infofails

Doodles for news

August 2021 saw a tsunami of stories from Afghanistan in the news. Apart from a bunch of small graphics, I participated with Chaos in Kabul and Flights over Kabul both stories related to the Afghan skies and the complex situation lived there after the US troops withdraw. At Reuters, we did a good long list of potential stories, even I did a few kickoffs of some, but a packed agenda of long term projects for this year left most of them out.

Boeing Chinook CH-47, Mi171E, Sikorsky UH-60, Black Hawk, Boeing AH-64 Apache
illos published at the story “flights over Kabul” Aug. 2021 | Reuters graphics.
Globemaster III

Have you ever felt that you need a few copies of your self to materialise all the stuff in your mind? no? well maybe just me weirdo but I do. I would have loved to have some copies of me working on a few more stories from Afghanistan to get them in time to publish back then.

Those aircraft illos above are from stories that do made it, but you know I love to share pieces from under the rug, so… here you go:

US Humvee vehicle
D30 Howitzer illustration

For a day or two my desktop was full of guns blueprints, aircraft dossiers, technical documents of military equipment, tons of field photographs from our news feed, news articles… The home screen of photoshop and illustrator slowly turned red.

I usually start these things in photoshop, drawing outlines, then a base colour layer, a layer shadows and one more of lights on top. All always to scale and 2.5x the size I’ll need in the final version.

MD530
M16 illustration

The cool stuff related to my job. ❤

The night vision googles were my favourites, weird device actually. I learn some of them are like a video game with this cool display of augmented reality. The visuals looks really nice, check this story from The Washington Post [ here ] or just google “US army augmented reality night vision goggles” you will see.

BNVD googles

I love to learn new things, that’s one of the best things of my job actually. You never know what’s waiting for you tomorrow, what new curiosities are waiting there for you. And even if they don’t get published for sure you will learn something new.

Guns illustration. M9, G19 pistols. M4, M16, Dragunov rifles. RPK7, M249, M240, NSV12 machine guns. Mortar

The grey area of working in news

Beyond the research for the illustrations and the drawing itself, I made some maps and videos on a demo page with the proposal. Maybe all of this was pointing too high in the little time we had at the time since all the rest of the work has to be considered to complete the story.

Sometimes news are a bit cruel, you must do everything quickly before it’s no longer news. The tricky part of it is that most of us in this industry think quickly of the same things. It’s like a race against the clock, so, unless you can distinguish your story from others that have been already published, things are doomed, and may end here on my blog… which is fine, but of course it’s a sad thing to bring potential stories to the graveyard.

Humvee, Ford ranger, M113A2, MRAP vehicles.
Hercules C130, Mi17 Helicopter, MD530 Helicopter, A29 Tucano, C208

The summary of this failed idea contains a fair amount of learning, a lot of cool nerd stuff is on my head now. Although unfortunately none of this was published, it was not a complete waste of time either as I did not work on this exclusively. There are many other interesting things in the pipeline, some almost done, so enthusiasm always remains high.

About #infofails post series:
Graphics that are never formally published. Those are maybe tons of versions of a single graphic or some floating concepts and ideas, all part of my creative process. All wrapped up in #infofails, a compilation of my creative process and failures at work.

Did you like #infofails?
Have a look to other #infofails 👇

1: Wildfires
2: Plastic bottles
3: Hong Kong protest
4: The Everest
5: Amazon gold
6: The world on fire
7: A busy 2021 kick off
8: Olympics
9: Floods

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🎵 I can see clearly now the rain is gone…

Last July was a crazy month full of flood news all over the world. I remember seeing impressive videos and images of the floods in China and Germany, and digging a little deeper I found many more reports about it from around the world. I tried to put some things together, but time and other projects played a trick and the project became material for #infofails.

Some times taking notes of things isn’t enough for me. One or two illustrator artboards with basic ideas have become the new “office whiteboard sessions” since we started remote work. Quick sketches and some data samples usually help me to organize myself better.

Sampling flood reports and daily precipitation data.

