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Faster way to plot thousands of points on a map in animation

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Rob Davis
Faster way to plot thousands of points on a map in animation
on Feb 7, 2011 at 5:21:14 pm

I am directing a documentary film relating to oil & gas production in the Gulf of Mexico and am currently preparing storyboards and data to deliver to an illustrator and animator to create some graphics.

For one graphic, I would like to start out with a blank map of the Gulf Coast and have oil rigs and pipelines appear, one by one, to represent all of the thousands of oil rigs that have been put into use in the Gulf over the last 60 years or so. The map would start out blank and 6 or 7 seconds later, would be completely covered in oil rigs and pipelines.

My question is this: Is there any way I could compile the data (like in a spreadsheet) so that it could be used to automatically plot the points on the map? If the points need to be plotted one by one, I will be the one doing all the busy work so I am hoping there might be a clever way around this. Thanks!!


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Mark Petereit
Re: Faster way to plot thousands of points on a map in animation
on Feb 7, 2011 at 8:04:51 pm

Use a particle emitter and "fudge it". Don't waste the brainpower and time it would take to figure out how to plot the actual coordinates. Just make sure the points "cluster" in the right areas.


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Gareth Randall
Re: Faster way to plot thousands of points on a map in animation
on Feb 7, 2011 at 8:53:43 pm

An alternative approach would be to use a replicator rather than a particle emitter. I think what I would probably do is start off slowly by plotting the first 10 or so rigs individually in specific, accurate places (so use 10 individual layers), and then, having established the idea, bring in the replicator to fill the screen rapidly and randomly.

If you do need the rigs to cluster in specific places, you could create a rough "cluster map" in Photoshop - just use a white brush on a black background to quickly draw in the areas where you need the rigs to appear, export it as a single frame with alpha channel, and then use it as a stencil for the replicator. It's the same basic technique as is used in this tutorial to make a replicator build the word "PAIN", but instead of using a Motion text object as the stencil you'd be using a Photoshop image with alpha channel.



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Rob Davis
Re: Faster way to plot thousands of points on a map in animation
on Feb 7, 2011 at 9:12:01 pm

Thanks for these replies. Great food for thought.

Though, I could live without each point being exactly accurate as far as location, the more accuracy the better. The accuracy of the NUMBER of rigs is very important. Additionally, it would be necessary for them to at least cluster in certain areas as it will be very obvious that the animation is inaccurate to most informed people down here if, for instance, rigs start popping up off the coast of Florida where they do not allow oil production.

Gareth's suggestion got me thinking. If I started with a completed map similar to this one this one and imported it into Photoshop, I might be able to use it to create a stencil that the could control where the points appear and then just let them fill in randomly. Or, I might create several stencils that could be filled in one after the other to at least give it some chronological accuracy.

Does this sound like a wise approach? Thanks again for the help.


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Mark Petereit
Re: Faster way to plot thousands of points on a map in animation
on Feb 7, 2011 at 9:45:50 pm

Thanks, Gareth. I actually MEANT replicator. For some reason I always confuse those terms.

Something else you may want to consider is starting with your whole set of already plotted points and use a paint-on path on an alpha layer to "reveal" the dots. It'd give you more control.


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Gareth Randall
Re: Faster way to plot thousands of points on a map in animation
on Feb 8, 2011 at 7:38:04 am

[Rob Davis] "Or, I might create several stencils that could be filled in one after the other to at least give it some chronological accuracy"

If a reasonable level of accuracy is important, then yes, that sounds like the best approach. Obviously you can specify the precise number of replicated objects, so you can be 100% accurate with the number of rigs.



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Mark Suszko
Re: Faster way to plot thousands of points on a map in animation
on Feb 9, 2011 at 7:42:06 pm

I agree that it might be simpler to just make your image in photoshop with an alpha channel, comprising ALL the rigs, then set up a key in Motion and use an animated alpha channel mask to reveal the points. The mask would look like a checkerboard, with the various squares popping out randomly. This gets you percise placement in one shot, and some expressive control over hos the reveal happens. I think it would be quicker than playing with replciators or emitters, I know it would if it was ME doing it:-)


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Rob Davis
Re: Faster way to plot thousands of points on a map in animation
on Feb 9, 2011 at 8:50:18 pm

I was able to separate each element of the map (leases, pipelines, etc.) into different layers in Photoshop and I will pass the image along to my animator and illustrator along with everyone's advice and leave the final decision on implementation up to them.

I think this puts me on the right track. Thanks again for everyones help.


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Gareth Randall
Re: Faster way to plot thousands of points on a map in animation
on Feb 10, 2011 at 8:20:08 am

[Mark Suszko] "I think it would be quicker than playing with replciators or emitters"

TBH, I'd have to say the opposite. Replicators with stencils would be by far the fastest way to achieve this effect. Yes, you could do it with an emitter, but that would be overkill given that the rigs just have to pop on and aren't animated in any other way (AFAIK).



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