A couple of weeks ago, millions of Americans gazed up into sky, wearing protective glasses of course, to marvel at the first solar eclipse to go from coast to coast in the US in nearly a century. The phenomenon, which turns day to night for several minutes, is perpetually fascinating and in Hannah Jacobs’ animation for Vox she explores our wonder and curiosity for eclipses.
Sharing different peoples’ experiences of seeing a solar eclipse, many of the people featured in the film “chase” solar eclipses to ensure they get the best possible sighting. “I loved how incredibly passionate everyone was about seeing an eclipse. It was obviously such a personal experience for each speaker, and yet it seemed to transport each of them to a fairly abstract and emotional place – which definitely opened up endless options for the animation,” explains UK-based Hannah.
The animator began by repeatedly listening to the voice over and sketching out illustrations on paper in response. “I then formed these into a more coherent storyboard. I love exploring texture and colour in my work and this was a key part of my process at the start of a film, so I spent a day or so choosing a colour palette and working on style frames in Photoshop before moving onto the animation,” says Hannah.
Time was Hannah’s biggest obstacle during the project, but the constraints made her refocus her approach. “I’m often way over-ambitious with an idea and with only five days to storyboard, design and animate frame by frame I had to be realistic with what I could achieve. But having that restriction in place was also strangely liberating.”
Hannah’s naive style suits the awe and magic felt throughout the animation, using galactic colours like dark green, grey and midnight blue. There’s a freedom to her animation and this is seen best in her transitions, which she enjoys creating the most. “I’m a real perfectionist, so in the past I had a tendency to get super frustrated when I couldn’t get something to move ‘accurately’ and now I’m just trying to embrace my own slightly odd way of animating,” explains Hannah. “I often don’t pay too much attention to the laws of the real world – limbs don’t always move in a realistic way in my films and I’m starting to accept that maybe that’s okay.”
Hannah has encapsulated the “overwhelming emotion” the narrators felt when seeing a solar eclipse through her delicate, thin-limbed characters that elegantly move across the screen. “I was almost trying to capture the beauty of their emotions rather than the beauty of the eclipse itself,” she says.