it’s simply stunning – see below:

The series takes you down into the dark alien world of plankton, a category of aquatic life that encompasses an incredibly diverse collection of organisms; one which includes animals, plants, bacteria and archaea. Each episode delves into the life of a particular organism – from iridescent comb jellies to gelatinous zooplankton – all presented through a stunning mix of high definition video, abstract sound design and narration to guide you along. The project aims to illuminate the hidden world of these bizarre creatures and ‘magnifies our fascination for the wonders of underwater life’.

Easily the most attractive feature of this project is the incredible macro photography, with illuminated organisms scurrying across jet black backgrounds in exquisite detail. The sound design is also commendable, with synthetic bleeps and pulses underlining the ‘otherworldliness’ of this complex ecosystem (and is reminiscent of a particularly cherished episode from the BBC Blue Planet series). The videos have also been carefully scripted and tightly crafted for the ‘quick-fix’ web-audience, with episodes only running for around two minutes each. With this in mind it’s important to note that these videos are beautifully paced – allowing the content to breath and flow under its own rhythm, and providing a delicate balance between eye candy and information.

The videos are all presented across an interactive web-platform which pulls together additional information, imagery and extended links. The videos are also available in a choice of either French or English – opening up accessibility further.

We asked project founder Christian Sardet for a bit more detail on the project and I’ve reproduced some of his comments below:

What are the aims of the Plankton Chronicles and what are you trying to achieve with it?

The series was conceived in the context of the Villefranche sur mer Marine Station an ideal place to study plankton and the Tara Oceans expedition devoted to exploring plankton in all oceans. This scientific adventure definitely raises ecological awareness. Plankton Chronicles deal with biodiversity, but focus mainly on the visual splendor of marine organisms. The series magnifies our fascination for the wonders of underwater life.

What challenges did you face capturing your footage, and producing the videos?

Catching and maintaining species in perfect shape is tough. Luck and patience are keys to success. Filming animal behavior and movements can take hours of trial and error. Use of dark field macroscopy and microscopy help reveal the exquisite patterns of transparent and gelatinous organisms. Filming requires lots of light and  sensitive cameras. We benefited from the great new SLR cameras able to film in HD format which just appeared on the market when we started the project.

What role do you think the internet and online videos play in today’s communication of science and education?

A major role. It is possible to produce quality documents like the plankton Chronicles episodes on a shoe string budget and make them accessible to large numbers of viewers. The ability to create a site with complementary videos, texts and photos is also a great advantage provided by the internet.

What makes a great science communication video?

A creative mix of beauty and knowledge

The project is continuing to update new content on a regular basis – check out a selection of works on the Ri Channel or visit the Plankton Chronicles directly to browse the full library of videos.

TED Ed have also made a great short using footage from this project: