I recently put together a reel comprised of clips from all the films I have made for TED-Ed since 2015 - 13 films in total, ranging in theme from clouds and living on Mars, to acid rain and why you can't divide by zero.
It's always a great pleasure to work on a TED-Ed film. Animators are pared with educators, experts in their field, whether it's meteorology, biophysics or astronomy. My job is to bring the script to life with animations that assist the understanding of often difficult subjects. In a way, this is the function of most films I make, regardless of whether they are for TED-Ed or one of my many other clients. For a wider range of my work, check out my most recent showreel here.
Another film for TED-Ed (my 13th to date), this animation explores the science of solar storms. It opens in Colorado, 1859, the date of the largest solar storm ever recorded, then goes on to explain why they happen, the possible consequences, and our increasing ability to predict them.
The educator for this film was Fabio Pacucci, who has collaborated on several previous astronomy-themed TED-Ed films, but this was our first time working together. As always, TED-Ed provide both the script and voiceover, giving me free rein to develop the look and feel of the film. The biggest challenge for this animation was developing a believable replication of the aurora borealis. The film was made using Adobe Animate, Photoshop and After Effects.
My latest film for TED-Ed explores the reasons you don't hear much about Acid Rain anymore. Studying past environmental problems when we have so many current ones may seem strange, but there is much to be learnt from the way some countries were able to reduce the threat of Acid Rain. In particular, it highlights the value in listening to scientists rather than lobbyists for business, and how the solutions to these problems can be lead by carefully considered policy changes.
The lead educationalist on the project was Joseph Goffman of the Harvard Environmental and Energy Law Program. TED-Ed provide me with his script and the voiceover from which I am free to develop the visual concept. The film was made in Adobe Animate, and bases its look on the 1960s and '70s milieu of the scientists who first noticed the increasing acidity of rain.
Made during the early months of the 2020 coronavirus lockdown, the release of my latest TED-Ed film fortuitously coincided with a flurry of news about the possible efficacy of steroids for treating COVID-19. It explains how corticosteroids enter our cells and can help fight allergic reactions, rashes, asthma, and harmful immune responses.
Anees Bahji is the educator behind the script supplied by TED-Ed, from which I designed and animated the film. As is often the case with films for TED-Ed, the challenge is to make often quite abstract ideas easy to grasp (what do steroids look like? How do you show the ways in which they interact with the human body?) Often I also face my own steep learning curve, when trying to depict activity at a molecular level.
Working with marine ecologist Luka Seamus Wright, my latest animation for TED-Ed explores the origins of life on Earth, and more specifically, where it might have happened. The film takes us to the ocean floor where fissures in the Earth's crust cause hydrothermal vents to spew vast quantities of hot seawater; the probable cradle of life.
The TED-Ed process is to pair educators with animators to combine deep specialised knowledge with a talent for visualisation and thereby produce unique films that make complex subjects easier to understand without ever dumbing down the core lessons. In a sense, TED-Ed is the fissure in ocean floor, animators are the boiling water they spew, and the educators are the rich soup of minerals that bring forth life. I receive the script and voiceover from TED, from which I design and animate the film. I was also responsible for the sound design on this film, which was a lot of fun to make, comprised as it is of deep gurgling and aquatic percolation.
This is my tenth film for TED-Ed, many of which are collected here in my portfolio. Most recently I have taken on particle physics and the impossibility of dividing by zero, so as you will see, the subject matter is seldom light. My aim is also to make it fun.
Apparently people think that if you multiply zero by a sufficiently large number, eventually it suddenly becomes something.
This was Douglas Adams' famous quote regarding the first dotcom bubble. Almost two decades later it turns out that dividing by zero can yield similarly large amounts. With over 2.7 million views, my film "Why Can't You Divide by Zero?" was one of 2018's top 10 most watched films on the educational animation channel, TED-Ed. The channel released well over 100 films last year, clocking up a staggering 20 million hours of viewing time.
According to an article released on the TED-Ed blog, myths and riddles have proven their most popular topics, with 4 and 2 films on these subjects in the top 10 respectively. Other films concerned Roman history, cannibalism and the stickiness of glue and tape. But at number 7 in the over all viewing figures for the year stands my examination of dividing by zero.
As we begin 2019 my 11th film for TED-Ed is in production, and my 14th film for the School of Life is awaiting release. News of these and work for my other clients will be announced here on my website, Facebook page and Twitter account. Here's to more big numbers over the next 12 months.
Having grappled in my last TED-Ed film with the impossibility of dividing by zero, my latest work for the educational channel remains focussed on exceedingly small things. Things so small you cannot see them, but out of which everything is made. That's right; we're doing particle physics.
In particular, we are looking at The Standard Model, a theory that classifies the elementary particles and fundamental forces in the known universe.
TED-Ed films work by paring animators with educators, and I was lucky enough to be pared with Jon Butterworth, a professor of physics who worked on the ATLAS experiment at CERN's Large Hadron Collider, and writer for the Guardian's Life and Physics column. Even so, I had a steep learning curve, with many complex ideas to get my head around. I chose to focus on a single graphic of the Standard Model, so that as the film progressed the diagram would be unpacked, and put back together, in the hope that the viewer would gain a deeper understanding along the way.
My latest film for TED-Ed sees me yet again grappling with barely understood maths, after what must have seemed a competent attempt at pretending I was all up to speed with Pythagoras. This time around the theme is zero, and more importantly, why you can't divide by it. TED-Ed pose the question "How can the simple combination of an everyday number and a basic operation cause such problems?" This film is the answer.
Script and voiceover are provided by TED-Ed, and the design and animation was all down to me. The challenge on this film was to keep the visuals light hearted and fun, when what I was showing was, for the most part, numbers. I came up with a series of colourful blocks, and built the film around that visual.