green infrastructure & stormwater management

This informational video was created for SCAD's Collaborative Learning Center (CLC) class, in which students work together to create a finished product for their client over a ten-week period.

Overview

The client for this CLC was the University of Georgia Marine Extension and Sea Grant, whose client in turn was the Georgia Forestry Commission. Our goal was to create an informational video which explained the importance of green infrastructure to better manage stormwater in Georgia's coastal cities and reduce the pollution of Coastal Georgia's natural waterways.

My contributions to this project included compositing, effects, animation, illustration, and script editing. The film was animated in ToonBoom, which I was unfamiliar with at the start of the class. I learned to use the program from Xidong Lu, the lead effects supervisor. While the team worked on animating assets, I adjusted camera speeds in the scenes to add ease ins and ease outs. Because of the unexpected hurricane which hit Savannah, the lead effects supervisor was unable to remain in the final week leading up to the project deadline. In this period I lead the effects while compositing in order to put together and polish the finished piece. My contributions include color correction, particles, camera adjustments, shadows, additional rain, ripples, and reflections. 

The highlight of this project was when I was given the chance to animate and illustrate a five-second transition from the final shot of the film to the Ecosystem Services wheel, and collaborated with fellow motion design student Eleena Bakrie on completing the transition to the credits. My first step in creating this transition was to redesign the Ecosystem Services wheel into something which fit the film's visual style. One of the ideas we had was to use existing scenes from the film inside of the wheel, so I sketched a simplified but stylized four-part wheel and pitched it to the director. She approved of the design and I moved on to refining the illustration. Monica Paola Rodriguez, the art director of the film, made the central artwork to complete the wheel with greater detail.

After finishing the new wheel design, I made a quick storyboard for how we could move from the landscape of the final shot to a view of the Earth (as proposed in the animatic) to the wheel, which would then be enveloped in water and fall to the credits as a water droplet. Once the director approved of the storyboard I set about completing the transition into the wheel with a combination of After Effects and Photoshop animation.

Eleena beautifully finished the transition by warping the wheel and animating the water. From there, I applied a simple fade and camera movement to bring the film into the credits, which I set up in After Effects.

Disclaimer: the information written below is as understood by my unscientific brain.

Disclaimer: the information written below is as understood by my unscientific brain.

What is green infrastructure?

When referring to ecosystems, green infrastructure is a network of natural areas and open spaces such as forests, marshes, and wildlife parks. In these areas, we can observe the naturally-occurring phenomenons by which nature manages resources such as water, food, and clean air.

In the case of water, when rain falls into an undisturbed natural area it will naturally be slowed down after hitting leaves, plants, and any objects scattered on the ground. These obstacles spread out the rainfall, preventing rain from harshly impacting and washing away soil. The slowed water can instead soak into the ground, where plant roots will filter the water and remove impurities. The water eventually reaches and flows into the area's natural waterways (rivers, lakes, oceans, and marshes). In this way nature cleans the water, puts it back into use for plants and wildlife, and prevents flooding.

The problem in our cities

When speaking of urban development and city management, green infrastructure is a set of practices which take advantage of natural ways of managing rainwater. This is in contrast to the grey infrastructure commonly associated with cities. Grey infrastructure is characterized by structures made from hard (impervious) surfaces like concrete and asphalt. Urban areas are mostly made up of these hard surfaces on roads, buildings, sidewalks, and driveways, which turn the landscape grey in both color and infrastructure.

When it rains in a city, the water is not slowed down or spread out. If you were filling up a bowl in a sink, green infrastructure would be like having a filter between the faucet and the bowl to clean and slow down the water. With grey infrastructure, there is no filter, so the faucet water directly fills up the bowl.

managing stormwater with grey infrastructure

The rain which falls onto grey infrastructure will pick up any chemicals or pollutants on the way, dirtying and contaminating the water. Since people living in cities would rather not live with contaminated water flooding the streets, the goal of grey infrastructure stormwater management is to take the water away as fast as possible and dump it all somewhere else, that 'somewhere else' usually being a local river, lake, or ocean. The stormwater runoff goes untreated, making the situation similar to panicking over how quickly you've filled up your trash bin, turning it over onto your roommate's bed, and congratulating yourself on having an empty trash bin again while hoping your roommate will just deal with living in filth.

