Humans are curious by nature and often take great lengths in order to pursue answers and gain a deeper understanding of anything that piques their interest and fascination. Some interests turn into hobbies, while others manifest into a passion. The latter holds true for James Tralie.
Growing up, James has always been interested in space and astronomy. Seeing the rings of Saturn through the viewfinder of his dad’s telescope kindled the spark of thoughts he had for humanity’s place in the solar system. And thus, started James’ more profound need to understand and experience the science behind the cosmos.
His love for science came hand in hand with his love for art. When he got his first camera, James became infatuated with astrophotography, specifically capturing the Milky Way looming above the surrounding landscape.
James studied and graduated from Princeton University with a Bachelor of Arts in Geosciences. He worked hard to incorporate art into every project during his undergraduate research, including learning 3D and using it to map out the origins of tropical cyclones in the East Pacific. Combining his love for film and animation with his educational background in the field of science, James was able to develop multiple productions for freelance projects.
Now a Planetary Science Producer and Animator at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, James has mastered relaying complex scientific discoveries and missions to the public through engaging content. He works directly with scientists and engineers to explain the results of research and missions. His projects include producing and directing documentaries, animations, visualizations, and augmented reality (AR) content to promote planetary science missions. James has had the chance to work on anything—from a 360 video that places the viewer on the surface of an asteroid, to a comic book-style animation about the ionosphere of Mars.
In the midst of the pandemic and during the quarantine, James got into creating 3D environmental renders. Missing hiking outdoors and wanting to bring a piece of it indoors spawned his “Great Indoors” series, a collection of photographs that expresses his feelings of being trapped and longing for the ability to explore nature outside. The project is the reimagination of James’ favorite destinations pushing the boundaries of abstract interior spaces.
At the core of James’ works is the commitment to design relaxing spaces that transport viewers to a meditative, calming world. And in the hopes of imparting his technical ability and creativity, he also teaches the ins and outs of photorealistic lighting design in 3D renders through video tutorials that can be viewed in his YouTube account. Through this project, James explains how to block a scene out and sculpt the terrain through using a 3D software to evoke a sense of realism. The realism is influenced by several factors, including texturing, lighting, and randomness, to move the render away from looking too “perfect.”
Over the years, a number of James’ works, including films, documentaries, music videos, dramas, and animations, have been selected by international film festivals for screenings and awards. These accomplishments are a testament to his talent and continuous passion for his craft.Learn more about James Tralie and view his works by visiting his website. You can also check out his Instagram and YouTube accounts.