Sunday, 31 July 2011

Lifecycle of a Mushroom: Timelapses

Some videos demonstrating the various ways in which Mushrooms grow.

Lifecycle of a Mushroom: Mushroom Growth test

After a bit of research I found out that I could use Lattice Deformers to create the Mushroom growth effect. The video above is not final but rather a very quick test which needs a lot more refinement. It's fairly convincing so it's not a bad start. To improve it I could also add more deformers which could give it a bend and twist as it grows.

Saturday, 30 July 2011

Lifecycle of a Mushroom: Mushroom Texture Tests

Various textures applied to the Mushroom model. A successful exercise if you ask me.

Lifecycle of a Mushroom: Mushroom Test Model

Quickly created this test Mushroom. I've gone for a lower poly style model to imitate the idea of collaging rough materials together. Once I've laid out the UV's I'll begin doing some texture tests and build upon the scene more.

Does anyone have any tips for achieving decent quality shadows on the model when Soften Normals have been used instead of smoothing?

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Flu Virus - Speculative Concept - The Virus Spreads

Flu Virus - Speculative Concept - Reconstruction of Virus.

Flu Virus - Environmental Concept- Speculative Painting- 01

I consider the previous images rather staid and generic, so I thought I would have a play and be a little more speculative with the environments. I find this image much more satisfying.

Flu Virus - Environmental Concept- Cilia at the Back of the Throat

Flu Virus - Environmental Concept- Nasal Passage with Mucus Droplets

Saturday, 23 July 2011

Lifecycle of a Mushroom: Visual Research 4

I’ve looking at various mushrooms of the world in an attempt to give the animation some sort of place and period. The Mushroom that interests me the most actually happens the one of the most common the ‘Amanita muscaria’. The quintessential toadstool thats been used in everything from ancient medicines, centuries old fairytales and common garden ornaments . It’s a highly poisonous mushroom and very commonly associated with hallucinogens

I think i’ve established that my visual style is going to be pretty off-the-wall. I suppose with emphasis on the images on screen, the use of complicated scientic terms as something grand and spectacular inspired modernist use of text and editing in conjuction with sound. CG and Technology will drive the animation but is pushed back in terms of emphasis, I feel like this animation should hands on and dirty in a certain sense. Mushrooms do grow up from the soil and manure after all. Here’s a tentative experiment using a photo, canvas texture and Jasper Johns painting:

I’ve been looking at the animations of an old favourite -Norman Mclaren for the style of animation and the work of the so called Neo-Dadaist painters such as: Jasper Johns and Robert Rauschenberg for texture and colour.

Fighting an Infection Biology Undergraduate 1


I'm working on „Fighting an Infection“ for undergraduate biology students. This means that I'll go into quite a lot of detail and that the correct processes need to be depicted with precision.

What I find fascinating about the immune system is how its many roles are divided and carried out by different types of cells. These cells often have more than one role and sometimes those roles even overlap each other. I think that there is an important lesson about the human body in this complex system so I would like to make this shine through in the video.

More precisely I will focus mostly on the specific or adaptive immune system and its interesting processes of identifying and reacting to completely different types of pathogens. In the correct terminology I would cover B-cells, some type of phagocyte (for example a dendritic cell), and Helper T-Cells.

(B-Cells among other things produce antibodies. Helper T-Cells activate B-Cells and increase their activity and the activity of Phagocytes. Phagocytes work with the antibodies to engulf threats.)

To make the video memorable, it has to feel like a journey and have a punch line at the end - a complete story arc or a loop of information. Thus, I think it would be best to present a threat in the beginning then focus on the roles of B-Cells and use them as the story driver: The audience needs a reason to go on a journey so the B-Cells could be presented in a way that feels as if they are "waiting for activation" by the Helper T-Cells and their Cytokines. (Cytokines are proteins that “stimulate the other cells to be more active”) The film will move on to show what is keeping the Phagocytes busy and how they then interact with Helper T-Cells. The explanation of the exact roles of Helper T-Cells would lead back to the activation of the B-Cells and the 3/4 change of pace of the video. A final illustration of the battle between this whole system and the pathogen presents itself as a satisfying conclusion for our story arc.

