Medical & Scientific Animations: 5 steps to bring your technologies and procedures to life

Posted in Medical | May 23,2011

Many of us have seen the amazing results 3D animations can bring to medical technologies and procedures. These carefully-crafted and engaging digital stories can instantly communicate the benefits and advantages of a specific procedure.  While real-life surgical videos have their strengths, the advantages in digital animations comes in their ability to simplify and clarify potentially messy events, as well as to show objects at perspectives, timeframes, and scales impossible (or at least impractical) in real life. Patients can also gain a better understanding (and often with it, less anxiety) of what they may be about to experience, whether it’s an elected procedure or surgery needed to save their lives.

Creating your 3D medical animation involves a certain process:

1. Research In order to communicate your procedure or technology clearly and accurately, a variety of sources – digital and printed – will be checked, read, and referenced.  In addition, specific questions often go directly to you, the clients, as you are the best source out there about how your animation will need to be depicted.

2. Storyboard & Narration Once a thorough understanding of the science involved has been gained, a storyboard and narration are put together. This involves visualizing the key steps and events in an animation, and in doing so, establishing how objects will be shown, how certain shots will be framed, which color palette will be most successful, and what kind of timing and pacing can be expected. Any narration accompanying the animation is developed in tandem with the storyboard, making certain that images and words support each other.

The storyboarding phase is where all the big decision making happens- how best to tell and show the story so that the audience stays engaged and ultimately becomes more informed about your procedure or technology.

An in-progress heart model.

3. 3D Scene Setup (modeling, texturing, lighting) With the storyboard and narration approved, the real digital work can begin – 3D models are crafted, colors and textures are applied, and lighting is added. No object is too large or small – general anatomy as well as cellular and even molecular events can be created.

4. Animating Once all the relevant ‘pieces’ are established, the animator works to bring life to digital objects.  What’s wonderful about 3D digital animation is that any effect or event is possible – whether it be movement, collisions, twisting, growth, cutting, breaking, dripping, or even transformation, there’s a way to show it.

5. Rendering and Compositing All the finished scenes are ‘rendered out’ (exporting them as individual frames or movie clips with all the lighting, texturing, and animations calculated by the computer).  Compositing is where all the different pieces come together: the rendered clips, recorded narration, on-screen text and labels, and any logos or graphics.  These parts are carefully put together: narration is synced with action and labels, transitions added, and other effects put into place to polish the animation as a whole.

Finally this compositing file is exported as a movie file to be put on any number of digital devices – online, PowerPoint presentations, television and more – so that your message is conveyed in a professional, engaging, and informative way to your patients.


Interested in learning how medical illustrations can boost your practice? Contact us today.

Michelle Davis Medical Illustrator and Animator