I collected some data from NASA including the PPS and MERRA-2 to visualize precipitation. It was so cool when I saw the data of total rainfall in a month over the planet. Is curious to see how dynamic our planet is isn’t?

July’s total precipitation. Data by NASA’s Precipitation Processing System (PPS)

Whenever I have a global data set, I always look at how things are for my family and friends in Costa Rica. I remember that in July I had seen videos of flooded areas in Turrialba, a region in the Atlantic region of the country. And yes, the accumulated data showed that intense blue layer near the border with Panama.

Detail of the precipitation data. NASA PPS.

Of course, there were other much worse areas that saw terrifying amounts of precipitation causing dozens of deaths, western India for example was one of those areas. I continued to explore a bit more on the map and checking against the flood reports I found to find points of interest and to highlight later in the story.

Detail of the precipitation data. NASA PPS.

The testing continued

One aspect to consider was how to visualize the data in the end. There was even a 3D spinning globe in the process… As you can imagine it was chaos displaying flood reports, animated rain data, and 3D navigation all at the same time.

However, one of my favourite pieces was not the maps. There were some small graphics to condense powerful messages had something interesting too. Within them was this simple stacked bar chart where each block showed the total precipitation each month in Zhengzhou, just by putting the amount of water they received on July 20 next to it was really impressive. This is real evidence of how extreme our planet’s climate is becoming.

BTW, there’s also a great graphic from the South China Morning Post friends explaining the huge amount of water that Zhengzhou received over the downpours [ check that story here ]

Extremes

A few years ago I was working on a graphic about extreme temperatures of the earth, it was happening the 2019 polar vortex in the US and at the same time Australia was on 40° C on the other side. In my head, the perfect title was “Earth’s Goldilocks Climate.” It sounds crazy but it is actually very common, our planet is full of those strange contrasts all the time.

In July China was having its own ‘goldilocks’ event, or kind of, because wasn’t temperature. As enormous amount of water flooded train stations and caused chaos in Henan, south of there a nine-month drought hit Fujian province.

July total precipitation in China. Data by NASA PPS

Similar situations occurred in the Middle East, in Afghanistan a long drought was worsening the already difficult situation of the Afghans. Ironically, extreme rains in the border areas also caused flash flooding, while the country as a whole has not seen any rain for months.

July total precipitation in the Middle East. Data by NASA PPS

NASA’s MODIS/Terra offers also daily and monthly averages of surface temperature. This was some other stuff I was considering for this story. It’s incredible to see how high the temperatures go in the region. There’s also an other cool data set of monthly temp. anomalies here in case you want to explore the world too.

Temperature anomaly for Feb. 2021. Red areas show were the temp. was higher in comparison with the averages of 10 years ago. Afghanistan was about 12C warmer in average according to NASA Earth Observations data. LPDAAC and MODIS.

Anyway, none of these charts, maps or data made it into a true story on Reuters, but it was fun collecting, preparing and sketching ideas for it. And of course, in the end it became an average #infofails story here. Maybe later we will take back again this story, unfortunately extreme weather events are becoming more and more frequent

About #infofails post series:
Graphics that are never formally published. Those are maybe tons of versions of a single graphic or some floating concepts and ideas, all part of my creative process. All wrapped up in #infofails, a compilation of my creative process and failures at work.

Did you like #infofails?
Have a look to other #infofails 👇

1: Wildfires
2: Plastic bottles
3: Hong Kong protest
4: The Everest
5: Amazon gold
6: The world on fire
7: A busy 2021 kick off
8:Olympics

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Olympic #infofails

If you’ve seen my #infofails before, you might already know that it’s about the things I create for news and some of the mess in between. Here’s the link [ The Forgotten Olympic Events ] of the project related to this post if you want to have a look first and then come back here to get a better sense of what’s this about.

It’s a bit strange to say that we are about to see the start of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics in the summer of 2021 (if Covid-19 allows the games to go on anyway) but whatever the case, this is one of the most popular events in the world and we couldn’t let it go without a special story.

The idea of doing a story on unusual sports came first in April from my editor Simon Scarr. Later, I started reading old Olympics reports, books and websites to get good references of events that seem a bit unusual in a list of sports/discipline/events from the International Olympic Committee.

