Exploring the Potential of Animated E-Books

The Mysteris of Harris Burdick, an enigmatic picture book, is brought to life with subtle animated elements

The Mysteris of Harris Burdick, a 1984 children's book by Chris Van Allsburg, consists of 14 enigmatic illustrations and captions, each the jumping off point for a story. As the fictional back story of the book goes, the author and illustrator of these pages, Harris Burdick, disappeared before delivering the full stories, so it is up to the reader to imagine them.

Daniel Savage, an animator, was one of many kids who wrote stories inspired by the book as an exercise in school. Here he revisits it, bringing its ghostly illustrations to life with subtle animated elements. The video is also intended to explore the potential of animation for e-books. Savage discusses the project in a brief interview below. 

The Atlantic: What was the process of animating the images from the book? What tools did you use?

Daniel Savage: My process for animating these images was cutting out all the individual parts, and putting them back together in After Effects allowing me to animate everything individually and push the depth more. The effect is generally referred as 2.5 D. I then added some organic effects, like footage of smoke to give the feeling of atmosphere.

How do you envision e-books expanding into animation?

There are already a few studios doing cool things with animation and e-books, but I feel like the interactive parts are generally an afterthought. I think the opportunity for collaboration between writer, illustrator, animator and developer hasn't been fully explored. It is a medium where everyone can contribute to the story from the beginning.

If you could do a fully animated e-book, what book would you do?

Ideally I would like to create my own from scratch, but it would be amazing to work on a classic I grew up with, like the The Very Hungry Caterpillar.

For more work by Daniel Savage, visit http://somethingsavage.com/.

Kasia Cieplak-Mayr von Baldegg is the executive producer for video at The AtlanticMore

Cieplak-Mayr von Baldegg joined The Atlantic in 2011 to launch its video channel and, in 2013, create its in-house video production department. She leads the development and production of original documentaries, interviews, and other video content for The Atlantic. Previously, she worked as a producer at Al Gore’s Current TV and as a content strategist and documentary producer in San Francisco. She studied filmmaking and digital media at Harvard University.

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