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Making of: SeaBee’s fully remote animation video

How do you make a video when you can’t travel to interview people or collect footage?

Back when SeaBee was first launched, we planned to travel all over Norway, capturing stunning drone footage and interviewing SeaBee scientists across the country about their work. But with the COVID-19 pandemic, we had to get a bit creative when it comes to telling SeaBee stories and explaining our work.

Wondering what goes on behind the scenes of SeaBee’s media production? In this article, we’ll explain how we changed course to produce our SeaBee animated explainer video.

The challenge of working remotely and being unable to travel meant that gathering information was quite different from how it would normally be conducted in the field. When we decided to get started on our first video explaining SeaBee, we knew we’d have to think a little differently. It all started with setting up virtual interviews with several of the SeaBee scientists scattered around Norway. We recorded each interview’s audio and video wherever possible, with some scientists also recording their audio “in person” from their cell phones on their end, ensuring there would be a clear audio clip in case the meeting recording failed or wasn’t of a high enough quality.

Initially, we bounced around different video style, we could make it a fully text-based video, we could write a script and hire a voiceover artist to record narration, or we could try to work with the audio we gathered during our virtual interviews. In the end, we decided to hire animators, and try to work with the audio we got.

This is also where the animation team stepped in and looked over our collected materials, advising on length, order, and clarity of the soundbites. The style of animation we were aiming for was unusual for the animation team as well, since voiceovers and narrations are generally recorded by professional voice actors. But for the SeaBee animated explainer, we wanted to have the voices of those actually working on the project to be heard. While initially we had wanted to include all the interviewees we conducted in the voiceover for the video, it was decided that it would be much simpler for an audience to follow along with a single narrator. Luckily Kasper Hancke, the head of the entire SeaBee project, was able to provide an all-encompassing explanation for each portion of the infrastructure and how it works.

Screenshot from the animated video.

Kasper had provided several different examples of how the SeaBee infrastructure works, so we had to decide what to focus on in the video. Ultimately, we chose his example of drones monitoring seagrasses, and the animators also agreed it would be the clearest to illustrate for a broad audience.

At this point, the animators created simple illustrations to match each “scene” that Kasper described. One of the first “scenes” we had imagined from the initial video concept was having the laptop be the entry point for the video. We wanted to embrace the “remoteness” that stemmed from being unable to travel and film our subjects directly. So, the animators found a way to include this, incorporating video of Kasper’s remote interview on the illustrated laptop and thereby flowing into his animated explanation.

We discussed colours, people, and provided references for each key component. This tailor-made approach meant that we could include personal touches. Some were simple, like the gear and samples matching the one used by SeaBee, while others were more covert: Project members being used as references for people, and even having their children make an appearance! Throughout the entire process, we had several feedback sessions so that the project leads could provide their thoughts and changes to ensure that each part was faithfully illustrated and explained.

The final product is the result of many different people with a wide variety of specialisations working together, with the majority never having met in person before! We hope you enjoy the video and learn more about SeaBee.