In terms of visuals I want to make it all feel quite scientific and grown up so I'll reference to microscopic imagery and take liberties to enhance. (Cell designs that students can recognize from textbooks would be a good idea in this case.) I imagine the visuals to be very colorful and organic. Also, I think there is an opportunity to refrain from taking sides too soon, so I don't want to give the impression of the “good” immune system and the “evil” pathogen. Instead, if possible, I think it would be more interesting to depict a scene of microscopic life in all its facets in a more objective way. (I'm aware of the problems this could introduce for the feeling of satisfaction of the audience)

In terms of pace and movement on screen, at first I would like to keep a very slow and sober rhythm with slow movements and a bit of a feeling of “safe distance” to make the audience feel like a “quiet observer”. As the cells start to interact more, I want to increase the tempo and the pressure as well as the friction between objects and finally move to a quite violent tone. This will enhance the story arc and capture the audience. Also, I enjoy the idea of having this contrast of rhythm to depict a neutral attitude towards life at this scale. Imagine you were looking at some fish in an aquarium. Everything moves slowly and quietly until those fish start tearing up some prey and you realize they were actually piranha. This is almost how I want the immune system to feel, quiet and giant, then precise and deadly, but never evil and never good.

I think it would also be good to include the names of the cells and their processes on screen. The idea is to have a type of minimalistic HUD overlay, a bit like a pilot helmet that tracks and identifies items as they show up and interact. This of course, in relationship with the style of the rest of the video and I'll have to try this first.

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Flu-Virus Concept Colour Test

A slight detour from the graphic style I have been working on, I also used this as an excuse to try a water-colour style with a little Photoshop post production work.

Lifecycle of a Mushroom: Visual Research 3

Found this on the excellent Flooby Nooby and thought everyone involved would be interested. Once again it's an example of Scientific content becoming almost transcendent. Spectacular Science indeed.

Also of interest is the famous short film 'Powers of Ten' directed by Ray and Charles Eames. The film is based on Cosmic View by Kees Boeke that combines essay and graphical drawings to explore size and structure in the universe.

There is also the National Film Board of Canada produced film Cosmic Zoom which is very similar and also based on Boeke's drawings.

Monday, 18 July 2011

Resonance: The Interpreter's House

"Resonance is the vision of SR Partners; a collaborative project with over 30 independent visual and audio designers / studios. The aim was to explore the relationship between geometry and audio in unique ways. Animators and Audio Designers were paired up at the beginning of the project and were given the guidelines to create a piece between 12 and 20, I had the awesome opportunity to work with David Kamp. This piece is my approach to the connection between audio and shapes, I tried to give this abstract animation a certain type of emotion, that every movement happening on screen would be more than the sole propose of look cool and sync to the sound, to do this I based this video on a section of John Bunyan's "The Pilgrim's Progress", when Christian is guided trough the Interpreters House. It's a very personal, graphic and non-descriptive explanation of this part of one of my favorite books It's intended more to help me as the animator to give some meaning to the animation rather than narrate the story."

Lifecycle of a Mushroom: Visual Research 2

One person who may be of interest to all the Spectacular Sciences team is French biologist turned filmmaker Jean Painleve. Science turned into art:

“Poetic pioneer of astonishingly beautiful science films, Jean Painlevé (1902-1989) explored a twilight realm of vampire bats, seahorses, octopuses, and liquid crystals. In collaboration with his partner, Genevieve Hamon, Painlevé made more than 200 science and nature films and was an early champion of the genre. In the process he won over surrealists and avant-gardists and counted amongst his friends Antonin Artaud, Sergei Eisenstein, Jean Vigo, and Luis Buñuel. Painlevé's astonishing documentaries – and their incredible soundtracks – witness a genuinely 'magic realism', whose appeal remains stronger than ever."


Lifecycle of a Mushroom: Visual Research 1

My plans for a visual style are still a bit speculative at the moment. ‘Text’ seems to be the thing that first springs to my mind when I talk about my animation. So for the moment I’m just looking at work which displays some sort of use of dynamic text and then develop from there. First thing that comes to mind is Russian Constructivism and Dadaism. I’m not looking to create a Soviet pastiche style animation but the Modernist love of fonts and text at the forefront of images could be an avenue worth exploring. Dadaism seems a bit more apt from a visual standpoint because it feels a lot more quirky and playful and I do like the cut and paste nature of their work. As Phil said I could imagine the audience being presented with a ‘boring’ mushroom only for the scene to unravel in some Dada-esque madness as the biological process plays out.

Friday, 15 July 2011

@ Phil Re Narration

I remember reading somewhere a while ago that an average of 47 words per minute were an ideal for narration. Did I imagine this or is it common knowledge?

Thursday, 14 July 2011

Spheremetrical :: Impactist

Spheremetrical (Here With You) from impactist on Vimeo.


Oxygen from Christopher Hendryx on Vimeo.

Flu-Virus Concepts 2.03-2.04 plus first draft of plot.

