Westphal students illuminate skyline with archeology PSAs | The Triangle
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Westphal students illuminate skyline with archeology PSAs

Photograph courtesy of Mariia Osanova

Two Westphal College of Media Arts & Design students each produced an animated public service announcement that promoted archeology-related celebrations for the month of October. The two PSAs took over the Philadelphia skyline for three nights each.

Sophomores Mariia Osanova and Nick Moy, who major in animation and visual effects and are STAR program scholars, spent their summer working on seperate 30-second animations that would be shown on the crown lights marquee of the PECO Building — located on 23rd and Market streets — from dusk to dawn. The student projects, produced in cooperation with Independence National Historical Park and the Philadelphia Archaeological Forum, featured 19th-century artifacts that were excavated in the city.

The first PSA, created by Osanova, was displayed Sept. 26-28. It advertised an Archeology Day event held at the National Constitution Center Oct. 6. Osanova, who didn’t know much about the topic beforehand, began developing her video by conducting research about archeology and its connection to Philadelphia.

I first tried to find artifacts that were locally excavated,” she said. “I wanted to find out what archeology is associated with in Philadelphia.”

Her research, performed in collaboration with archeologist Jed Levin, head of the history branch at Independence National Historical Park, led her to the images of late 18th- and  early 19th-century artifacts excavated by archaeologists in Old City which were used in both PSAs.

In her 3D-animated video, Osanova wanted to demonstrate the archeology collection discovered locally. She planned to incorporate a sweeping motion of a brush revealing the artifact. The most tedious part for her was adding the small details to execute the look.

“In the first [draft of the video], the movement of the brush made it look like it was kind of sweeping the artifacts away,” she said. “I had to re-animate the video to make the brush look like it was revealing them instead, giving the movement a more organic look.”

The final product, which was shown 40 feet high on the PECO Building’s LED-display, contained a silhouette of Philadelphia’s skyline with a cotton candy sunset, and an archeological trowel in a digging motion on the far right side of the banner. Then, two brushes appeared as one swept its way towards the left of the digital sign revealing three locally-excavated artifacts. The PSA concluded with a text banner promoting the Archeology Day event.

Moy’s PSA, which was displayed Oct. 1-3, promoted October as Pennsylvania’s Archeology Month. Moy recalls spending countless hours using editing programs like Adobe After Effects, Photoshop and Illustrator to complete his animation.

Knowing it was going to be broadcasted over the city of Philadelphia, I wanted it to be perfect,” he said.

Set up in a similar fashion to Osanova’s PSA, Moy’s 30-second animation included a keystone logo on the far right side of the banner to represent the state of Pennsylvania. Over the keystone were two tools that symbolized archeology: a trowel and brush. Then, nine artifact images from the archeology collection of Independence National Historical Park dashed across and up the banner.

“When you think of artifacts, you think of them being dug up from the ground, so I directed the [movement of the artifacts] upward,” he said.

At the Oct. 6 event co-hosted by the Philadelphia Archaeological Forum, Osanova and Moy gave a three-minute presentation about their project in front of about 80 people.

Osanova enjoyed the challenge of making a presentation on a topic she’s unfamiliar with something she says could take her a long way in her career as an animator.

“If you want to work in the industry, sometimes you will have a director who wants something involving physics or sci-fi and you’ll have no idea what’s happening,” she said. “But [with research and guidance] you’ll get it done.”  

Meanwhile, Moy was excited for the opportunity of having thousands of eyes view his animation work.

“Beforehand, I was just like, ‘Oh, cool, my work is going to be shown,’” he said. “But when I actually saw it on the night of, it was pretty big and really amazing. I hope those who viewed the image understood what I was trying to represent.”

These archeology animations are the third round of PSAs produced over the last six years raising awareness about two annual archaeology events.The first set of PSAs ran on the PECO Building for three annual cycles, the second set ran for two annual cycles and this is the first year for the third set. Previously, Drexel students produced a PSA for “Explore Philadelphia’s Buried Past” held at the National Constitution Center in 2017.

The production of the two PSA was guided by Westphal professor Glen Muschio — who mentored students in the production of all three sets — and supported by the STAR Scholar Program of the Pennoni Honors College.