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Interview-Meet the Animator

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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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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Inside the animator’s studio: Creating universes and (literally) shattering the Earth

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If you haven’t seen the TED-Ed Lesson “A rare, spectacular total eclipse of the sun,” you should really check it out. Not only will you learn a good deal about the science behind these extraordinary events, you’ll also get to soak in some beautiful and detailed artistry from accomplished animator Bevan Lynch. We caught up with Lynch for a quick, behind-the-scenes look at what it was like to create an entire universe from scratch (with a few Earth-shattering pitfalls along the way).

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From Pangaea to pop-up: Behind the scenes of a TED-Ed Lesson

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If you watched The Pangaea Pop-Up, you might have noticed the new and neat style for TED-Ed: an animated lesson that includes a physical pop-up book! For this lesson, TED-Ed animators teamed up with paper engineer and illustrator Yevgeniya Yeretskaya in an intricate and collaborative process. Check out a behind-the-scenes look at how this complicated lesson came together.

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TEDxCERN collaborators meet for the first time

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Jeanette Nørgaard is the creative animator behind the CERN animation from scientists Dave Barney and Steve Goldfarb, The basics of the Higgs boson.

Jeanette, who is based in Denmark, traveled to Geneva for TEDxCERN, where the CERN and TED-Ed collaborations premiered at the beginning of May.

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What’s the difference between animators and cartoonists?

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Inside a cartoonist’s world sparked an interesting conversation between TED-Ed Animator Jeremiah Dickey and New Yorker cartoonist  Liza Donnelly.

Watch the intriguing and thoughtful conversation that ensued when the two sat down to discuss the similarities and differences in their work…

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Using Photoshop to crochet: A conversation with TED-Ed Animators

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Today’s Lesson features a creative animation by three of TED-Ed’s own animators, Biljana Labovic, Lisa Labracio, and Celeste Lai. To show cell division and how chemotherapy attacks cancer during cell division, Biljana, Lisa, and Celeste worked on a variety of animation styles, including stop-motion. To achieve the various textures and movement they wanted, they used a large range of products you might find around the house – mostly in your kitchen. We talked to Biljana and Lisa about the ideas behind the piece and how they went about creating it.

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