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Uploaded:2016-08-25
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We interview the remarkable Vanessa Hill, creator of BrainCraft, a production of PBS Digital Studios, which explores psychology, neuroscience & why we act the way we do. And we challenge Vanessa to respond to our recent art assignment Conjure a Studio offered by Hope Ginsburg: http://youtu.be/_BCII40trPw.

And this week I'm featured in Braincraft's video, which you can watch here!: https://youtu.be/trAz4aBAc0k

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Sarah: Hey. We are here at the YouTube Space in LA. And I'm going to be chatting with Vanessa Hill of the amazing channel BrainCraft, which explores psychology, neuroscience, and human behavior.

Vanessa: So I did a bachelor's degree in science. And I majored in psychology. But I studied a lot of biology and neurobiology and also a lot of statistics-- years of statistics. I worked as an educator for a few years after that, and then I went back and did a master's of science communication at the Australian National University. So that was all about how to talk to people about science.

So I was running school holiday programs for kids, and about five years ago, we were doing a holiday [AUDIO OUT] geology or astronomy and things like that. And I really just wanted to do one on animatronics. So I kind of categorized it in a technology holiday program thing. And the kids built their own kind of robotic machines. And they built things out of clay and out of paper and things like that. And we created animation, as well. So that was the birth of my stop motion interest.

I guess as a finished product, stop motion doesn't look that different to other types of animation, whether that be normal, like, 2D or 3D animation. But I really like it, because I think it's accessible. Like, anybody who has an iPhone and a cheap, little GorillaPod and a certain kind of app can make a stop motion.

I would say start in your wardrobe. [LAUGHS] 'Cause I think that's a great space. But I think starting is interesting. Because something that is really important to stop motion is lighting. So having consistent light and having really, really good light so you don't cast a lot of shadows everywhere. And really, it took me about three years to get to a stage where I had the lights and I was happy with the lighting that I had.

So I think when I first started, sometimes I did it in the broad daylight. But I would have to do it over the same kind of one-hour period so the light didn't change too much. And I started with little lamps from Ikea that I would put on either ends. And now I have these big LED light panels and things. So it's tough when you're first starting out. Because you would have to-- and I say this as something I've done and also as a piece of advice-- go around your house and collect every lamp that you have, preferably ones with shades so you can diffuse the light a little bit onto the surface you're working with. And I would do it, as I said, either in a wardrobe, because it's dark, but you could just do it on a table and draw the curtains and put lights all around your workspace.

And then you do need a tripod. So you would probably try and put the tripod as upside down as possible. Or if you're shooting it front-on or something that's more 3D, you could put the tripod there and make sure you have fantastic lighting.

Hope Ginsburg: Your assignment is to conjure a studio. That can be a real space that you make-- like the inside of a drawer or the surface of your desk-- a closet, or maybe a building. It can be a real space that you would love to make, but for now will need to make with a drawing or a collage.

It can also be an imaginary space. Is your perfect world studio underwater or on another planet? In that case, you'll most likely need to draw it or render it or mock it up as a model.

Vanessa: My current workspace is, I would say, the finest reiteration of my workspace that has ever happened in my career. So when I first starting doing stop motion animations, they were in the corner of my bedroom on a desk. I do travel a fair bit. So they have been in hotel rooms. They have been in closets. They've been in lots of different areas. They've been in my dining room table, in different apartments and things.

Now I'm lucky enough to have a second bedroom. So I have a whole bedroom that I can dedicate to my desk and my computer and a bit of a studio space. And I have a full wardrobe that is just bursting with paper and craft equipment and things like that. So I feel very settled in the space that I'm in right now.

It's Funny for me, because I do have at the moment a huge window. And it looks out onto some trees and a valley. It's a beautiful view, except when you do animation, you want it to be completely black.

So I bought a very intricate set of curtains to black out this entire beautiful view. And I also get this really bad glare off my computer screen from the big window, as well. So sometimes I feel like I would just want to be in a basement somewhere.

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