Some of the reports and books consulted for the project.

Once we had a good list of curiosities, I started doing some tests for the illustration style. It is not usual to find a solution quickly as I like to try alternatives. However on this particular project the style quickly established, and a few days later I had a lot of illustrations with many of those sporting events to display in the opening of each section.

Top images are part of the concept illustrations, I choose to go with colour as in the top right. The 2 bottom images are part of events the were left out of the story.

I can say that part was relatively easy, the difficult thing was to obtain visual references of the events where you could see how things were prepared for each event, or at least, a detailed written description. I probably spent more time looking for those things rather than writing or sketching.

A reference of the firing range setup for the running deer shooting event
A detail of the rifle shooting section in the project

This project lasted about three months, however I didn’t dedicate myself exclusively to it, but I did spend a few days here and there trying to obtain reliable sources that would explain these singular Olympic events and their rules.

Some references were harder to find than others. For example, the way of placing the wooden birds for the archery events was one of those difficult ones.

I did a drawing of Hubert Van Innis, an Olympic archer who won six medals in the 1900 and 1920 games, but then I found mixed references on how arrows were shoot in the moving bird events, probably my illustration had the wrong pose. I think that’s part of the process, many times I corroborate the references and sources and all makes sense, then something else comes along and the piece becomes a wrong interpretation. So it’s important to check not once but as many times as you can.

Cherry picking

Apart from little difficulties like that one of the moving bird event in archery, the main problem turned out to be too many nice things. It was necessary to take a decision to prevent a never ending story so we took off some events in the list giving priority to the ones with good references and “colourful facts”.

Some events sound very interesting by name, so we chose them for the first list of curious possibilities. A good example of this is the two-handed discus throw, digging a bit further I found that it wasn’t a very creative way of holding the record with both hands as it sounds, but two discus throws, first using the left hand and then the right hand… 😦

Some of the events that I considered within the initial list of Olympic curiosities, but that didn’t make it to the final version. Among them, a 12-hour bike race and army pistol shooting.

It was a very fun story to do, a really enjoyed to read the reports and references. I filled out my mind for a few days of images of how the people saw the games and how different are today.

Here’s a crazy collage with some of the drawings of the project.

collage
Some of the drawings of the project.

A funny project that looks like a huge illustration, but in fact, it has a lot of data behind, a lot of text/data documents, hundreds of old pictures and references of poses developed in 3D. One nice tool that help me a lot to create diverse poses was Magic Poser, this is open web-based 3D environment where you can set a model to any position you need. Here’s the link in case you get in trouble with anatomy or just need some help with pose models.

The folder with the production files of this project. I usually only have 4 or 5 projects on my computer. I guess otherwise it might not move at all 😆

About #infofails post series:
Graphics that are never formally published. Those are maybe tons of versions of a single graphic or some floating concepts and ideas, all part of my creative process. All wrapped up in #infofails, a compilation of my creative process and failures at work.

Did you like #infofails?
Have a look to other #infofails 👇

1: Wildfires
2: Plastic bottles
3: Hong Kong protest
4: The Everest
5: Amazon gold

6: The world on fire
7: A busy 2021 kick off

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#Infofails: the world on fire

2020 kicked off with record-breaking wildfires in Australia, the hatching a global pandemic, and later the a new wildfires season turning into ashes thousands of sqkm of the U.S. West Coast, then Trump again… you know all that right?

In the middle of all that craziness, we were juggling to cover the events with visual stories. As usual, I did a little more than necessary in order to explore and get details relevant to our stories… and well, not all of them worked out…

Where there is fire, there is smoke

Some events on our planet reach sufficient dimensions to be easily seen from space, wildfires are one of them.

Mercator projected snapshot of organic carbon data on September 16th, 2020. Data from NASA-GMAO

I had work with GMAO data many times before, it’s a good source to see a model of aerosols and other specific data on a large scale, works very well for continental areas, not too much for a closer zoom like country level.

Anyway, the idea of this. visualisation was very clear, it was about to show the large dimension of the smoke caused by the wildfires in the US. West Coast.

