Wed 22nd Feb 2012, by Paul Hellard | Production
Cell mitosis: You probably studied it in grade school. Even if you do vaguely recall what cell division is all about, you’ve probably never thought of the process as something elegant, even beautiful. But step into the world of medical and scientific visualization and suddenly, the process of mitosis becomes a work of art.
3D artist Vuk Nikolić made this mitosis animation while participating in Cosmocyte’s Cinema 4D training program. “I tried to achieve a realistic microscopic render of cell division, and I achieved some nice results using Colorizer and Noise,” he explains.
Maryland-based Cosmocyte has been creating stunningly vivid and accurate medical and scientific animations and illustrations since 2005. Using Maxon’s Cinema 4D and Adobe After Effects, they do most of their work for academic and non-academic clients, such as Science magazine and the Stanford University School of Medicine. “I know a lot of big medical animation companies use Max and Maya, but we like Cinema because of its flexibility and easy learning curve and I know a broad cross section of companies are going in that direction, too,” says Cameron Slayden, Cosmocyte’s founder and creative director.
Business has grown steadily over the last few years, making finding skilled scientific illustrators and animators who can use C4D a top priority for Cosmocyte. To help, Slayden started a free, on-site training program last year through which scientific visualization specialists can learn the software. Artists make their own hours, but are expected to commit to a minimum of three days per week. Every training project is treated as if it is a paying job and projects get increasingly difficult over time.
After completing his Cinema 4D training, Slayden brought Nikolić on board to help Cosmocyte create its own content. Specifically, they are collaborating on a series of educational animations on a variety of topics, such as “What is Cancer?” and “What is DNA?”. “We see these as being deeply immersive educational modules that would be free to the public on YouTube,” says Slayden.
With ePMV, Nikolić was able to bring the whole molecule into Cinema before animating and lighting it. “I had to put one file with five million polygons in different layers and make a proxy to animate and move through the interface,” he recalls. To make the animation more realistic he also added some water “because everything in our cells is full of molecules,” he adds.
For now, Cosmocyte’s content is still a work in progress that could go in many different directions. Interactive textbooks that would make learning more visual are one idea, Slayden says. “We’re looking at ways to make education the kind of experience you see in sci-fi movies because being able to see what happens in 3D space seems like a much easier way to learn.”