The Mating Ritual of a Nocturnal Parrot

tags: identity/illustration,  narrative,  research



– Process –

Learning about the challenge and how to approach the project in differently

The goal of this project was to convey complex subjects simply, something designers are often asked to do (either explicitly or implicitly). We went through exercises discussing whether our topics were ‘right’ for this project or not. For example, the topic can be anything that is generally too complex to understand easily, either because there are too many variables, too much jargon, the event isn’t visible, or it occurs to fast or too slow to observe.Our final presentation would be a 3-4 minute video.


Picking the right subject is complicated. Finding topic that isn’t to broad or too narrow to describe.

Beyond picking something that was something complex, we also had to pick something that would interested us for the three weeks we’d be working on this project and something that could be explained in a three minute video. This often meant narrowing our scope.

I didn’t end up using any of my initial ideas. I wanted to use this chance to make an animated film in a paper-cut style (something I had always been interested in), and none of my ideas lent themselves well to this format because they had a more somber tone. I decided on explaining why the birds of New Zealand are so unique. After rounds and rounds of workshopping in class, this topic narrowed down to the kakapo, and then even more to just it’s mating ritual.



Screen Shot 2013-12-31 at 8.24.59 PMMapping out the mating ritual

Developing a story to engage and inform

Working on the narrative was a major component to this project, given as much weight as the hands-on coding. Choosing your words carefully in order to convey in the heart of the story in multiple respects: the tone, the flow, and the information.


Simultaneously, we were working on our storyboards for our narrative, because we had to think of the key moments where we could effectively visualize the text. It was important to really nail-down the transitions to make sure that everything was understood cohesively.

You can see the iterations my storyboards went through while I refined both the visuals for my story.



Bringing the story to life & learning After Effects

There we no constraints on how we created our videos. For instance, some of the other students created live-action, vlog-style, or drew their movies. Armed with a few After Effects tutorials, I ambitiously decided that I wanted to create all my graphics and animate them. Since everyone was working on their videos in different ways, much of our video process was self-directed.


I had my friend, James Wagner do the narration for the piece in order for it to feel like a documentary. I requested that he do it in the style of a somewhat neurotic Dave Attenborough who was a little too-passionate about kakapos.

I created the graphics in Adobe Illustrator and created the video in After Effects.


Getting feedback on my work throughout the story + animation stages

It was extremely helpful to receive feedback from my peers and professor on the project and definitely made the piece stronger over all. I had to make sure that my audience was receiving the information I intended. They would make insightful observations on things I hadn’t noticed.

Initial feedback was: “You seem to be talking about the kakapo a lot, maybe you should talk about other birds too so it’s more inclusive.” But eventually I narrowed my topic to just one aspect of kakapo life.

As I got further along, the I was still making small tweaks to my video.

For example, after critique my professor suggested I make my transitions more fluid. Instead of doing abrupt cuts to each section, to slide from one stage to the next so that at the end I would be able to show an overview shot. This required a lot of revisions to the my video, but I think it really helped my video and made the ritual easier to understand.


How did it turn out and how do you feel about it?

I really enjoyed working on this project. I was excited to learn how to think to about using visuals over time through motion and to learn a new program, Adobe After Effects.  My appreciation for micro-interactions grew as I saw first-hand how small animation changes could improve understanding. Creating a movie had always been unimaginable to me because you start working with space and time, but I ended up being addicted to working on this project.

I’m glad I got the challenge and I am happy about how it turned out! It could be one of those projects I work on forever, nudging the animations this way, smoothing things out (re-recording the narrative with a pop filter…). It would be nice to get another chance at another version of the movie…or better yet, a sequel!


Ps. I’m going to have to insist that you watch this David Attenborough snippet of a kakapo. You won’t regret it.