Project 02: Making the Abstract Concrete

Topic: EARTHQUAKE | Individual Project | 09/27 ~ 11/01

Jay Huh
Jay Huh
Sep 27, 2018 · 14 min read

Week 05–Relationship & Stories (09.27.2018)

#01 Quick Visualizing Words

At the beginning of the class, we conducted a quick visualizing sketch of words; cat, sluggish, vibrant, and quiet. It was interesting to see how each person interpreted its meaning and also how expressed in a simple image.

‘Cat’ was relatively easy to draw because it is a physical animal, which makes us imagine directly. The sketches could be divided into whether they drew body or not. In which direction did each one try to draw was also different.

‘Sluggish’ was difficult to visualize because it is an abstract word. Most of the students tried to visualize it into concrete and physical things; a snail or a worm. Others tried to draw specific situation using other objects, such as people or animals.

Classmates drew ‘vibrant’ word in a quite similar way. Most of them tried to draw colorful things, such as a flower, rainbow, reflection lights of diamond, or TV. We could see the trials of using abstract shapes to visualize the word. It was more intuitive to understand and recall the word since we do not have to interpret the concrete images. For example, when we see a drawing of a flower, the process of thinking might be ‘flower → colorful → vibrant!’. However, when we see the abstract shining drawings just like in the center of the left image, the process might be much shorter.

In the ‘quiet’ word, it became more clear in terms of using abstract shapes. Most of the students drew simple lines or small shapes to visualize ‘quiet’. At the bottom of the right image, we could also see the trials of using the contrast between two things; large and small, complex and simple, filled or blank.

To sum up, the types of shape(abstract, concrete, literal) have a great influence on transmitting the meaning.

  • Concrete shape: More illustrative. Make people focus more on the exact objects rather than the behavior or situation. Connotative.
  • Abstract shape: Abstract images make audiences to more focus on ‘action’ rather than the ‘actor’ itself. More strategic to show abstract things, such as behavior, situation, or feelings.
  • Literal: Direct to understand, but confine imagination. Too denotative.

In addition, it becomes much easier to catch the meaning if the sketches are gathered. We can gather pieces of information from each drawing.

#02 Visualizing Relationship & Stories

After that, we drew the story of virus individually, how does it infect people. Then, we gathered into several groups and gathered our sketches into one. Each group is required to draw a relationship of contents in order to efficiently or effectively deliver information to other people utilizing napkin sketch methods. Furthermore, while reading the text, one of the members should make a ‘motion’ to help to understand the drawing. It is an exercise for making a video; visualization, sound, and motion.

While enjoying the presentation, we could learn several things.

  • Including more information might contain more contents, but it makes the sketch complex and hard to catch the point easily.
  • Consolidating ideas or images help the audience to easily understand the information. We have to think how to make structures in our contents. Thinking about the relationship among each content is helpful to build a structure.
  • One of a good example of the structure is ‘hierarchy’, such as drawing something with different colors or thickness. It differs from the intensity of each content and makes route/path for audiences to follow.
  • Adding mood(facial expression) is also a good strategy to convey abstract meanings. People can easily read the mood or feeling, which encourage them to understand faster.

Week 06–Channels (10.02.2018)

#01 Work on my story — Earthquake

What is it?

  • The shaking of the surface of the Earth
  • Range in frequency, type, and size
  • Cause tsunami, landslides, volcanic activity

How does it work?

  • Tectonic plates meet and glide against each other
  • The friction stress exceeds the strength of the rocks → cause a fault line
  • Violent displacement of the Earth’s crust
  • The outer shell of the earth(lithosphere) is broken up into tectonic plates

Why is it important/interesting?

  • Human activity can also produce earthquakes — Dam, extremely heavy building, drilling and injecting water into wells, coal mining, and oil drilling.
  • Cause a great damage to buildings and physical infrastructure of a city
  • Earthquake engineering — foreseeing design work of buildings and structures, modifying and improving the resistance of structures

#02 Teach others about my topic & Receive feedback

  • The scale of the explanation — Consider the depth of stories.
  • Needs close connection between paragraphs — Relationship.
  • Needs explain on the specific words (ex. lithosphere)
  • Why? How? The idea of how it happens. More details.
  • The relationship in the whole structure (process, cause & effect, comparison, main & examples)

: What is an earthquake

  • More details on each type — what’s the difference in effects?
  • More details on the process — where it really starts and ends? Why does it happen?
  • More details on human-made earthquakes — detail process

: Earthquake engineers

  • How they research on each type of earthquakes?
  • How they implement their research in the real world? (ex. Japan swaying buildings or buildings that break small parts intentionally so that save other parts.)
  • Add characteristics of each plate, land, geographical feature, and evidence. Data visualization on geography maps or plates drawings is helpful.
  • How man-made earthquakes can be categorized?
  • Aftershock?

