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NASA Orion Animated GIF Set

One of the largest projects I was tasked with while working at Johnson Space Center was creating and animating a set of five GIFs.  I worked alongside an illustrator who digitally drew the character and object assets. I then animated motion graphics and added special effects using Adobe After Effects. Each GIF focuses on a particular aspect of the Orion mission. It features five new technologies that are incorporated into Orion such as: heat shield, propulsion, communication systems, radiation, and life support systems. 

 

These GIFs were originally created to go alongside a featured article on NASA's homepage as well as Orion's Tumblr and Facebook. Due to high administrative praise, these GIFs were also featured on Lockheed Martin and currently have over 53,000 views on @explorenasa.

Heat Shield

The first GIF created for this task featured Orion's heat shield components. This animation is only three seconds long, however the biggest challenge for this animation was making sure that the rotation of the Earth was smooth and seamless so that it flowed evenly during repeated playback.

Propulsion

For this GIF, we featured how Orion's propulsion system uses lunar gravitation to power its speed. We chose to feature another 3D object rotation, our Moon asset, to incorporate the orbital effect. The Service Module rocket is comprised of several assets that I then staggered to give the 360 illusion of spinning. I then parented additional effects to the Service Module layers to save time with additional animation.

Communications Systems

I wanted the style of each animation's layout to vary and not feature just 3D objects or perspective changes; so for this animation we chose for it to have more of a 'flat' appearance but instead rely more on matched cyclical timing of Orion and its communication beams.

 

The biggest timing challenge for this animation was calculating both the Orion and satellite beams together so that they flowed smoothing for repeated playback with the spin of the Orion layer. 

Radiation

One of the most important aspects of space travel for Orion is its protection against dangerous radiation levels. Because we had a very limited amount of time to showcase both radiation waves and astronauts diving into Orion's Service Module for protection, we decided to have the layout become transparent to show the astronauts diving in for cover.

Life Support Systems

To help incorporate the aspect of 'life' and space living for astronauts we chose to feature several character rigs completing daily tasks. 

The most tedious task for this animation was rigging and parenting each layer into the characters. This animation also had several composition layers in the final render, so one of the biggest challenges was ensuring that the character animation composition and exterior movement of Orion, the moon, and Earth, was smooth and not too jarring.