In Pursuit of Animations and Videos

Have you ever thought, ‘Gee, I bet I can knock out an animation of that process in no time!’ only to find, 15 hours later, that a 5- minute animation isn’t yet perfect?  Okay, well, maybe that’s just me, then.

I’ve tried my hand at different media to record animations and videos for students. I’m very sensitive to copyrights (see my last post), so if there is a clip I can make myself, I’d rather do that than ‘borrow’ someone else’s.  Or, better yet, I’ll coax Pam Gregory, my office neighbor and resident graphics whiz, into making it for me.  She taught me how to use Macromedia, back in the day.  I still have some of my first primitive animations.  Unfortunately, a lot of the original files are lost. (See my last post about keeping better track of files!)  But, I still have access to Pam’s very sophisticated Flash files.  I’ve posted a sample of some of them here, including Pam’s wonderful Flash animation of a sweat gland duct cell:

Part of my problem is that I don’t want any inaccuracies in my animations.  It may take me longer to find out what we know about the actual shape of a carrier protein than it would to animate the entire process with a ‘blob’ standing in for that carrier. And, of course, an accurate animation takes longer to create than a moving blob, too.  What this usually means is that I start a really neat project, get sidetracked looking in Alberts’ Molecular Biology of the Cell, and don’t get it done until after final exams are over.  Ah, well, maybe I’ll have them for next semester, I think. In this way, I have gradually accumulated a small library of resources, plus the ones that Pam has made.

I’ve also tried just recording a straight lecture. I am not entirely happy about listening to my own voice; it seems unnatural when I slow down my speaking, but I feel that I talk too fast, otherwise.  Feedback from my online students indicates that they appreciate hearing my “lectures,” even if I don’t think they are well done.  I’m sorry to report that it takes at least 2.5 hours to record a one-hour lecture. Part of that is stopping/starting, due to the phone ringing or the parrot squawking. The rest is the editing/processing/publishing time, and the addition of closed captions.  Ask Wendy Riggs some time (or read her posts from last year) about how much fun it is to record a lecture late at night, because you promised you would.

I have found some great resources online, but lately I find myself looking at the style rather than listening to the substance.  My hands-down favorite source is Youreka Science (  The style is engaging, the pace is invigorating, and the substance is just right.  I want my videos to be like that.  I took a cue from them, in trying to keep the focus on the visuals rather than my talking head.  I just don’t seem to be able to pull it off. See my feeble efforts in this short video.

I also have problems figuring out the best way to post animations.  I use SoftChalk ( for my course content, but those lessons are all password protected, except for the one linked above, that I created just for you! And, I’m using my college’s web space, which they pay for.  So, I’m still searching for the best place to park content.  Juville Dario-Becker suggested, in reading my last blog post, using creative commons ( to protect my copyright, which is a really good idea. But I still have to figure out how, and where, to post the work itself.   Wendy Riggs commented on my last post that the Life Science Teaching Resource Community ( is a repository, but I think it’s mostly a collection of links – not a stand-alone repository.  So, I’m still working on hatching a plan, and I definitely haven’t given up my pursuit of elegant animations hand-tailored by me and my associates, for the good of our students.

And, I’m wondering, as I did last week, what other HAPSters are doing when you get those creative urges?  Do you have some resources you can share? Any interest in collaborative hosting?

– Betsy Ott, President-Elect

3 thoughts on “In Pursuit of Animations and Videos

  1. Heather – does your institution allow you webspace to create a free webpage? at IU we have that option and I post my animations online there – they are free, not password protected, and then people are able to search for them on google.
    I would go that route (if you can) and then your NEXT blog can be a listing of your website animations! 🙂 good luck!

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