Animation for Mini Documentary “Lighting it Up: The Physics of Imaging Space”

This animation about light, radiation, the electromagnetic spectrum and cameras is part of a school outreach mini documentary created by Welsh Science Presenter/Filmmaker, Huw James, for The Open University 's School of Physical Sciences.

In this film, we are introduced to the concept of light as a form of radiation as part of the electromagnetic spectrum. We learn how light can be thought of as a wave, or as a particle, known as a photon. The film then shows how research scientists use this knowledge to prepare and test the sensors that are used in space cameras, testing that they will work in the harsh radiation conditions found in space.

This film forms the first part of an outreach and public engagement programme offered by the School of Physical Sciences at the The Open University.

The science covered in this film is suitable for Key Stage 3 (age 12+) students and above, covering the science topics of radiation and light in a novel way, relating the subject to cutting-edge research, covering the science concepts involved in obtaining pictures of planets, stars and far-off galaxies.

OU Space Camera mini documentary


Style design

A style concept was designed for the animation. The colours were based on images of from this Five Year Time-Lapse of the Sun Viewed Through Different Wavelengths
Style design - OU Space Camera Animation

Sketched Storyboards and Animatic Video 

Storyboard sketches - OU Space Camera Animation
A storyboard was sketched out based on the script provided by the client. The storyboard images were then put into a video sequence with a draft voiceover recording so we could test the timings and ensure the script and images made sense when played together.
At this point we made some script and image revisions before moving to the next stage. 

Illustration of Animation Assets

Storyboard illustrations - OU Space Camera Animation
Once the sketched storyboards were signed off, the storyboards were illustrated using Adobe Illustrator. A gradient style of shading was used as this helped show the flood waters, storms and erosion. 
Some revisions were made before moving onto the next production phase. 


The animation phase started by preparing all the illustrations for animation. This involved separating artwork out onto layers and naming them. Illustration files were imported into Adobe After Effects then animated. The video was sent for review with the team then some final changes were made before it was sent to be added to the mini documentary and shared as a stand alone video.

After Effects 1 - OU Space Camera Animation After Effects 2 - OU Space Camera Animation