Oxygen deprivation is a (legal) performance-enhancing strategy for some Olympians and other endurance athletes. Here, the YouTube series ASAP Science explains how it works in a simple two-minute video, The Olympic Altitude Advantage. Mitchell Moffit and Gregory Brown, the creators of the series, talk about the project in an interview below.
The Atlantic: What inspired you to start this series?
Mitchell Moffit and Gregory Brown: We both went to the University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada, and did our Bachelors in Biological Science. Greg is now a high school teacher in Biology, Chemistry and Art, while I currently work in production for film and music. We both have an absolute passion for science and art, and saw YouTube as the perfect medium for sharing this with other people. Our main goal was to use the neatest bits of science, shown in a visually stimulating way, to capture the attention of viewers (particularly the youth who identify with YouTube as a medium) and hopefully inspire them to a love of science as well.
What goes into making one of these videos?
The videos always start with a brainstorming session on which topic we think would be fun. Sometimes it’s a fact that we already knew and think will be interesting to others, sometimes we try to relate it to something current in the world, or sometimes it is a viewer or friends suggestion based on a question that they have been wondering. We generally sit down and do research together, and collect the most relevant and current sources (if necessary) and start to build a plan of which aspects are more important to describe, as well as most interesting for somebody watching. It’s a constant battle between the level of complexity and duration, but also making sure it flows and is captivating to viewers who may know nothing about the topic.
After coming up with a script, it then goes into the pre-production and creative phase. We like to use interesting and unique objects and aspect in each video, while also keeping some familiar elements (certain drawings, style, etc.). But in general, the setup is quite simple – it’s just a whiteboard and markers, a few lights and a camera. As we go through the drawings, we often end up changing the script a bit to reflect how we can explain a particular concept better. It’s a really fun process determining which objects correlate to the descriptions, and how to keep the “scenes” moving and not stagnant while still making sense.
After filming we finalize the script and record the audio. Then, it’s as simple (or complicated) as editing all the clips together and having them match the timing of the script. Sometimes there are little animations included in the editing process as well.
After all is said and done, we then upload the video to YouTube and hope for the best!
What do you want viewers to take away from the series?
Ultimately, our goal is to inspire people of all ages to a love of science that we feel so lucky to have found. Often times, it just takes a unique or interesting factoid about how something works to catch somebody’s attention. But the hope is that, after they hear one, they’ll crave more and eventually take that desire out on their own and begin exploring the world themselves. We try not to be overly complex in order to include a broad audience, but every now and then use specific terms or nomenclature. The great thing about this medium is that it’s so easy to pause, or re-watch, that if something does go too quickly or is unfamiliar, it can be quickly remedied. But perhaps an even greater component: if you enjoy the video and know others who might, it can be shared instantly through so many channels (Twitter, Facebook, Online Forums, etc.). It gives a sense of contribution – you can directly affect other people’s lives simply by sharing it!
What's next for you?
Making fun, interesting and compelling science videos will always be at the top of our list. At the end of the day, that’s what brought us into the world of YouTube in the first place – a way to share and contribute to society on some level. But the sky is the limit, as they say. With education having affected us both so profoundly, we feel a responsibility to do the same for others. And as the world is beginning to revolve more and more around the Internet, and specifically around social media, we think it’s a great way to reach an audience far greater than we could have even five years ago. In particular, we want to reach out to the younger generation, who identifies most strongly with YouTube and online media. Having seen the effects of visually stimulating presentations and/or videos from YouTube in the classroom first hand, we think it’s a great opportunity to aid and challenge the current education systems in our own community, but more importantly the global community that exists on the Internet.
We would love to build a community where questions are encouraged, and actively answered by us and by others, even if only by text (though the most interesting would ideally be explained through video). We’re currently looking for translators to help us increase accessibility of the videos to non-English speaking parts of the world – so if you’re interested, please contact asapscience [at] gmail [dot] com.
At the end of the day, we hope to feed the curious minds, while leaving a thirst for more.