7 Minutes of Terror: Not your Grandfather’s Science Class Film

Update: Curiosity has landed on Mars – and thanks to a hip movie eager scientists-to-be might find a new interest in outer space.

7 Minutes of Terror” is an animated demonstration of NASA’s plans to land the rover, “Curiosity” on the surface of Mars. NASA estimated it would take a full seven minutes for Curiosity to reach the surface of the Red Planet, and a full fourteen minutes for the signal to each Earth. We can assume images will be a bit better than the grainy ones sent to Earth from the first man-powered moon landing, and although this mission won’t have human astronauts on board, it’s still another “giant leap for mankind.”

What is interesting about the movie, from a video producer’s perspective, is it was made to pique the interest of the viewer in a way those old scratchy science films from the 7th grade never could. Edgy music and catch-phrases like “Game Over” and “neck-snapping” give this very current science video the excitement and respect that a mars landing should render and catches the viewers’ attention within the first few seconds; something those old [snore] science movies were unable to fully achieve. From using video to teach children in a non-participatory method; to teaching children history and science while they explore, research and video their subjects; to teaching them video producing skills, the video for educators field is wide open right now.

[image:blog_post:14778]7 Minutes of Terror, a talking-heads with computer-graphics video, runs only 5 minutes and was produced by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. This movie clearly demonstrates the wave of teaching in the future. Short clips, lots of cuts, exciting music, non-static interview subjects and short well-placed audio bites. Anyone looking to make videos for educators should watch and learn from this video. There’s almost an ‘edge of your seat’ feeling from the voice track: “Zero margin of error…” “…Perfect timing done only by a computer, no human hands…”

Did it work? Did it fail? Curiosity landed successfully on Mars in the wee hours of the morning on August 6th. I wonder: will it garner the world attention in the same way as the Apollo 11 moon landing did in July 1969? Possibly – but then again, technology for the average man was so primitive back then, by today’s standards that it all seemed so “Futuristic” and like science fiction. We’re not as naive about technology now and I think, sadly, some people will think of the Mars landing as just another cool thing on TV, but not give it a second thought.

NASA has gotten “way cool” in the past decade or so – they have a very well-designed website and links to live video from test labs, space or the NASA control rooms. (Do people still say “way cool”, or am I dating myself!?!)

Just take a moment to pause and think about how the video technology has changed since astronaut Neil Armstrong first stepped on the moon and uttered that famous phrase: “One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” Back in 1969, when those shaky, grainy black and white clips first reached the television stations around the world, it was an amazing technological wonder. We didn’t even have video cameras at the time and all our phones were land-line and tethered to a wall. Now our phones are our cameras, and we can shoot a signal across the street or around the world and even track what we shot where and when through geo-tracking.

This, of course, isn’t the first mission to Mars – that journey started in the late ’70s with Voyager, but what makes this one different is the technology is so much more advanced that they can land, transmit, explore and discover in ways unheard of before. Back then, many people looked at the pictures the first Mars Rover sent back with curiosity, but not a lot more. However today’s Curiosity is a different machine and, of course, with movies like 7 Minutes to Terror the average person on the street just might start to show interest again.

Video producers working with children have the right idea about capturing students’ attention span using video as a tool – teaching with video is only going to get more pronounced every year, there’s profit in it with the right connections and skills. Something to look into. Videomaker has done many stories about working with video for education, check them out and maybe a new career will open up – one that takes you back to school, or maybe to Mars!


About Curiosity – NASA says: “The rover should take a 13-thousand miles an hour plunge to a soft landing in a sequence of steps we can’t control or document live. The nuclear powered one-ton rover will work for 2 years on the planet.”

Curiosity was launched from Earth in November 2011 and landed, as scheduled in a crater on Mars, at 1:32 a.m. EDT/0532 GMT. Everyone at NASA cheered, hooped and hollered like kids at a sporting event and thanks to 7 Minutes of Terror people worldwide were able to share in the excitement.

Jennifer O'Rourke
Jennifer O'Rourke
Jennifer O’Rourke is an Emmy award-winning videographer & editor.

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