One by one in QGIS, I did a series of renderings like the one shown above with data between June and mid-September (around 100 days), which is probably not too much, but the data is collected every 3 hours so I manually processed about 400 files to get a smooth animation.

Animation test v1.

To get control of the style without coming again to QGIS, I did the series of data only, a layer with the country borders, a layer with labels and so on… I also did one version with the same idea but in a globe.

Style test. v4.

I often try different versions of my graphics, On my team here at Reuters, we often joke that until we get to the twentieth version we won’t be close to finishing … Although in some cases that joke does come true.

The final version ended up looking a bit different. I controlled the final style in Illustrator, Photoshop and After Effects.

Final version. ( v.11 )

There are many more pieces in that story, including a really cool cutaway of the smoke made by my teammate Manas Sharma with data from NASA’s Calipso mission. You can have a look to the full story here: https://tmsnrt.rs/3nkkOkX.

But the wildfires continued to break historical records and turning the city’s skies orange-red. There were many other stories on that tragedy waiting to be told, even though the stories of the covid-19 did not stop harassing us either.

An aircraft swarm

OV-10 “Bronco” sketch test for the Cal Fire aircraft story.

Air attack was one of those stories we worked on in the middle of this year, the main idea was to show the impressive deployment and coordination of planes to deal with the fires in California. Just doing the planes was very enthusiastic, the main issue was how to pick the right ones.

Cal-Fire has on hand an extensive fleet of planes, tankers and helicopters, some in heavy operation, others less so. However, the flight and route logs from FlightRadar24 gave us an outlet to filter the aircraft.

Cal Fire aircraft sketches for the story.

You may have noticed some airplanes in the image above that aren’t in the final story. The AT-802A were used to guide tankers in the old days, they are probably still in use elsewhere, I think you can see them in the Pixar movie “Planes”.

That was one of the “unnecessary resources” that I created, thinking that it might have been nice to show how things have evolved over the years, but it was not the case. You can read the story through the following link: https://tmsnrt.rs/2Iy2K7W

Wine and ashes

There’s one thing you should know about me: I love wine.

I usually work colour at the end. More versions to test and try keeping outlines or light-shadows intact.

Most of the stories I’ve made in the last year or two are sad, some about environmental disasters, people in danger, dying, or losing everything.

Like many, this story came with some mixed feelings. I think it was the first time that I had the opportunity to do something about wine, and it involved the destruction of hundreds of vineyards.

Although I really enjoy to do reporting, create a map, draw a diagram, or write a story draft, those same stories always bring me a strange mix of joy in doing my job and the sadness of understanding the dimensions of a problem or event. I’m not complaining, I keep my job at the office, but it’s curious I guess.

You can have a look to the wine story here: https://tmsnrt.rs/3eZnWQ9

There’s no time enough in the world

Not matter how much time I can have, there’s always one more thing I’ll like to explore. Nice thing is you can save the idea in the bucket for next time. And the fires coverage wasn’t an exception.

Screenshot of the VIRS brightness data over California. Night time Aug. 03, 2020.

Around mid year, I was exploring at VIIRS/NPP data, this data contains 26 data sets including radiance sensors, shortwave IR radiance, earth’s brightness and temperatures etc.

That data can give you a daily quick look of lights and temperatures of the planet’s surface, of course if clouds play nice and go away from your interest area.

After downloading the data for a few days in the area, I noticed some bright areas that turned on and off depending on the day, probably fires that were seen burning from space at night.

The lights were so intense that you can easily mistake them for city lights. Check the white circles bellow:


About #infofails post series:
I keep my beta graphics, those that never go public… Maybe they are tons of versions of a graphic or just a few concepts, part of my creative process. So, where all those things go? well, ends-up in #infofails –a collection of my fails at work.

Did you like #infofails?
Have a look to other #infofails Chapters here:

1: Wildfires
2: Plastic bottles
3: Hong Kong protest
4: The Everest
5: Amazon gold

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#Infofails: Chapter 05, gold rush

I just realised that last time I did one of this chapters was last year, woow. My original idea was for me to publish one of these every three or four weeks … but reality has slapped me in the face: I don’t have time enough between projects.

