Thursday, 8 October 2015

Animation designers…'the day in the life of a researcher'

Guest post by Megan and Glen (TeamAlpha)

TeamAlpha (The alcohol team at Teesside University: Professor Dorothy Newbury-Birch, Dr Emma Giles, Dr Grant McGeechan, Dr Victoria McGowan, Gillian Waller, Lisa Anderson, Robert Sayer) were joined by two young people from local schools - Megan and Glen – who helped the team to develop the groundwork for an animation video. This video is part of the SIPS JR-HIGH trial, a multi-centre individual-randomised controlled trial of the effectiveness of brief alcohol intervention for 14-15 year olds in a school setting. This animation video is currently being developed to show to young people in the school setting, and will be used to provide advice on how to complete the questionnaire component of the trial. This animation replaces the need for individual researchers to enter all the schools in the trial to inform the young people about the study process.

In order to develop the animation Megan and Glen spent two days drawing storyboards, drafting scripts, searching for background music, and even thinking of examples of voices for the characters. This blog was drafted by Megan and Glen to highlight their thoughts on being a researcher and graphic designer for two days.

Day one

Brainstorming and initial storyboards were created as we worked hard all morning. We had a jolly start to the day and thought it was quite interesting and fast going, however more tiring than anticipated!

Individual tasks were completed as we both researched ideas for the animation, even though we had to overcome difficulties associated with having to think of our own ideas for the initial designs for the animation. We definitely thought it was more hands on than we thought it would be, given the number of tasks planned throughout the day. We developed character images and screen shots for the video and really liked the process of doing this.


We felt that we worked hard during the first day at the University but we really enjoyed ourselves. This is partly due to the fact that we’d both like graphic design careers, and so a ‘taster’ of the process was really helpful. We were busy most of the time throughout the day; this was tiring, but also stopped the boredom setting in. This project showcased our skills in graphic design and our use of technology that we have learnt from school. Our experience of drawing, researching pictures and mood board designs really impressed TeamAlpha. As the day went by we described our visit to TeamAlpha as interesting but “full on” given that we did a 9-4 job!

TeamAlpha was very welcoming and Dot (the Professor!) helped us with our ideas and team work. Emma also mentored us throughout the two days, helped guide our ideas, and helped us to showcase our skills as designers. Initially it was hard to build a rapport with each other, since we came from different schools, but by the end of the first day we worked as a duo much better.

Day two

The second day was more relaxing since we knew who we were working with in terms of TeamAlpha, and we were also getting used to each other. Additionally, the environment felt more relaxing since we had been there before; this helped us to interact better with each other and helped us to work on our tasks much more quickly. The day was very interesting, particularly when we found out what the animation script was – basically what each character says during each scene. We enjoyed editing this script to make it relevant for the target audience, which will be Year 10 students. It was good to see all of the different components coming together to become the animation.

Overall reflections

The two days were interesting for us both and I think our experience with TeamAlpha was brilliant. We thought the team were really cooperative and they communicated very well with each other – particularly during our ‘picnic’ lunches. We feel that the work that we created and produced on these two days will enhance our CVs and help inform the work that we will be doing in school and college next year. We were really surprised by the range of tasks that researchers undertake, and the amount of thought and research that has to go into making such a short (2 minute!) animation. We really feel that we have learnt the basics of research, working independently and as part of a team, and overall we really enjoyed being in such a creative environment. We’re really excited to see the finished animation later in the year, to see how our thoughts and work have helped shape the final video.


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