Below is my first draft plot, comments and suggestions welcomed. At the moment the amount of scientific information is probably a little in depth for A-Level study, this will be pared back at the actual script writing stage. Im sure the good Dr Klappa will point out any glaring biological inaccuracies.

flu virus infection

Flu-Virus Concepts 2.01-2.02

I am still undecided whether I will be going in a pure hard-edged graphic style or something rather more grungier and real. The whole aspect of viruses not actually meeting the criteria of living organisms brings to mind little semi biological machines (nanobots) and this contrast between a living cell and the non-living virus is something that I would be seeking to emphasis.
Below is an initial colour timeline to give a rough indication of dominant colour palettes throughout the animation.

Next job is to get the basic plot summary finished and uploaded to Scribd

As an aside Phil, I don't suppose you would like to edit the layout slightly to give a bit more width in the posts. That way images and video won't creep outside the borders.

Early Thoughts

As mentioned earlier I'll be producing the Life-cycle of a Mushroom animation aimed at undergraduates. The main challenge will be making sure the information presented is suitably pithy but with a visual style and language that can hold the attention. The first company that springs to mind is Squint/Opera. Take a look here:

I think the idea of incorporating text into the scene itself and switching between motion graphics seamlessly will work very nicely.

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Flu-Virus Concepts 1.01

In my initial research into the flu virus I realised that a lot of pictorial representations of the virus were rather generic. Most were much like the image below, which is one of the better ones.
As you can appreciate I feel that a bit more artistic license needs to be taken with the design of the virus. Most flu viruses are spherical in nature with nodules etc. extending from the membrane. So with the criteria of spikey sphere in mind I spent an hour or so laying down some basic forms.

I will be researching the functionality of the virus, what all the components do and how they perform their tasks. Alongside this I will be creating more concepts as above.

A quick question for Dr Klappa:

I have been looking at the sort of content that is required for A-Level students, surprisingly the only virus that is covered in the resource material I could find on-line is HIV, is it appropriate to use the HIV resources as a guideline for the level of detail that a student would require?
Many thanks

Fighting An Infection

Hi all,

I again was assigned with 'Fighting An Infection' with the 'general public' as a target audience. Started doing some general reading on the subject and it looks to be an interesting yet challenging topic to cover in a 3-5 min piece. Looking forward to get cracking on it and to see what direction everyone else ends up taking.

Infection With Flu-Virus

Hi all,
Phil has kindly assigned me 'infection with flu-virus for an A'Level audience' I have already been doing some research into our main protagonists appearance and I think that I am already going to have to work some design magic  to generate some empathy etc.

As an aside I have been in contact with with in regards to which of their licenses is best to use. Below is a copy of the e-mail that they sent back to me:

Hi Simon,

I hope you are well and thanks for your email.  You would need to license the track under the Corporate license, which is a maximum cost of £95 + VAT.  This will cover you for all corporate usage, worldwide and multiplatform, in perpetuity.

If you would like any further info, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Kind Regards,


I hope that helps clear up at least one issue, I have used Audionetwork before and they have a great selection of scores that are very well categorised so you can find a suitable piece.

The Life-cycle of a Mushroom

Hi all,

Phil has confirmed that I'll be working on the life-cycle of a mushroom animation aimed at undergraduates. The first years who produced the same animation a year ago were given some information packs via myUCA. Can that information be made available to us?

Monday, 11 July 2011

Welcome to the Spectacular Science Collaboration

Welcome to the freshly minted Spectacular Science Collaboration Blog - a shared creative space. This is where participants and 'stake holders' will correspond, review, and feed back for the duration of the project.

This isn't the first time CG Arts @ UCA, Rochester and the School of Biosciences @ UoK have worked together. Back in 2009, CGAA graduate Matthew Fletcher was commissioned by Dr Klappa to produce an animation describing Double Fertilsation in Flowering Plants. You can visit the project blog archive here and view the resulting animation below.

This first commission/collaboration grew from Dr Klappa's involvement with the CGAA year one Commission Unit, formerly known as 'Virtual Anatomy'. I include below a selection of animations produced by CGAA year one students in response to Dr Klappa's commission brief - in which he challenged undergraduates to produce animations in response to specific bio-scientific scenarios.

Jonathan Pearmain - HIV Infection

Ethan Shilling - Life Cycle of Slime Mold

Leo Tsang - Life Cycle of a Mushroom

This continuing collaboration aims to provide a wide audience with access to scientific knowledge and support the education of students in science subjects. We are commissioning highly talented and professional graduates from the BA (Hons) CG Arts and Animation course at Rochester to produce work that furthers the aims of our collaborative project. The work produced will be disseminated under the auspices of two leading UK universities to a wide range of audiences.