Science for YouTube

By Stefanie Heyduck

© in a nutshell – kurzgesagt GmbH

String theory, climate change, genetic engineering: these topics aren’t so easy for online videos. But with the right story and clever animations, they become understandable and entertaining. The Munich-based company "Kurzgesagt – In a Nutshell" shows how it’s done with its YouTube channel.

A small colorful bird in a space suit floats through space, providing a frame of reference for the question "What happens if I fall into a black hole?" The animated leading actor dares to jump for the good of science. The scene is not from well-known German children’s series "Sendung mit der Maus", but from a video by the company Kurzgesagt.

The Success Story of Kurzgesagt

"Kurzgesagt – In a Nutshell" is the most successful German YouTube channel with over eight million subscribers. The most popular online videos were viewed over 15 million times. Topics range from society and philosophy to physics, biology, and the universe.

Behind these colorful informative videos is no young YouTube star, but a team of over 20 employees. They are experts in storytelling, research, design, illustration, animation, video editing, and sound design. It all started in 2013 when Philipp Dettmer, the founder of Kurzgesagt, uploaded his thesis, a film about evolution, on YouTube. Six years later, the YouTube channel has grown into a professional design studio.

Intensive Research

Kurzgesagt combines its passion for knowledge and attention to detail to create clear, entertaining, and informative films. The videos require a lot of effort, for on average, the short story team spends up to 800 hours on one film. Quality standards are high. After researching a topic and writing a first script, scientists check the facts. Each video is accompanied by a detailed list of sources. The viewers are given the option to research everything and delve deeper into the subject matter.

"We try to present our content in a way so that everyone can understand it," explains Elisabeth Steib, Kurzgesagt’s Head of Text and Research, who leads the studio’s editorial team. Storytelling is at the heart of each video. Once the script is finished, the film is illustrated, followed by voice recording and animation. Specific music is composed for each video; finally, the sound design is superimposed. "Each department does a very informative and high-quality job. Interesting stories and attention to detail every step of the production process emphasizes our credibility," says Steib.

Cooperation and Interactive Formats

The company is financed by advertisements, partnerships, and crowdfunding. Direct commissions through companies is becoming more common for the Kurzgesagt team. Some of the very first successful partnerships were with Airbus and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The German channel is now financed by funk, the online media service of ARD and ZDF.

The creators of Kurzgesagt still have a lot of ideas for future videos. The topics for the rest of the year have already been planned. "In the future we would like to explore more interactive formats," says Steib. A book is also in the works.


More informations

Bill & Melinda Gates Stiftung

Medien Netzwerk Bayern: Ton für alles, was Ton braucht

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