#03 Closure

  • Complete the incomplete
  • Observing the parts while perceiving the whole (assumptions)
  • Additive vs deductive — intentional exclusion. Does it meaningful? How do you engage viewers? How do they use imagination? Going too far cause confusion.
  1. Moment to moment: the blink of eyes
  2. Action to action: two different positions of head
  3. Subject to subject: satellite to earth → Jump!
  4. Scene to scene: time, context change, cause & effect → Jump!
  5. Aspect of aspect: logical relationship
  6. Non-sequitur: why? relationship created



CHANNELS: visual, audio(narration, sound effect, music), motion(temporal)

Week 06–Style (10.04.2018)

#01 Story Board

Since my topic, earthquake, is a kind of a movement, animation (visual, audio, and motion) will be a suitable medium to explain it. While building the storyboard, I realized that it is just a combination of explanations, far from a story. Thus, I felt needs to re-structure the storyline to make it more understandable.

The whole structure of my story was; 1) what the earthquake is→ 2) why, how, when it happens → 3) how can we prepare (human reaction)→ 4) so what? (what is important)

To begin with, I started to think about what the purpose of this project and this video.


  • Make the abstract concrete — reshape the form of content, so that help people to understand it easily.
  • Necessary contents — what it is, how it works and why it is important.
  • I focused the importance to — letting people know that human can cause earthquakes and providing alertness to change behavior so that they can deal with earthquakes better/minimize the damage.


  • Format: 3D graphics animation with some 2D scenes, instead of stop-motion or hand drawing. I thought 3D perspective is better to show the movement of an earthquake. Not wanting it to be complex, I tried to find a line or flat rendering style.
  • Style: Abstract shapes of geometrics, instead of realistic photography.

By using Cinema 4D, I tried to visualize objects with bend and twist. Then, I rendered them with ‘Cel Renderer’ and ‘Sketch and Toon’ so that it looks like flat and line animation.


  • Simple and flat


  • Sound effects: -
  • Voice: -

Week 07 — Transitions (10.09.2018)

#01 First Mood Board

  • Motion Style — references for the atmosphere of the animation or transition scenes.
  • Color Style

#02 Progress

I decided to use easy metaphors to make it more understandable. I chose ‘dominos’ to explain the concept of an earthquake and its process from a trigger to effects.

Based on Stacie’s feedback, I improved my storyboard. First of all, in some scenes, I tried to give experience to the viewers as well as observation. I added the scene from the human’s perspective who is in the center of the earthquake. Also, I narrowed down and connected some gaps between scenes. For example, the detail explanation about seismograph was removed since I thought it was too far from the point that I want to tell.


  • Pictures (relationships, how it works, necessary depth) — visual explanation
  • Narration, script, explanation, story
  • Audio (role), sound effects/music
  • Time arrangements (+check narration time)

Visual Direction


  • Focus on transitions
  • Closure

Week 07 — Workday (10.11.2018)

Trials in Cinema 4D

I thought it is difficult to visualize plates’ movements and the process of an earthquake in 2-dimensional animation. Thus, I decided to try building a prototype in Cinema 4D. Since making an animation in 3D takes quite a long time, I have to try and decide whether I can finish the work in 3D.

It was the first prototype of title that I visualized earthquakes through Cinema 4D and AfterEffects. There are a lot of tutorials on youtube or other websites, and I learned from them. I started by learning how to break down an object in random pieces to show the impact of the earthquake.

the tutorial for the object breaking effect

After making 3D modeling in the Cinema 4D, I imported the rendered video into AfterEffects to ‘wiggle’ the scene. This effect allowed me to visualize the earthquake more vividly.

Week 08 — Workday (10.16.2018)

#01 Script Revision

While making an animation, I also updated the script. Stacie gave me a lot of feedbacks mainly about improving logical gaps, supplementing information, and correcting grammatical errors.

