How Osmosis Videos Are Made
Published on Nov 27, 2020. Updated on Jan 5, 2021.
Today on the Osmosis blog, Dr. Vincent Waldman, Head of Content Operations at Osmosis, answers a burning question we get from many of you every day: "How does Osmosis make videos?" Well, today we're revealing our secrets: here's how Osmosis videos are made.
We are frequently asked how we make our videos. Our videos are one of the main things that we’re known for, though, so it’d be silly to explain how we create one of our most valuable assets, right?
We don’t think so.
True, we now use proprietary software to improve the quality of our videos and streamline our processes, but we made videos for years without this software. The truth is, creating an Osmosis-style video is relatively straightforward. Straightforward does not mean easy, however; it takes a lot of skill, subject-matter expertise, and effort to create one of our videos.
It starts with words
Our goal is to present difficult topics, in an engaging and digestible format in as short a time as possible. While many people produce medical videos in a classroom-style, lecture format, we choose to produce our videos with scripts so that we can ensure that only relevant content is presented, in an organized manner, without distracting information. This also facilitates the review of our scripts by subject matter experts—who are generally clinicians and professors—to ensure the accuracy of every line of our content.
The delivery of those words is also important. We want our voiceovers to be conversational but also authoritative, which can be a difficult balance to strike. We often give the cue to our voiceover artists to deliver a voiceover like you would explain particle physics to your best friend. We also train our voiceover artists to speak at a specific cadence. Why? So that our extremely busy learners can choose to listen to us at 2x speed to save time. If the voiceover artists speak too quickly at normal speeds, they won’t be understandable at accelerated speeds.
Of course, sound quality is important, and all of our voiceover artists use decent microphones (like the Audio-Technica ATR2500-USB) in rooms with low background noise and echo. The audio recordings are also processed with audio editing software like Adobe Audition, Studio One, or Audacity (free to use) to remove retakes, mistakes, and to apply digital enhancements to our voiceovers, like crossfades and equalization, to make them sound better.
Draw it out
While our illustrations are cartoony in nature, they must be accurate. Therefore, we hire mostly trained medical illustrators to create visuals for our videos. We’ve also hired medical doctors with a knack for illustration—like Dr. Sarah Clifford and Dr. Justin Ling—in the past. These illustrators go through a two-month training period to learn our style and to learn how to create our videos. That said, for the most part, the illustration software used by our team doesn’t affect the quality of the videos. Therefore our illustrators use a variety of programs to create their visuals like Adobe Photoshop or Autodesk Sketchbook (free to use).
In addition to software, we consider a drawing tablet with a stylus pen to be essential for this work. Again, the choice of the tablet doesn’t affect the finished video so our illustrators use a variety of tablets including Wacom tablets and iPads according to their preferences. A video display on the tablet is nice to have but not a necessity.
But what about the animation?
OK, here’s the secret: we don’t actually animate our videos in the traditional sense. The action in our videos is captured with screencasting. Screencasts are similar to a screenshot, but instead of capturing a still image of what is on your computer screen, you are recording a video of it. How this works in practice, for example, is if you want to ‘animate’ an image moving from offscreen to the middle of the screen, all you need to do is open up your illustration software, select the image, and drag it from off-screen to the middle of the screen while you are recording the action.
Another example of how screencasting can be used to produce an Osmosis-video is producing text. In our videos, text is most often spelled out on screen while it is being spoken. To accomplish this, you can screencast writing out text in real time so that you have a recording of words being spelled out. Speaking from personal experience, this takes an enormous amount of practice to get right. Not only should the text be legible, it also needs to be attractive and in straight lines, which is difficult to do when writing on a tablet and watching the words appear on a blank canvas on your computer screen.
What’s cool about screencasting software is that you can also use it to remove the cursor if you don’t want it in your video. So while the cursor follows the image you drag around the screen to reposition it, or it tracks your pen strokes while writing out words, it can be removed by the screencasting software. At Osmosis, we prefer to use Camtasia for screencasting because it's simple to use and is paired with powerful video editing software. There are free screencasting programs like OBS Studio or Screencast-O-Matic that can be used as well.
Putting it all together
Similar to how our voiceover artists must edit out their mistakes so that their recordings are one continuous voiceover, our video editors must remove all the mistakes from the screencasts. This can be a fairly time-intensive process. Again, speaking from experience, with live screencasting of images being moved around and text being written on the screen, you will make hundreds of mistakes while creating a video. All of these must be removed and the remaining bits strung together in a seamless flow of action.
Once you have the trimmed screencast you must pair the visuals with the audio file. This requires chopping up the screencast again, many, many times, and adjusting the playback rate of the chopped up bits. For example, we may have a recording of a word being spelled out. Our goal is to match the video recording to the audio recording of the word—down to the syllable.
Video editors are also able to add additional animations and effects during video editing. For example, they can reposition an image or add sound effects.
Again, the choice of video editing software shouldn’t affect the final video. We use Camtasia for this purpose because we already used the software for screencasting. There are powerful video editors that are available for free as well, like Davinci Resolve.
All right … as a quick recap
Osmosis has a team of scriptwriters, editors, and subject matter experts to produce scripts; a team of voiceover artists to record and edit the voiceovers; and a team of medical illustrators that create the images and text. The images and text can be animated with screencasting and then everything can be edited together into a cohesive video by our team of video editors.
While this process is straightforward—and anyone can learn it and do it with a home computer—it does take significant time and effort to do it well.
About Vince Waldman, PhD
Dr. Vincent Waldman (PhD) was hired to work with Osmosis in 2016 to create videos, but his background is in academic research. He graduated with a doctorate in Biochemistry from Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana, then completed a postdoctoral fellowship in Biophysics at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, Missouri. Dr. Waldman joined Osmosis to continue because it offered him a chance to increase scientific literacy on a large scale. Since then he has been involved with every step of the video production process and is currently the Head of Content Operations. When he is not working for Osmosis, Dr. Waldman enjoys aggressive roller skating.
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