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Gravity Probe B

Testing Einstein's Universe

GP-B Mission News — Fall 2008

GP-B Animations Win 2008 Bronze Telly Award

NASA-MSFC/GP-B 2008 Telly Award Certificate for GP-B Animations
2008 Bronze Telly Award
Certificate for GP-B Animations

Late in 2006, as we began planning for our first interim GP-B results announcement at the American Physical Society (APS) meeting in April 2007, we realized that a completely new set of computer animations would be very useful to the press and media, as well as members of the GP-B team, in explaining selected scientific concepts and GP-B technological solutions to a public audience. The problem was that the GP-B team at Stanford did not include anyone with computer animation expertise. However, the staff at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC) in Huntsville, AL, (the NASA center managing GP-B) includes a group of professional animators—the UNITeS/Media Fusion animation group. Thus, in order to create these animations, GP-B Public Affairs Coordinator, Bob Kahn and theoretical physicist, James Overduin (author of the Spacetime Tab on this Web site) at Stanford, established a long-distance collaboration with animators Lee Kolb and Greg Trent at MSFC.

The project began with Kahn and Overduin developing a wish list of concepts to be animated. The list, which originally included 8-9 animation sequences, was prioritized and then, due to budget constraints, whittled down to six animation sequences. Working closely with Overduin, Kahn then created detailed storyboards that described both visually and verbally, a sequence of scenes for each animation. Once the storyboards for an animation sequence had been completed, Kahn and Overduin communicated with Kolb and Trent at MSFC using the Internet as a collaborative media for sharing visual concepts and speaker phones for communicating verbally. Kolb and Trent then created preliminary computer animation sequences based on the storyboards they had received from Stanford using state-of-the-art, LightWave 3D animation software from NewTek Corporation. At this point, the Stanford and MSFC team members began an iterative series of weekly telephone conference calls, during which all four participants reviewed and refined each animation sequence, in order to achieve a balance of interesting graphics, scientific and technical accuracy, and proper timing for the scenes within each sequence.

The three top priority animations were completed in time for the GP-B interim results announcement at the April 2007 APS meeting. The collaboration then continued for several more months to complete the remaining three animation sequences. While the storyboards included captions and subtitles for the scenes in each animation (which governed the timing of each scene), the final animations created by Kolb and Trent contained only the image sequences—that is, they contained no captions or subtitles. This was done to enable the animations to be used in situations where a conference presenter or news commentator would talk through the visuals, in which case subtitles could be distracting. However, for the versions displayed on this Web site, Kahn used video editing software to add captions and subtitles, as well as musical soundtracks.

Six GP-B Computer Animations—Winners of a 2008 Bronze Telly Award

 'Simple' Experiment Animation../Media/GP-B 'Simple' Experiment Animation
A “Simple” Experiment

Gravity in Newton’s Universe
Gravity in Newton’s Universe

Gravity in Einstein’s Universe
Gravity in Einstein’s Universe

Gravity in Einstein’s Universe
Measuring Spacetime Curvature
with Gyroscopes

Gravity in Einstein’s Universe
SQUID Magnetic Gyro Readout
Superconductivity, & the London

Gravity in Einstein’s Universe
The Drag-Free Satellite

Towards the end of 2007, Kolb and Trent decided to enter this series of animations in the 29th annual (2008) Telly Awards contest. As noted on the Telly awards Web site:

"The Telly Awards honor the very best local, regional, and cable television commercials and programs, as well as the finest video and film productions, and work created for the Web. Since 1978, our mission has been to strengthen the visual arts community by inspiring, promoting, and supporting creativity. The 28th Annual Telly Awards received over 14,000 entries from all 50 states and 5 continents."

The results of the 29th annual (2008) Telly Awards were recently posetd on the Web, and we are pleased to announce that the six GP-B animations won a Bronze Telly Award in the Film & Video category. A Telly statue, pictured above-right, is on display in the offices of the animation group at MSFC, and the team received a Telly Award Certificate.

You'll find all of these animations, along with a few others in the first section of our Media Gallery. In addition, thumbnail play buttons for these animations are strategically placed throughout this Web site. We hope you enjoy viewing them, and more important, we hope you find them helpful in explaining the GP-B experiment and some of its scientific and technical concepts.