Anyway, let’s talk about fails then.

That image at the top of this post is a QGIS render of the Amazon Basin made with data from Hydrosheds. It is part of the geographic data from my latest project on Reuters. But you may have never saw that thing anywhere in the project, unless not like that.

The Amazon Gold Project have a mix of styles including 3D, traditional sketching, vector works…

The 3D stage

I did some early versions of the maps using layers rendered in QGIS, a layer for terrain, base colour areas, borders, rivers etc. Then I re-pack all in Cinema 4D to create some side illumination.

Cycles C4D
Terrain layer test imported from QGIS, then rendered alone in C4D / Cycles

The idea was to try some alternative maps, at the end some illustrator labels and the dummy look something like this:

Map dummy with false text annotations

The 3D above was just a quick exercise while I was looking for styles. A bunch of images later, the things turned into flat images

And then to flat vector, probably taking out stuff from the map from crowded to cleaner to whatever…

Maybe I went too far because I really like how this was looking in outlines preview… someone should stop me at that time!

And it happened, in the end I went on to make other pieces putting pieces together on the page, bits of code, illustrations, etc.

If you already saw this project, you know that it has some illustrations, pieces that explain how illegal miners extract gold and contaminate rivers and destroy forests in the process.

Meanwhile I was also processing some satellite images, adding labels and looking for evidence of the miners from the space, then I saw some websites talking about the situation in Peru, so I look up the area in Sentinel and wooow!

I stumbled upon this place near the Peru-Brazil-Bolivia, border. Kilometres and Kilometres of devastation by the gold miners, a strip of more than 30km into the forest and actually I saw it for first time in false color, in near infrared, so the image was shocking to me.

Madre de Dios mining pits. Sentinel Hub, false color, near infrared.
Madre de Dios mining pit. Sentinel Hub, false color, near infrared.

Later we move to true color, trying to match the other satellite images that we had chosen earlier for this project, but still you have the feeling of the immensity of the destruction of these sites. I think that images have an immense power to present the damage dimension

5-6 km long section of mining pits at Madre de Dios. (Sentinel Hub, True color)
Sentinel Hub, true color.
Sentinel Hub, true color.

So, I’ll say, fails in here, YES, well I spend a lot of time looking for alternative styles, experimentation is nice I collected a lot of information, but maybe I went too far styling place holders… Anyway I enjoy a lot this project, but and I’m more than happy that is already over.

About #infofails post series:
I keep my beta graphics, those that never go public… Maybe they are tons of versions of a graphic or just a few concepts, part of my creative process. So, where all those things go? well, ends-up in #infofails –a collection of my fails at work.

Did you like #infofails?
Have a look to other #infofails Chapters here:

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The last chapter of #infofails… [of 2019]

About #infofails post series: I have a lot of beta graphics that never go public, it can be tons of versions of a graphic or just a few concepts as part of my creative process. So, where all those things go? well, ends-up in #infofails –a collection of my fails at work.

This 2019 is almost gone, big media is doing their “year in graphics” collections, meanwhile I’m in the rush hour trying to fit one more graphic in this year. I’m looking back trough this year, and it has been a crazy one; many unexpected things and lots of changes for me. That’s the case of this project I want to share with you, is one of those unexpected results, or un-result to be accurate.

himalayas

Death rates at the Himalayas peaks

The Mount Everest project (screengrab above) started as a great opportunity for a data narrative, the story behind was the bloom in the climbers amount, many times resulting deathly for them; the whole team was doing pieces to get this story online, if you didn’t saw it, here’s the final result of the project: CLICK HERE. Have a look first, then come back to this story for a better context.

 

 

The fail story

My fails begun when I was trying to get an accurate model of the mountain, I first tried doing some elevation curves map, like the one on top of this entry. The main problem here was to get a good resolution, I was taking as base a 90m DEM produced by NASA, the files are great and works most of the times, but not to the level of detail I was looking for.

himalayas.jpg

90m DEM by SRTM/NASA. This was the starting point.

