Animation for TED-Ed
Following on from my work for NOVA Labs in 2014, I was invited to make my first film for TED-Ed, the educational offshoot of the well known TED conferences, with their commitment to “Ideas Worth Spreading”.
Several more films followed on subjects as diverse as supernovas, clouds, and life on Mars. Supplied with a script and a voiceover recording, my responsibilities as animator include everything from design and storyboarding through to the final edit and sound design. These films are always a joy to make, as they are invariably on fascinating subjects, and they reach a wide audience.
TED-Ed hosts a vast library of lessons, each with supporting videos that are produced through collaboration between an educator and an animator.
Why can't you divide by zero?
Well, I must have made a decent stab at visualising the proof of Pythagorean theorem, because now here I am showing you why you can't divide by zero. "How can the simple combination of an everyday number and a basic operation cause such problems?" ask TED-Ed, before proposing some rule-breaking in order to see what might happen.
Script and voiceover by TED-Ed, design and animation is all down to me.
How many ways are there to prove the Pythagorean theorem?
My 7th film for TED-Ed stretched my dimly recollected grasp of mathematics, but also gave me an opportunity to create a handful of fun characters, from 12 year old Einstein and Indian mathematician Baudhayana, to Euclid, and of course, Pythagoras himself.
Fortunately, I had educator, Betty Fei, to help me with the tricky formulations and another great script from the TED-Ed team. By the time I’d finished, I felt I was something of an expert on the subject, and I hope that some of that is imparted to the viewer as well.
Could we actually live on Mars?
My fourth film for TED-Ed is a short real estate guide to Mars, and will help you pick out a location on the red planet, should you be thinking of investing in the booming Martian property market. Neighbourhoods include Olympus Mons, the largest volcano in the solar system, and the Happy Face Crater; bargains all, if you have a high tolerance for cold, loneliness and radiation.
Mars expert, Mari Faroutan was TED-Ed’s chosen educationalist this time around. Script and voiceover are provided, after which, I can run with the design, sound and animation, so long as the end result adequately illustrates the intended lesson.
How did clouds get their names?
Following our adventures on Mars, my fifth film for TED-Ed brings us closer to home, but still not quite all the way back to Earth; the subject is clouds. Specifically, the story of how clouds were named early in the 19th Century by the meteorologist, Luke Howard.
Written by cloud-gazing author Richard Hamblyn, whose books include “The Invention of Clouds”, the script includes references to Goethe, Shelley, Constable and Aristophanes, meaning I got to have some fun recreating these characters. As always, TED-Ed furnished me with the voiceover, from which I craft everything else, from design and animation, through to choosing the music and delivering the final edit. This exploration of tropospheric linguistics joins my previous films for TED-Ed on atomic clocks, eyeballs, supernovas and life on the planet Mars.
How to detect a supernova
A third film for TED Conferences’ educational video spin-off, TED-Ed, Supernova Early Warning explains what happens when a star explodes and how, thanks to a global network of neutrino detectors, we can get advance notice of when it’s about to happen.
The challenge on this film was to translate such a colossal stellar event into a flat graphical style I could work with, whilst still being able to communicate what’s going on both inside a star prior to the explosion, and across galaxies in its aftermath. Working with Ted-ED’s script and voiceover, and in collaboration with an educationalist, in this case, SNOLAB communications officer, Samantha Kuula, these films are an opportunity to hone my skills in distilling big, complex ideas down into an easily digestible form.
Eye vs. Camera
My second film for TED-Ed (part of TED conferences) is a comparison of the human eye with video cameras. This gives insight into how images are received and processed, both mechanically, and biologically. It also includes a few curious visual illusions, and explains what’s going on to make you see things the way you do.
As with How Does Your Smartphone Know Your Location?, I was provided with both script and voiceover. My work covers everything else, from design and storyboarding, animation, sound design and final edit. The opening reference to hypnotism seemed like more than enough excuse for me to seek out a spooky theremin soundtrack, and take this as my lead for the visual style of the movie.