Photo of research papers

How to turn a research paper about bridge sensors into a story we can all relate to?

Good Vibrations

In 2018 at MIT Senseable City lab, I was tasked with explaining a research project about bridge vibration sensing. To create an impactful story we focused on why this research is important in the first place.

3 years later, the researchers partnered with Superpedestrian. I happily helped them frame the story and make an explanatory video. Once again we focused on the context to make the story accessible and to bring meaning to the research.

MIT Senseable City Lab (2018)
Superpedestrian (2021)

Project type
Science communication
Video production
Video editing

'Why' written on top of research papers

We started the project by diving into research papers and asking researchers a lot of questions. Our goal was to understand key elements:

Why doing this research?
How did the research process go?
What was discovered?
Why is this research important?

At first glance, the Good Vibrations project is about comparing different kinds of sensors measuring bridges’ dynamic properties. By talking with the researchers we discovered that is only a tiny part of a broader story that affects us all: the story about the dire state of the infrastructure we use everyday.

Good Vibrations, a video by MIT Senseable City Lab.

We decided to produce a short and engaging video to explain the research. So we crafted a narrative focused on the context of the project, and on the experiment phase - which is in itself a fun story about crossing bridges hundreds of times to gather data. The main result of the research paper only appears at the very end of the video for a few seconds. This is on purpose.

To understand the research,
the audience first needs to understand why the research is important.

Photos of the experiment with a man on an electric scooter with camera gears, as well as screenshots of the video script
Photos from the experiment day on the Cadore bridge in Italy, and screenshot of the final version of the script.

A couple years later, the research team from MIT partnered with Superpedestrian - the electric mobility startup - to expand their work to smaller vehicles: e-scooters. Together, we worked on a video explaining how smart electric scooters could help make the road safer using MIT cutting edge research.

The video centers around a 1 day experiment on the Cadore bridge in Italy. The first half is dedicated to explain the context around infrastructure health and the need for more sensing. The second half shows the researchers driving over the bridge on the scooters, as well as the data collected.

How can smart e-scooters help MIT researchers find structural cracks in bridges? a video by Superpedestrian.

Using both image and sound we aimed to produce an immersive story. Our talented filmmaker brought back some amazing footage from the experiment day that really helped tell the story in a cinematic way. And a powerful soundtrack with a good voiceover helped to create immersion in the story. While explaining cutting edge research, the video is quite far from a traditional video explainer.

These two videos started with very different budgets and goals, but we approached them with the same ambition: turn complex research into a relatable story.