 

This thing works for a general overview of the whole mountain system of the Himalayas. To me, it was look in a good shape. By exaggerating the elevation, the idea was to add a color range or some other texture to visualize the heights, so then point out the mountains other than the Everest were the climbers usually go.

elevation profile.jpg

Version #1 Himalayas peaks

You maybe noticed that usually I do 1-5 versions of the images to try different ideas, in this case, I didn’t went any further because in the middle of the production some other projects came in. Fortunately my teammates got some other ideas, they took the project from this stage forward. I just jumped in again at the end to collaborate with the finishing touches and adjustments, so I can’t take any credit.

But going back to my fails, I did a few more pieces before the no return point in this project, one of them, a preview of the contours growing-up:

elevation.gif

Everest and surroundings, model based in 90m data by SRTM/NASA.

Also I try some more realistic look using a 30M DEM from the Shuttle Radar Topography Mission. That one was looking better, but I was already out of time:

crop06_0090.jpg

C4D textured model based on 30m DEM data by SRTM/NASA

basic_gshade.pn

Basic shading. C4D model based in 30m DEM by SRTM/NASA

wiref_01

Color ramp by height, Himalayas system. C4D model based in 30m DEM by SRTM/NASA

wiref_04

Mount Everest close-up. C4D model based in 30m DEM by SRTM/NASA

There was also an other idea to show in this graphic. I was thinking that maybe will be nice to show the equipment that modern climbers uses today in comparison with the equipment of explorers from 60 yeas ago when the mountains were the final frontiers of the unknown. Is incredible that teams went there with heavy and basic equipment and yet make it to the mountain (with great help from the Sherpas of course).

50s_sketch.jpg

Climbers equipment detail. Based in documentation of the British expedition of 1950.

Not sure if this graphic of comparisons will be published or not, so I’ll upload just a tiny little part without information or details, but who knows, you maybe see it next year either at Reuters website, or here as another of my fails for your entertainment haha.

It has been a pleasure to have your comments and readings this year, I hope we will read each other soon.

Happy holidays!

________
Did you like #infofails?
Have a look to other #infofails Chapters here:

–Chapter One
–Chapter Two
–Chapter Three 

Stay tuned for the next chapter in 2020! 🥳

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Violence in Hong Kong // chapter 03 #infofails

About #infofails post series:

I have a lot of beta graphics that never go public, it can be tons of versions of a graphic or just a few concepts as part of my creative process. So, where all those things go?  well, ends-up in #infofails –a collection of my fails at work.

This time I’ll like to share a little bit of the backstage of the Hong Kong raising violence project. If you haven’t seen it yet, Have a look here first and come back to the article later to get a better context of this:

https://reut.rs/2qbMZdi

This year in the Asia Pacific region, one of the strongest topics of every day in the news is the protest in Hong Kong. Every newsroom here has been doing a lot of related work to the situation, and only seems to be worse and worse through the time.

sample

Screenshot of the section dedicated to the use of tear gas by the Hong Kong Police.

We spend a lot of time checking the information with the Police press releases and many different sources just to get simple charts to show/prove if the violence is increasing or not. I guess we spend more time taking care of little details rather than doing the visual display of the piece. That’s one of the best things I can highlight on the Reuters graphics team.

Police_gun_01_VZ

Concepts for the Police equipment display

social_02

Final version show in the story

It’s funny how this year I been doing so many illustrations for projects. I don’t see myself as an artist. In fact, I feel sorrow about my sketches because the quality of my drawings is not good enough, in part because I have friends with huge skills like Adolfo Arranz and  Daniel Solano but, talking about graphics, I feel that I should try things outside my comfort zone, no matter if it’s a 3D tool, hand made sketches, vector graphics or the result a few lines of code… It is an endless search for new ways to effectively communicate our stories.

