It’s not easy to make a film that’s fun, appealing, and....well...educational. Starting with early Horizon series and the NOVA in the 60’s and 70’s, science has borrowed from the cinematic arts to help us all appreciate the beauty of nature and thrill of scientific discovery. (Check out this video of some earlier yet more rudimentary science film efforts.)

Now that HD video cameras are hand-held and film-editing software is widely accessible, anyone can make a science film. But, not everyone can make a good one.

Hence, the recent proliferation of science film competitions.

A few weeks ago, I attended the winner’s screening for the USC’s new Science Film Competition, brainchild of professor Clifford Johnson, who you may recognize from numerous episodes of the History Channel’s The Universe series. At any given time, you can find Johnson going off about how hard it is to make a science film that is both entertaining and accurate but how important it is to try. “Good science communication is important to our democracy, otherwise we find that citizens are not well informed enough to make good decisions,” he said on this particular night, just before playing the winning films.

The idea was: one concept, 10 minutes. It must have seemed like a simple task, but many students didn’t finish in the allotted 4-6 months. Science students had to hook up with illustrators and cinema students to make it happen. The ones who worked their butts off entered the running for $2500 first prize, $1500 second prize, and $500 third prize, funded by the Anton Burg Foundation.

Here’s the second and third place entries, followed by a few honorable mentions (1st place could not be posted because of copyright issues):

Check out other science film competitions:

Imagine Science Film Festival

SCINEMA Festival

NPL Science Film Challenge

How Science Works Film and Video Competition

Reel Science Film Festival

UCL Brains on Film

USC Science Film Competition

Sigma Xi Student Short Science film competition

Science Film Festival, Manila

National Science Film Festival, India