Specious Spaces (Animation)

Specious Spaces completed in Design 6400 (Fall) is an animation that takes on the form of a title sequence to generate a poetic form of narration. Void of characters, this project utilizes light to contrast emotional points with childhood trauma as a result of child abuse. The big idea for this project was using contrasting visual elements such as lighting and imagery to examine the narrative of child trauma. The method of working was through a mix of storyboards, lighting, and forms, which was backed up and referenced to different VR, animation, film, and game styles. During this project, I expanded my understanding of scene lighting.


Since this project was completed in five weeks, I was interested in what it meant to create a brief narrative. I turned to a title sequence as broken down below because of its similarity to poetry and its ability to say an immense amount in few images. In the yellow box, it is what I was most interested in within the breakdown of a title sequence, specifically the symbolism through shadows, light directions, and limited colors to establish the emotion or themes of the greater narrative. This also being tools I would consider and learn later in the process.

In terms of precedents, I examined many title sequences across the genres that made the most sense for the narration I wish to exemplify through learning about color and light. From these, I took several things with me in the making process. The biggest being collage and the juxtaposition between a larger environment and smaller objects to give context to what it means in a narrative. You can see in the middle three, overlapping images.


The execution of this project being research through design. I approached it by taking my observations and ideas and merging them. Then examining works and breaking them down and reapplying. Finally, synthesizing them and going through iterations to see what best exemplifies my narrative and objectives.

Here I went through two versions of storyboards. The first one, there was a character present. It was removed as it did not help my objective. As a result, in the 2nd storyboard, I kept a lot of the objects for the symbolic nature and removed the character. I spent more time focusing on the juxtaposition between larger built environments and little objects that would give additional context to the larger images.

As I was building, I was constantly referring to references to guide me in lighting, but in terms of references for forms, moving towards a space of hybrid cultures I worked with integrating Korean settings with American ones.


During the iteration and building process, one of the things I quickly noticed besides lighting and color, which was my primary focus for driving emotion and story was the use of framing and the objects being used.

When examining the effectiveness of the form, I considered the color and the shape. You can see with the first one there is a stark difference compared to the second and third image. The first one felt cold. For me, I was trying to depict something that stirred up a happier association to childhood then build up to it. As a result, I switched to warmer colors. However, despite having a better feel, the framing and space felt like it could be played with more. This is when I got to the final space where I had kept the desk in a sea of desks. This for me meant I could establish a sense of multiple students, where as the first space while the background was filled with an object, it was focused on one student.

Lighting was primarily what I spent my time on. In the first images, they have the greatest difference in them. Volumetric light allowed me to start generating the nostalgic feel and instill an energy that wasn’t present in the others. Each version had small adjustments, like adding a single red area light to cleaning up the way the spotlight falls on the floor.

The goal for the project is that the viewer watching the animation is influenced by three things: the form of objects, color/lighting, and audio. When these three things come together, it generations emotions like nostalgia or curiosity or suspense. Also, if my synthesis of research is applied properly to objects that are grouped and isolated and brought into different context by a dramatic shift in color and lighting and aided by audio for immersion, it should generate a poetic narrative around the mental state of a child experiencing abuse.

Final Product…

Questions Raised…

  1. How to break down and apply horror film techniques by removing them from their traditional context and applying them in a nonconventional way to animation?
  2. What components are needed to increase immersion in 3D animated films to create an emotional connection between the viewer’s life and the one depicted in an animation?
  3. How contrasting and merging environments from realism to fantasy in animation can represent and create an understanding of the mental and emotional shift in a child’s life due to trauma?