Animating the Creation of Iceland

By Michelle Cyca

Posted on August 21, 2018 | Updated August 06, 2019, 9:07AM

Student Alisha Steinberger has made a short film that brings art and science together.

There aren’t many animation students who can say their work has been presented at an international geophysics conference, but Alisha Steinberger is one of them.

The Animation major, who will enter her fourth year in September, created an animated short film about Iceland in partnership with her geophysicist father, Dr. Bernhard Steinberger, who lives and works in Germany. Dr. Steinberger contributed the research and scientific information, and Alisha animated it.

Geophysics is the study of Earth’s physical properties – things you probably learned about in science class, like tectonic plates and magnetic fields, as well as their effects, like volcanos and earthquakes.

It’s a complex natural science; Dr. Steinberger’s publications have titles like Variable Melt Production Rate of the Kerguelen HotSpot Due to Long-Term Plume-Ridge Interaction. But Alisha and her father were determined to make something engaging and accessible, that brought art and science together in an educational, entertaining package.

Alisha wanted to make a project that she could collaborate on with her father, as a way of thanking him for supporting her education. They began brainstorming project ideas in December, and came up with the idea of making an animated short based on his current research into Iceland.

“We started storyboarding the visuals over Christmas and breaking down how the film would work – what we wanted for the introduction, the middle, the ending,” explains Alisha, “And then we wrote the script for it. I’m not a scientist, and he’s not an artist, so we had to find a way to break it down.”

The film explores what makes Iceland’s natural geography so unique, thanks to the influence of a geothermal hotspot at the mid-Atlantic ridge. Don’t know what that means? Don’t worry – you will after watching it.

A Film about the Creation of Iceland

Creative talents can be found in every corner of Emily Carr – even in the HR offices, where Alisha found her narrator in HR Advisor Benita Ceresney. “In animation, we usually use audio from movies or soundtracks. We don’t usually find our own voice actors until our fourth year, so I was a little stuck,” Alisha says, “I asked my professor Martin Rose, and he suggested a lot of people, but then I met with Benita and knew she was perfect.”

Alisha animated the backgrounds, then recorded the audio with Benita before creating the foreground elements. This process allowed her to adjust her animation to complement the audio. “It’s all digital,” Alisha says, “But I wanted to make it look more homemade, so I added the paper texture.”

She has shared the film on YouTube, where it's garnering positive comments from viewers. She also got the stamp of approval from the scientific community, after Dr. Steinberger shared the film with his colleagues in Norway and Germany.

Alisha is grateful to Emily Carr for helping her develop the skills to create films like this one, and particularly to faculty members like Martin Rose for encouraging her work. “The instructors are amazing and so supportive,” she says, “We have such a great community in Animation.”

See more of Alisha's animations on the most recent Emily Carr holiday card, as well as her YouTube channel.

You can also see Alisha's animations in action at the upcoming On the Wing events, including the finale event on August 24!