Animating 'The risks of the everyday'

Animator-in-residence, Andrew Khosravani, talks about how he went about making his first animation for the Ri.

  • Jungle illustration

    Illustration of a jungle from 'The risks of the everyday' animation

Initially when Ed Prosser, the Ri’s Senior Video Producer, and I set out on this project, our aim was to go through the vast archive of talks and audio at the RI and create an animation from it. We wanted to find a self-contained story or anecdote that we could convert into an animation. As we explored, we found many narratives but it was Jared Diamond's eloquent voice and unusual subject matter that really made this one stand out, giving us a chance to expand on something which hasn’t been covered before.

  • Jared Diamond

    Jared Diamond talking at 'The world until yesterday' event at the Ri, on 1 October 2013

Coming into the project, I was hugely influenced by this Google Play animated series as well as the New York Times ‘Modern love’ series which invited different animators to make a piece each, based on narratives of musicians and writers. A lot of these pieces looked fantastic and brought to life the stories being told, and I really wanted to do the same with content coming from the Ri, which has so many incredible narratives in its vast archive.

  • Photoshop screen shot

    Jared Diamond illustration in Photoshop

Once we had the subject matter, we could start editing down the audio. From here we created a video story board that matches the timings of each scene to Jared’s speech, to get an idea of pace. And with this in place, we could then start constructing the scenes.

  • Adobe After Effects screen shot

    Jared Diamond illustration in After Effects

Because of the density of the vegetation in the animation, some of these scenes were created with upwards of 1000 layers of illustration. Being only one person, it took quite a while to create these scenes because each plant had to be drawn and textured, then individually animated. The whole process took around three months, which is quite a while if you consider the final piece is just 2 minutes 34 seconds long. But animation is a very time consuming medium and working alone means everything is left to you to complete.

  • Adobe After Effects screen shot

    Jungle scene being created in After Effects

  • Adobe After Effects screen shot

    Jungle scene being created in After Effects

  • Adobe After Effects screen shot

    Underwater scene being created in After Effects

The process of making this animation allowed me to experiment with different techniques and approaches I would have otherwise not done. As always with experimentation, not everything came off, but when it did work, the results were fantastic, and I believe that learning through experimentation is a great way to broaden your skillset. This residency is very much about giving young animators a chance to gain experience through hands-on work. Previously I have always worked on animations with other people, so it was a great experience to make one alone and understand how every aspect of production works. For future projects I know now how much work is required and have some handy techniques to improve the quality of the work at a faster rate.

Even though it took a while, it was a fun and exciting project to work on because it allowed a huge amount of artistic freedom. When we set out, we wanted to make something that bridged the gap between science and art, as well as starting a discussion. This was the first of several animations that I will be making here at the Ri, exploring animation as a means for science communication.

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