The following concept of a graphic about the water cannon truck of Hong Kong Police is a piece I started for this project. The issue here was that the story was getting longer and longer, so, the editor decided to drop out the graphic. I always keep a folder with every version, sources and other related material, because you never know if you will need something of that later.

large

Large desktop version // ai2html L artboard

md

medium version // ai2html MD artboard

sm

devices version // ai2html SM artboard

xs

Small devices version // ai2html XS artboard

Finally, we use that same illustration in a launcher, with some minor adjustments in the amount of water released by the cannon. That’s the image at the top of this publication, on the right the original illustration, and on the left, the edited version for banners.

Something else in this project with a lot of versions was the opening illustration, just a few of the was about color, I have clear that color must match with the bar charts in the story, but anyway I like to give a try to some variations, that helps sometimes to go back a do little retouches to the final piece.

opening_versions.jpg

Opening color variations.

The most complicated thing to solve was smoke. It really asked me a lot to achieve the effects indicated there. We were looking for a subtle effect, otherwise will go as plain static cover image (which also was good) but I like to complicate my self for some reason:

 

social_03.gif

Opening loop, final version. (v14)

opening_v14

Version 13

opening_v7 copy.gif

Version 7.2

I like to think that little visual details make a big difference in the final product. So it’s fine if I spend a little more of time doing some variations and taking care of my stuff, even I do that in my time off. Literally, I can’t sleep if I haven’t solved an issue with a graphic… I know, I have a problem hahaha.

 

 

________
Did you like #infofails?
Have a look to other #infofails Chapters here:

Chapter One
Chapter Two

And Stay tuned for the next chapter 🙂

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#infofails chapter 02 (plastic bottles)

 

About #infofails post series:

I have a lot of beta graphics versions that never goes public. I do two or three versions of a graphic, sometimes just a concept as part of the creation process to get a better solution. Where all that material goes?  well, ends-up in #infofails, a collection of my work fails.

This time I’ll like to share a little bit of the backstage of the plastic bottles project published a few days ago. If you haven’t seen it yet, Have a look here: https://tmsnrt.rs/2PDRvhd

The opening of this project is a short video of plastic bottles covering a garbage truck and a standing guy. To get that piece I did a few testing versions, all together neede almost 400 hours of rendering including the final piece.

demo_192

Early attempt. The bottles just run away from the pile because of the friction and mass assigned

Just to keep a sense of scale I did also a few graphics for my self to be sure that all the calculations were correct and also to get a sense of what I was doing. But after talking with some experts and friends the numbers needed to be adjusted.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

One of the thing that helps me a lot was a plug-in for Cinema 4D from Cesar Vonoc. I was chatting with my bosses about how difficult it was to calculate the volume of organic objects in C4D, for the next day they had found this tool that literally gives me the chance to make organic shapes and keep the accuracy needed too. Thanks Matthew and Simon.

Here some ugly early testing drooping bottles and making piles:

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Technical part for nerds

My first idea on Cinema 4D was to use an object cloner to create 1 million of copies of my original bottle, then adding dynamics to them let them fall in a cascade, testing with a few objects was ok, but then I wasn’t able to load more than half-million before the computer crashes so for big fail…

1m_EMTT_0286

Particle emitter demo using 310,000 bottles

demo_0267

Render testing. The computer failed to render on the frame 267 of 1500

clons_160k_055

Cloner version, the computer crashed rendering any over 170,000 clones

Even using a very simple geometry for the bottles, my laptop wasn’t powerful enough to manage my crazy request, after I removed the fancy texture of each bottle it moved a little better, but not enough to reach 1 million of copies.

I solved the issue using a particle emitter for the 1 million objects during a little more than a minute, using a basic material to add textures and effects in after effects later, even with all these adjustments to the process the render took over one week to be completed. Lucky me my laptop is still alive!

clons

Demo to show the number of plastic bottles sold every second.

Them some pile shapes and concepts of how it will look at the end. I was adjusting the behavior of the particles, some adjustments in the textures, lights, camera position… many aspects to present a nicer view of this to the readers

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While the production continued, I did a second version of the website controlling the zoom of a giant render by scrolling the camera passing from the smaller pile of 1 second to the final visualization of 10 years. But the images were too big and the quality not good enough.

