Meet the Studio: NASA CILab

Conceptual Image Lab (CILab) is the arm of NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center that produces animations to illustrate the organization’s missions and findings. CILab supports all four of NASA’s science themes: Astrophysics, Heliophysics, Planetary and Earth Science across all of their centers and affiliated institutions. CILab is made up of a team of four contracted artists that work closely with NASA scientists and engineers to communicate complex concepts in digestible short animated clips released to the public.


The studio produces anywhere from 40-50 animations per year, with each artist working independently on two-to-three different projects at any given time. With this high volume of content produced by a small team, artist Michael Lentz was looking for a solution to simplify project review processes with NASA scientists who are often based remotely yet need an easy way to collaboratively deliver feedback on the animations.

“We brought in ShotGrid about a year ago, and it has completely transformed the way that we work,” said Lentz. “Being able to easily publish a playlist to the Client Review Site that our scientists can access via a single link to review, provide feedback and annotations, has saved hours of time in our production cycle.”


While the artists at CILab don’t regularly collaborate on projects, each artist runs their projects independently through ShotGrid to keep track of the latest assets, versions and approval status. “I know that we’re really just scratching the surface of what ShotGrid is capable of—but getting really easy and fast client review with Client Review Site makes adopting ShotGrid worthwhile, and we look forward to diving into additional features in Pipeline Toolkit later this year,” Lentz continued. Animations at CILab are produced using Maya, composited in After Effects and edited in Final Cut Pro.

Recent projects completed by CILab include “Bennu’s Journey,” a six-minute animated movie about NASA’s OSIRIS-Rex mission, Asteroid Bennu and the formation of our solar system, and “Mars Evolution”.