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Interview-Meet the Animator

How 3 animators interpreted the same Whitman poem in different ways


One of the most amazing things about poetry is its seemingly infinite capacity for interpretation. To illustrate that fact, TED-Ed launched a great poetic experiment. We gave one Walt Whitman poem to three of our in-house animators, and asked them to interpret it using three different styles of animation. They were each given a recording of the text to work from, which was supplied by three local poets who also interpreted the text using their voices. The result? A stunning video that breathes three very different lives into Walt Whitman’s timeless poem, “A Noiseless Patient Spider.” We caught up with animators Jeremiah Dickey, Lisa LaBracio and Biljana Labovic to discuss the process and gather their impressions of the final video.

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How one TED-Ed subscriber became a character in an animated lesson

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At the end of last year, TED-Ed reached an exciting milestone: 1 million YouTube subscribers. To celebrate the occasion, we put out an open call for subscribers to share a link to their favorite TED-Ed Lesson for a chance to win an animated walk-on role in one of our upcoming animations. Over 900 comments later, Christian Castillo (whose favorite lesson was ‘The hidden meanings of yin and yang’) was randomly selected for that prize. Read on to find out how our animators tackled the challenge of animating a real person, and what it’s like to see yourself as a animated character.

The mystery of left-handedness: The making of a TED-Ed Lesson

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Today, about one-tenth of the world’s population is left-handed — and archaeological evidence concludes that it’s been this way for the last 500,000 years. But why do such a small percentage of people carry this trait, and what does it mean about them that they do? These were the questions that inspired TED-Ed Educator Danny Abrams and TED-Ed Animator Lisa LaBracio (ironically both righties) to take a deep dive into the subject of southpaws for one of our most popular TED-Ed Lessons this year, “Why are some people left-handed?.“ We caught up with the duo to talk about their process taking this animation from script to screen. 

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Designing Einstein: 2 animators use minimalist style to illustrate history


When Oxbow Creative, the animation team behind our recent lesson on Einstein’s miracle year, turned in their final animation to TED-Ed, our production team was shocked to see that the file was under 1 GB. Normally, an animation of this length will range anywhere in size from 2 – 5 GB, but rarely will we see one under 2 GB, much less 1. Any fears that this small package wouldn’t pack a huge punch, however, were squashed when we saw the final product: the lesson is clever, swift and striking, using a beautiful, minimalist style to communicate the history of Einstein’s highly successful 1905. We caught up with Oxbow Creative’s Evan Deutsch and Jon Portman to talk Einstein, minimalism and capturing the relative speed of planetary orbits.

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College animation students collaborate to make one of our favorite TED-Ed Lessons to date

‘The History of Tattoos’ TED-Ed Lesson marks an exciting milestone for TED-Ed: it’s our first lesson animated by a team of college students! But if you expect the final product to be amateur due to their age and student status, you’d be mistaken — it’s one of our most vibrant, clever and stunning animations to date. We caught up with the rowdy five person crew to talk about art, tattoos and creating animation in a group.

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Our newest TED-Ed Lesson was made entirely out of chalk


When Justin Dowd worked as a food runner, he would sometimes doodle on the chalkboard in the restaurant where he worked. He might have been surprised to know then that this skill he was developing would someday win him a trip into space. We caught up with Dowd, who wrote and animated today’s TED-Ed Lesson ‘Could comets be the source of life on Earth?‘ to talk about his upcoming trip to the cosmos, the wonders of working with chalk, and a few of the most amazing scientific discoveries in recent history.

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An animated lesson full of adorable animals made of autumn leaves


Ten percent of plant matter gets eaten while it is alive. The other 90% falls to the ground and becomes detritus, which supports microbes, insects and, yes, us, as we feed on animals that grazed on it and plants that grow in it.

When it came time to animate a TED-Ed lesson about this so-called “brown food chain,” the animation team of Celeste Lai, Lisa LaBracio and Biljana Labovic had an idea. LaBracio had a vast collection of dried leaves at home, and the trio conspired to create animals by layering these leaves into a visual representation of the idea that all living things are made up of dead matter.

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How do you animate a thing like cosmic rays? The story behind a TEDxCERN TED-Ed lesson


Cosmic rays. Active galactic nuclei. Nucleosynthesis. For physicist Veronica Bindi, this is the vocabulary of the everyday. A ten-year collaborator with AMS-02 — an experiment analyzing the data coming in from the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer, a particle detector mounted on the International Space Station — Bindi deals with dark matter, solar activity, and the ins-and-outs of flight particle detectors with ease. But for someone without a double-digit career in particle physics, these topics can seem intimidating. 

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Turtle bites, solar energy and 400 hours of crochet: A very unique TED-Ed Lesson


Every once in a while, a TED-Ed Lesson is animated in a way that leaves the audience asking, ‘How in the world did they do that?’ The Why aren’t we using solar power? lesson, written by Alexandros George Charalambides and animated by Ace and Son Moving Picture Company, is one such example. We sat down with Animation Director Richard O’Connor to untangle the labor intensive effort that went into this lesson on solar energy.

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A fractal film noir: Using narrative to help teach math


The TED-Ed Lesson “The case of the missing fractals” isn’t just an introduction to the immensely intricate and beautiful world of fractal geometry; it’s also a fully realized film noir short complete with plot, drama and its fair share of ridiculous puns. This educational and cinematic creation is the product of a TED-Ed dream team, with writing by veteran TED-Ed Educators George Zaidan and Alex Rosenthal and animation by our own TED-Ed Animation Producer Jeremiah Dickey. We met up with this trio to talk about the process of approaching an educational lesson with a narrative eye.

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