#02 Progress in animation

I decided to make my animation in 3D and kept working on Cinema 4D. The main concept of visual style was simple and unnoticed. The most important thing in my animation is the movements of objects. I wanted to make audiences to focus on the movements of the plates. Also, I did not want audiences to be visually distracted by other unnecessary objects or decorations. Thus, I tried to design all objects in simple shape as much as I can. This is why I chose the low-poly modeling style, and designed topography, mountains, volcanos, waters, and even smoke in low-poly simple shapes. Since it was my first trial to produce 3D animation, it took so long time.

#03 Updated Visual Mood Board

Week 08 — Workday (10.18.2018)

#01 Converting script to speech

Since English is not my mother tongue, it was difficult for me to calculate the duration time for each section of the script. For the first prototype for narration, I used from text to speech website to extract mp3 files.

#02 Rendering C4D

Week 09 — Interim Presentation (10.23.2018)

Interim Presentation Video

#01 Feedback

I got many feedbacks from cohorts. They can be summarized in this.


  • The 3D visuals are so great.
  • The script is simple and to the point.
  • Nice coordination of script and visual examples.
  • Nice transition between different concepts.
  • Loved the zooming in on the fractures at the beginning. Made me pay attention.


  • There are some parts that do not sync well with audio(1:23, 2:27, 3:56).
  • Putting on descriptions on 3D animation in some parts is confusing/distracting → divides attention. May be able to visualize in one visual.
  • Cannot understand the relevance of the dominos. They were confusing.
  • Motion can be leveraged to show fault line, epicenter, etc instead of labeling.
  • Camera movement in some parts(2:13, 2:50) that showed distances were confusing.

#02 Decision

Even though I still had so many things to do to finish this project, I did not want to compromise with the quality of the animation. Thus, I decided to do my best as much as I can.

Week 09 — Workday (10.25.2018)

#01 Recording Narration

After editing the final script, I went to the recording studio with Matt. I thought his voice could be appropriate to my animation. It took quite a long time, but we finally got the satisfactory outcomes.

#02 Refining Intro

In order to create an impressive introduction, I designed a video clip that could give a feeling of experiencing a real earthquake. Also, I put the title and my name, which are breaking apart, to visualize the impact of the earthquake.

#03 Transition

I also paid much attention to the transitions between the scenes. Controlling camera movement in Cinema 4D and blur effects in AfterEffects, I could design the dynamic transitions which link the scenes naturally. In addition, by controlling camera zoom in and out, I could visualize the different scales effectively.

#04 Layering 2D on 3D

Since I thought that creating all parts in 3D modeling is not efficient, I tried to take advantage of both of them. Thus, I divided the parts for each 3D and 2D. 3D modelings and animations were created in Cinema 4D, and 2D elements were added on them in AfterEffects. But it also needs some efforts to harmonize those both dimensions. I used 3D layer options to make perspective just like the first image.

Week 10 — Workday (10.30.2018, 11.01.2018)

Final Refinement

Since my laptop was not enough to work with heavy AfterEffects files, I usually used the Mac Pro of computer labs in the College of Fine Arts. I kept refined and rendered.

Week 10 — Final Presentation (11.06.2018)

Video Presentation & Reflection

We shared our videos together. It was so impressive to see that how others interpreted and wrapped their topic in a variety of forms, motions, and sounds. Every video was so different and unique. I enjoyed videos, thinking how they did and how I would do if I got the topic.

About my video, I got great reactions and compliments from others. They also gave me some feedbacks which could make my work better. For example, the sound effects are a little bit loud and the transitions between scenes are a bit fast in some parts. I could agree with most of their feedbacks. Also, I thought it might be better if I inserted background musics which matches well with my video, such as documentary-like music.

I am satisfied with my output. I did my best in my time schedule and it worked. Even though I was not that familiar with Cinema 4D at the first time, I could learn further through this project. It was difficult, harsh, and time-consuming, but fun, exciting, and worth it. If I have some time in the future, I would like to improve some parts and make it better.

51729_Communication Design Studio

A course by Stacie Rohrbach | Carnegie Mellon University |…

Welcome to a place where words matter. On Medium, smart voices and original ideas take center stage - with no ads in sight. Watch
Follow all the topics you care about, and we’ll deliver the best stories for you to your homepage and inbox. Explore
Get unlimited access to the best stories on Medium — and support writers while you’re at it. Just $5/month. Upgrade

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store