My final film for the Royal Institution features engineer Hugh Lewis and explores the growing problem with space debris. With over 18,000 objects being tracked in orbit and another 170 million too small to be tracked – the problem threatens not only our satellite infrastructure, but the future of space travel as well.
Mapping the ocean floors
An animation I produced last year with animator / illustrator Rosanna Wan for the Royal Institution.
Rosanna’s distinct visuals incorporate a hand drawn style that tell the story of cartographer Marie Tharp, whose work helped to detail the complex geography of ocean floors around the world.
Her maps helped to demonstrate that the ocean floor was in fact a complex assortment of peaks and troughs – which went against conventional wisdom at the time. Despite fierce opposition, she stuck fast to her findings and as more data was collated, the tide of opposition turned, paving the way for our modern understanding of plate tectonics.
Directed and animated by Rosanna Wan.
Produced and scripted by Ed Prosser.
Narrated by Helen Czerski.
Here’s a short animation I wrote and produced with animator / illustrator Andrew Khosravani.
The piece is narrated by Hannah Fry and tells the story of how zero became a number. We were very happy about it getting a “Staff Pick” on Vimeo!
The scripting for the piece was tricky, it took several weeks to wrap our heads around the subject and then boil a significant amount of history down into around 3 minutes… inevitably details had to be cut and even after recording the voice-over with Hannah we had to make some difficult decisions to make further cuts. All in the name of reducing animation time – which was significant for a piece like this – Andrew did an incredible job!
Oh and the chapter numbers are obviously all in binary.
I recently made a short film for the Royal Institution that tells a story of the miners safety lamp, also known as the “Davy Lamp” – invented by Sir Humphry Davy in the 19th Century.
The lamp was designed to allow miners to safely light their way in the mines using candles or oil lamps – which were previously at risk of igniting flammable gases that leaked from the coal baring rocks, often leading to devastating explosions and large loss of life.
Find out more by watching the video!
This is the first time we’ve explored an archive story through the format of Andy’s Tale’s From the Prep Room series and I really like how the historical narrative is combined with the usual demonstration elements of the series – it’s something we’ll think about doing more in the future.
Riffing off the film’s subject matter, I thought I’d experiment with shooting most of the film in candle light in a pitch black environment – which was made possible by the low light capabilities of the Sony A7s, combined with a very fast vintage lens (Takumar 50mm f1.4). I really love the intimate setting that this creates and it also helped to hide the fact that we shot this in a very dull location (the Ri’s windowless basement lab used for school workshops).
Slow motion footage was captured on the Panasonic GH4 at around 100fps – watching the flames billowing out of the gas filled tube is particularly mesmerising!
Back in June I worked on ‘The Listening Post’ – an ambitious sound installation, co-commissioned by LIFT and 14-18 NOW that formed part of the ‘After a War‘ exhibition at the Battersea Arts Centre.
Writers James Wilkes and Tom Chivers led the project researching the history and lives of Battersea residents during the First World War. Their research into local archives and town records unearthed a wealth of material to work with, featuring stories from conscientious objectors, the struggles of munitionettes and the local paranoia surrounding activities of German bakers (below).
The pieces were produced and presented across more than 14 speakers spread throughout the installation, supported by work from graphic designer Lina Hakim and installation designer Gary Campbell.
Each section of the installation evoked a different feeling and theme, ranging from orchid growing to leisure activities (roller skating and hot air ballooning) before moving onto the darker tones of wartime industry and tribunals for conscientious objectors.
You can listen to James below as he gives a guided overview of the installation:
You can read a review of the event here.
Chemical crystallographer Judith Howard reflects on the beautiful aesthetics of crystallographic exploration and her career, including time spent with Nobel laureate Dorothy Hodgkin.
The end of the video provides links to some of the other videos in the crystallography collection!
I mentioned in a previous post that no space shuttle has ever been fully photographed whilst docked with the International Space Station. However NASA has released today landmark portraits of Endeavour and the ISS taken by Italian astronaut Paolo Nespoli on the 23rd of May whilst returning to Earth in a Russian Soyuz spacecraft.
This image was made possible by rotating the returning space craft 130 degrees so that Nespoli could take photos and video footage at a distance of about 600m from the ISS. It’s amazing to see the relative size of the space shuttle in comparison to the space station and I must admit, I didn’t realise how big it was! This photo I’m sure will come to represent the lasting legacy of NASAs space shuttle programme and will no doubt be one the most remembered space images of recent times.
You can view more of the images here and additional video footage will be released once it has been processed by NASA.
I’d also recommend having a look at some of Nespoli’s other photos on his flickr account, which hosts a beautiful and diverse collection of shots.
One interesting piece of media I came across today (whilst reading about the origins of cinema) was an early piece of footage shot by the Lumiere brothers in 1896:
The silent film depicts an unnamed dancer quite hauntingly perform Loie Fuller’s Serpentine Dance. Each frame was hand coloured to help vividly depict the striking motion conducted by the dancer.
Auguste Lumière and Louis Lumière were among the earliest filmmakers in history and produced some of the most pioneering and influential films of their time. The brothers are best known for producing their series of short ‘actuality’ films, which captured everyday events on film. These ‘actuality’ films are considered by many to represent the earliest incarnation of the documentary film.