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A snippet of a 2D animation on the types of animal camouflage that are effective underwater. Though some camouflage methods are shared by terrestrial animals, such as hiding among rocks or plant life, living in open water presents a unique challenge. The background provided by open water is vast and often empty, with a consistent blue light gradient from shallow to deeper waters. There are no distinct features for an animal to hide against. The storyboard for this animation intends to showcase some alternative camouflage methods that work under these conditions. 

Client: Prof. Marc Dryer
Media: Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator, Adobe After Effects

Format: Online video

Audience: Lay audience

Date: 2020


The objective of this project was to produce a 2D animation in After Effects, and I was given a lot of freedom. I chose the subject of aquatic camouflage as it was a very visual topic, with many potential ways to creatively depict each camouflage method. I decided that the audience would be a general lay-audience as the animation needed to be short, and I wanted to touch on a variety of methods while crafting a concise narrative. I was inspired by scientific narrative animations on YouTube, such as those from Kurzgesagt.




I decided to craft the narrative around a central point of intrigue: The unique visual traits of an underwater environment. Camouflaged animals hide against their background - so what if there's nothing substantial to hide against?

The narrative structure was then split up into four parts:

1) An introduction with familiar examples
2) Posing the question of intrigue
3) Answering the question with unique methods of camouflage
4) A conclusion with call-backs to book-end the piece


A major theme throughout the story, and one that guides the order of storytelling, is the descending water depth. The differing features and diminishing light levels mean that distinct camouflage methods are found at each depth range.

Given the audience, I was also careful to avoid complex sentence structures, or language that was too scientific without adequate explanation.




I created the storyboard in black and white, as light level was the main visual theme featured throughout the story.


In addition, I worked out another visual motif of the tall rectangle. In 'typical' environments, this would be used to separate the foreground, midground, and background, to show that animals can hide among many different features of their habitat. But in open water, the rectangle is used instead to show the light gradient in an 'ocean cube'. This introduces and reinforces the theme of descending depths throughout the animation, while emphasizing the idea that there are no discrete features to hide against in an open water environment.


The ocean cube is revisited multiple times as shots zoom in and out of certain segments along its gradient. In the end, it morphs into a circle to book-end the piece by matching with the titlecard, and this draws a parallel between terrestrial vs underwater camouflage.

Throughout the storyboard, I also planned to use interesting ways to reveal the camouflaged animals. For example, an underwater scene revealed to be seen through a transparent jellyfish as it floats forward into view. Or, that shot of the jellyfish revealed to be seen through the mirror-like scales of a fish.



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Before experimenting with colour, I recognized that one challenge would be the fact that underwater settings are very monochrome - especially when any animals are meant to blend in with this environment. I looked for a inspiration on colour palettes and treatments that would still produce visually interesting frames despite this challenge. 

In the end I decided on an emphasis on blues and pinks as a complementary palette. I took influence from Pikaole's work to learn how to add a variety of pleasing hues in a non-distracting way, as part of shading. I also looked to Danfango's dramatic lighting effects, and their method of shifting hues along different values of light and shadow. In my opinion, these artists' palettes were very fun, scenic, and approachable for a general audience.


For my shading style, I also took influence from

Ben Marriott's work. His use of grain textures adds a unique character to 2D animation that differentiates it from typical vector animations.



I decided to create most of my assets in raster, and use vector where necessary (e.g. big scale changes). This was to allow for more complex shading and a more efficient use of time for my purposes. I was careful to think about which animal body parts needed to be on different layers to be animated separately, and which appendages needed to be drawn straight to be animated with puppet pins. I created all assets against the backgrounds they would be seen with.

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