Short, vertical format videos are all the rage right now. On average, young people spend five hours on apps like TikTok, Instagram, Snapchat, and YouTube, swiping through endless hours of content.
I’ve created flipped classroom content for years, and I’ve had to adapt my practices to engage with this trend.
YouTube is still my preferred app for content creation. Although I used to make 3 - 5 minute chemistry problem-solving tutorials, I now keep the video length to 60 seconds, in line with the YouTube Shorts format. In my experience, students are much more likely to watch these 60-second video tutorials, and they don’t engage with the longer 3-5 minute videos like they used to. See my previous post, How to Use TikTok and YouTube Shorts in Your Chemistry Class.
Here are some tips for creating 60-second YouTube Shorts videos to explain chemistry concepts.
Use the Correct Aspect Ratio
YouTube Shorts are meant for cell phone viewing. That means the videos are filmed vertically to fit a 9 x 16 screen. The easiest way to ensure you meet the correct ratio is to film with your cell phone held vertically. You can set your cell phone on top of an object to point down at a piece of paper so that you record your writing as you explain how to solve a problem. I use an iPad Whiteboard app for my videos, setting the aspect ratio to 9 x 16 (see image 1).
Image 1: Film with your cellphone camera to ensure a 9 x 16 aspect ratio.
Don’t Write to the Edges of the Screen
Even if you set your camera to capture a 9 x 16 video correctly, YouTube Shorts may further crop the edges of the frame, so make sure you don’t write to the edges. Additionally, YouTube reserves some space at the bottom and right side of the screen for the video title and interactive buttons. I don’t write anything important in the bottom ¼ of the screen (see image 2) and reserve that space for a Call to Action Image (like and subscribe reminder).
Image 2: Don't use the whole screen in your videos.
Break Down Large Concepts into a Video Series
You can’t teach all of the gas laws in a 60-second video. Instead, you should create a video for each gas law and sometimes break these down further into subtopics. For instance, the concept of gas pressure, STP, and unit conversions should probably get their own videos which could then lead to a video that discusses the gas laws conceptually. Then, you can create separate videos explaining how to use equations to solve gas laws problems.
Write a Script
A script for a 60-second YouTube Shorts will be about half a typed page in a 12-point font, approximately 200 words, depending on how quickly you speak. Because you only have 60 seconds, making every word count is essential. Writing a script before I record helps me carefully choose my words to make my explanations clear and concise.
Keep the Visuals Simple and Bold
Since the vertical video format is meant for viewing on tiny cell phone screens, make sure your visuals are simple, bold, and colorful. If writing on paper, you should use a Sharpie marker instead of a pen or pencil.
Image 3: Use simple, bold, and colorful visuals.
Do you create vertical, short-form videos? I’d love to hear your best tips! Please let me know how you make your videos in the comments.