 

I have to say that this time I did around 22 versions of every single graphic, looking for the right elements, proportions… Every time I had a new version, we had a chat at the team to point out things that could be improved. Some just change shape, but others like the NYC model also change concepts.

v17_static_NYC

Testing textures for a plastic bottle pile over Manhattan.

static_NYC_v11

Testing textures for a plastic bottle pile over Manhattan.

tenYears_layer

An alternative version of the graphic using all the bottles spread out over Manhattan

v19_static_NYC

An alternative version to visualize the bottles sold over the last 10 years

v18_static_NYC

Uniform extension of the bottles sold over the last 10 years over Manhattan

city.png

A cutaway version to get a sense a deep

I did also an attempt to make all of the pieces in the same “3D look”, but at the time I was doing the information more confusing, finally, we just drop the idea and stay stuck to the original Sankey chart show what happened with the plastic created over the last 65 years

fate_v2

The fate of all plastic. Version 3.

This was an extremely interesting project, I experimented a lot with different things but maybe the time to verify each of the countless versions and polish the results really made the difference at the end. Thanks to my bosses Simon Scarr and Mathew Weber and my colleagues Manas Sharma and Alex Richardson who also contributed a lot to launch this project in good shape.

If you want to see the finished project and some other graphics, here is the link to the special feature on Reuters:
https://tmsnrt.rs/2PDRvhd

Or have a look to #infofails Chapter one:
https://mhinfographics.com/2019/09/03/infofails-chapter-01-pilot/

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Digital works, infofails

#infofails chapter 01 (pilot)

I have a lot of beta graphics versions that never goes public. I do two or three versions of a graphic, sometimes just a concept as part of the creation process to get a better solution. So, I want to start a new series of #infofails with all that material. Someone once said:

nobody learns from the mistakes of someone else

Of course, this is a statement to make your own mistakes but is sooo funny to see how someone else fails too 😁  so here my fails at work:

My first entry on #infofails is about this project we run a few days ago about the wildfires near the Arctic.

Map_Aug5

Wildfires project. 3D wold map or aerosol. Version 01

The map above is a Cinema 4D render, it was made based on NASA data of aerosol, basically, I took the GeoTIFF provided by NASA and using the hair module I create using that reference. Basically, each of the pillars in the map is hair:

c4d.png

Cinema 4D, hair map by July 24, 2019. Based on NASA’s aerosol data.

mod_24jul_elevation.jpg

Screenshot of the Geotiff of July 24. This determinated how high and where the pillar will rise.

My first idea on this project was to show the readers how the fires boosted up the aerosol levels and how it spread out around the world. the first version you saw on top was an attempt to show a little of that story. Later I move on an animated version of the map, as you saw bellow.

 

Map_Jul24

Wildfires project. 3D wold map or aerosol. Version 01.2

I was very happy with the look, but then I try to explain the map to the people and no one got it right. Also when you add “NASA data”, “3D model” and interactive in the same sentence things tend to become harder to explain in a quick and easy way.

I think the best feedback I get in the testing versions was that the earth map was too difficult to recognize. So I did some other versions.

aerosol_ed_14.gif

Wildfires project. 3D wold map or aerosol. Version 02

Then I got the idea to change the data, thinking that carbon monoxide maybe will be something more familiar, easier to explain and communicate.  So another version using different data come-up.

carbon-crop-map.gif

Wildfires project. 3D wold map or carbon monoxide. Version 02

 

carbon-md-ago8

But doing this I returned back to the main issue of the map, how to explain this map, the data and the main story here… too much to do it effectively.

I think this time I was trying to show something different and a little attached to use this technique. On top of that, I was working with dense data trying to say hey look here, near Siberia, see how crazy it goes but most of the people stay only trying to figure out the map…

final.png

Final version. Carbon data polar projection.

I end up using a polar projection on a regular map to tell my story. The map above is a frame of the animation, then I separate 3 key points at the bottom with little comments. I think now the story is clearer. I have to say that my editors made good points when they had a look into this project.

If you want to see full project and some other graphics, here is the link to the special feature on Reuters:
https://tmsnrt.rs/2PCvoYD

Stay tuned for the next #infofails

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