Adam Gault: Lantern Fishes

I’ve raved about Adam Gault before, and as long as he keeps creating amazing work like his recent Lantern Fishes, I’m going to keep on raving about him until one of us dies (or gives up to start selling insurance).


Adam was kind enough to answer a few questions for us about the project:

Where did the idea for this piece come from? Are you a huge fish enthusiast?

last summer I felt that I needed a quick project to work on that I could easily finish, and I was on the look out for a good idea. one day I was at an antiques store and I spotted a print of these fish in a drawer. I thought it was interesting and would be quick and fun to try to animate. unfortunately, it took me almost a year to get it done.

i’m no fish enthusiast… as you can see, the animation is far from scientifically accurate, that will probably offend all the real enthusiasts out there. at least i’ve got the scientific names though.

Tell us a little about the process for this. Was there a lot of planning/storyboarding, or was it more improvisational?

it was completely improvisational. I just sat down and started and one thing led to another. the only thing I knew was that I had to get through all 10 fish and I wanted to try out different things for each of the transitions. originally I thought that I would make each fish morph into the next one, but after the first two I realized it was too time consuming and not that interesting, so I had to come up with something else. I think it’s better because in the process of figuring out the progression I was forced to add a little bit of “character”. otherwise it might have been dull.

I was working on it when I could between other projects, which I think might have helped because I didn’t really get bored or rush to finish for a deadline. because it was a personal project I was able to work way longer on some of the sequences then I might have been able to if it was for a commercial client.

I worked my way through all of the fish animations and transitions first, pre-rendering bits along the way to keep the previews working at a reasonable speed. then I pre-comped the whole thing and built the environment around them. I think that was the best way to make it manageable.

Is the animation predominately 2D or 3D? Or is it a mix of the two?

it’s all 2D, done completely in after effects with mostly standard plug-ins. of course there’s a little bit of AE 2.5D to get the fins moving and everything, but that’s about it. there’s lots of hand key-framing (check out this screenshot for the bones sequence attached) and layers of effects to get that rubbery fishy look. I really tried my best to try and make the fish not feel stiff.

How did you meet and decide to work with Stefanie Augustine?

stefanie and I met in school at risd. she’s an illustrator ( we’ve worked on a bunch of projects together, including the first round of cmt music id’s at eyeballnyc, and our holiday piece from a few years ago she was a big help getting the environment and the overall look right.

chris and shelly did an awesome job on the music too. the track really sets the mood, and to me it really feels like we’re deep under water. I love how it sounds dark and mysterious but still a little whimsical.

What are your plans for the film? Will you be submitting it to festivals? Or is this more of a self-promo piece?

I actually started working on this animation about a year ago, so my only plan for it was to finally get it done and get people to see it. I don’t really have any plans for it other than that. hopefully the high paying jobs will start rolling in.

About the author

Justin Cone

Together with Carlos El Asmar, Justin co-founded Motionographer, F5 and The Motion Awards. He currently lives in Austin, Texas with is wife, son and fluffball of a dog. Before taking on Motionographer full-time, Justin worked in various capacities at Psyop, NBC-Universal, Apple, Adobe and SCAD.



Never ceases to amaze me.


WOW! The fish move great.



yea, this guy is really good.




man, that was awesome. all done in after effects. amazing…


the bones sequence is splendid, i’m glad adam went with quirky transitions as opposed to morphing. it looks fuggin great.


Very well done, even better with the interview.
Kudos to both!


nice keyframes


this was a very inspiring piece, really really solid. thanks for the interview too.



Nisha Josson

Lantern Fish is like beauty with a soul.

Joe Clay

Wow. As an After Effects based animator, I’d love to see more behind the scenes on that one. Nice!

Simon Robson

I think Adam is turning away from current trends in motion graphics and really starting to seek out fresh and un-chartered territory. This piece is brave and un-self-conscious. I think he is a force to be reckoned with.

Marc B.

Nice. Always good to see non commercial work too.

Simon, this is probably because personal or less commercial work is usually a little different. Looking at his reel, and no offense, i see mostly common motiongraphics stuff.

Marc B.

Oh, also kudos to stefanie. Nice illustration work.

Simon Robson

When you are making personal work and setting your own brief it is actually very difficult to innovate, take risks and then stick to your new direction. There can be a tendancy for the confidence to waver encouraging the creative to fall back into what is comfartable and familiar. I applaud Adam for the risks he’s taken here.


This is a great film. Nice work, Adam!

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