This method of managing stormwater is expensive to build and maintain because it involves the creation and upkeep of an underground sewer network that is continuously eroded by the rushing stormwater. By releasing the contaminated stormwater directly into nearby waterways, it also damages local habitats, wildlife, attractions, and sanitation.

Green Infrastructure Solutions

Green infrastructure applied to urban settings has the benefit of being cheaper, cleaner, and looking nicer than grey infrastructure. The magnitude of green infrastructure practices can range from building a park to putting a potted plant out on your window. The essential idea is that green infrastructure practices will reduce water pollution and contamination, mainly by letting native vegetation do in our cities what it does in its natural habitat: slow down, filter, and soak the rainwater.

Anything which helps in the processes of slowing, filtering, or soaking stormwater can contribute to green infrastructure. The most effective way would be to plant rain gardens or bioswales in your community and let them act as natural drains for rainwater. These groups of native vegetation are much more effective at managing rainwater than plain old grass, so consider replacing turf lawn or any large spaces of grass with a rain garden or set of bioswales. If you're not into gardening, little things like choosing eco-friendly cleaning brands, using less pesticides, and taking your car to a carwash (rather than washing it in your driveway) will also reduce pollution on impervious surfaces, thereby reducing how much pollution enters the water.

It's also important to increase the amount of permeable surfaces (grass, soil, gravel, mulch) in urban environments, since those are areas where rainwater will naturally drain. A simple solution is to make thinner sidewalks and driveways, and to use permeable pavers (pavement shaped to let rain sink through the cracks) whenever possible. While developing land, carefully planning out which areas should be cleared and flattened instead of clearing the entire space means less work in replanting greenery later.

To learn more, visit:

Ecoscapes Sustainable Land Use Program, UGA Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant: marex.uga.edu/ecoscapes

Georgia Forestry Commission: gatrees.org/community-forests/planning-policy/model-urban-forest/

CREDITS

Director
Rachel Hughes

Producer
Diana Matson

Executive Producer
Keren Giovengo

Co-Executive Producer
Mark McClellan

Faculty Advisor
John Webber

Art Director
Monica Paola Rodriguez

Visual Development
Monica Paola Rodriguez, Emily Satterfield, Gabriella Leonhard, Dawoon Kim, Xidong Lu
Gia Adomavicius, Michelle Sinofsky, Eleena Bakrie

Script Supervisor
Alyssa Lisiecki

Script Team
Conrad Lee, Tanner Carson, Ana Chang, Rachel Hughes

Storyboard Supervisors
Gabriella Leonhard, Rachel Hughes

Storyboard Team
Dawoon Kim, Emily Satterfield, Eleena Bakrie

Layout Artists
Monica Paola Rodriguez, Dawoon Kim, Emily Satterfield, Gabriella Leonhard

Character & Asset Designers
Eleena Bakrie, Dawoon Kim, Emily Satterfield, Gabriella Leonhard, Anna Malatinszky, Gia Adomavicius

Rigging Supervisor
Gia Adomavicius

Riggers
Gabriella Leonhard, Tanner Carson, Anna Malatinszky, Alyssa Lisiecki, Eleena Bakrie

Supervising Animators
Rachel Hughes, Conrad Lee

Animators
Gabriella Leonhard, Dawoon Kim, Emily Satterfield, Tanner Carson, Anna Malatinszky, Eleen Bakrie, Gia Adomavicius, Diana Matson, Alyssa Lisiecki

Supervising Effects Animator
 Xidong Lu

Effects Animators
Anna Malatinszky, Conrad Lee, Rachel Hughes, Eleena Bakrie, Tanner Carson

Camera Ops
Xidong Lu

Compositing
Ana Chang, Xidong Lu

Graphic Design
Michelle Sinofsky

Supervising Sound Editor and Re-Recording Artist
Ian Chase

Composer
Michael Britt

Sound Effects Editors
Monet Gardiner, Haley Bowers

Voice Actor
Dylan Ruggiero