How We Made – Mary Anning Sand Animation

August 3, 2018

– written by Anna Humphries – 

We were so excited when we heard our pitch on Mary Anning, the little known palaeontologist had been commissioned by the BBC. I’d read about her incredible and sad story on the internet one night and became fascinated with finding out more about her. After reading Jurassic Mary, I ventured down to her costal home town, Lyme Regis to find out more. I walked down the Black Venn – the formidable cliff where she made many of her discoveries – and over to the Lyme Regis Museum, built where her house used to be. The staff there were very helpful in aiding my many questions about her! I visited her grave, which was really moving. Well wishers had left her a pile of ammonite fossils to decorate it. And finally, I collected a large Tupperware of sand and lots of tiny bleached pebbles from the beach next to her house to use in the animation.

Production started almost immediately – I’d already storyboarded the images I wanted to create to tell her story. I laid the sand in a large glass tray on top of a light box, and fixed a DSLR to a tripod which was angled straight down at it. This all had to be done in a dark room to avoid changes to the light. I loaded key pictures from the storyboard into Dragonframe, using them as a guide. The transitions were all done freehand – which was kind of scary as once I’d destroyed an image, it was impossible to recreate! As this film is basically one very long morphing shot, I had to do tread carefully round the rig and do some long stints to try and animate as much as possible in case it jiggled! Everything was shot on ones, and then imported into After Effects where I timed it out to the voice over and graded it.

We’re really happy with the finished film. It’s wonderful to be able to make a tribute to such an amazing woman who deserves so much more recognition than she received during her life time.

You can still see the film on the BBC Ideas website where is has reached over 200,000 views, or you can see it on our YouTube channel here.

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