The Scientist & the Sample

Created for the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory (MagLab)

The Scientist and The Sample: Journey to the Center of the Magnet was created for the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory (MagLab) in Tallahassee, FL. The script was written by Kristen Coyne and follows a female scientist and her companion, a blue-tinted lab sample, through an adventure that explains the importance of scientific curiosity.

Take a Closer Look

Click on an image below to learn more about the film.

Tech Specs

The Scientist & the Sample is a full HD, two minutes forty-five seconds long h.264 MP4, although a slightly smaller version (1280 x 720) is shown above to ensure smooth playback online. The animation was created with Adobe Illustrator, Photoshop, Flash, After Effects, and QuickTime Pro.

About the Project

The project required the design, creation, and animation of all-new original characters, scene designs, backgrounds, props, voice-over narration, sound composition, and visual effects. The work began off the computer, sketching out character ideas and storyboarding scenes by hand. On the computer, I used a combination of programs including Adobe Flash and After Effects to create and animate the sketched scenes. Finally, I added narration (voiced by yours truly), music, and titles to finish it up.

I always begin my projects with research and what better way to research the lab than to take a personal tour. The nice people at the MagLab were kind enough to agree and I got to see, up close, some of the largest magnets in the entire world. While they didn't let me turn anything on (which is a good thing since it would have wiped my cell phone and demagnitized my credit cards), I did get a good sense for the laboratory.

The issue was how to take the seemingly magical things that occur at the lab (and believe me when I say magical - I had no idea what they were talking about half the time) and convey that in an entertaining, less confusing way. Kristen Coyne, of the MagLab, did a great job tackling this issue head-on with her light-hearted script that became the narration for the animation.

A major challenge in this project was designing the two main characters: the scientist and the sample. I already had a great idea for the overall graphic feel of the film, so I wanted the characters to fit within that framework. The scientist had to be inspirational, after all we needed this short to help inspire kids to take an interest in science. The sample (or the blob as he was referred to in production) had the opportunity to add entertainment and a bit of whimsy.

The Scientist: In the scientific community there is, as with many professions, few females and even fewer minorities. So it made sense to cast the role of the scientist with someone who would inspire young females as well as young minorities in addition to youth in general. This posed an interesting challenge to me as I am neither female nor a minority. So when designing her I had to balance representing her race without offending anyone (which on the internet might be impossible, so perhaps without offending as many people as possible). I also had to keep in mind that she had to be rigged for animation in a certain way given the time frame and budget of the project. In the end, after many sketches and many inspiring photos of strong black women, I had my scientist.

The Sample: The blob, a placeholder term in the original script used to represent the sample, presented its own challenges entirely. 'The sample' actually could refer to any number of things. In fact, it could represent literally anything a scientist could dream of to shove down into a magnet. Early drafts had him looking anywhere from an amoeba to Gumby. The final idea came when I was eating candy, specifically a gumdrop. I pulled the gumdrop's bottom into legs and voilà. Here was my sample. Since the form would be simple, I balanced it with realistic eyes and an expressive mouth to convey the emotion in each scene.

I wanted to add some excitement with a couple of more dynamic, and graphically challenging, scenes. The blood stream and electrical wire clips, in particular, have a lot of realistic effects and animations to grab viewers’ attention and compliment the more stylized characters and designs. This dramatic feeling is heightened through the editing and timing of the music track to correspond with scripted events.

Links & Downloads

Download the movie, play the trivia game, or go to the website by clicking a link below.

Portfolio Work

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