Scientific Visualization & Design

Masters Research Project - Process Work





My early storyboard drafts were used to get an idea of how to visually convey concepts introduced in the animation, as well as how these ideas transitioned between each other over time.


After recording scratch narration, this was then roughly timed together with rough illustrations and figures from my storyboard drafts. This helped flesh out general timing and pacing of the animation, and was also a period of time where I received a lot of helpful feedback as the animation was starting to come together.



MODELLING the podocyte

One of the biggest modelling challenges was the podocyte. Their unique, highly interdigitating structure is a key part of the research, and consequently needed to be represented correctly and beautifully. As seen on the right, microscopic imaging of podocytes are highly intricate and dense, and this level of detail is rarely shown in textbook illustrations and current media. After some varied attempts, I discovered the Quad Draw Tool in Maya, and I became highly adept at using it.

A microscopic view of real podocytes; used as reference.

A microscopic view of real podocytes; used as reference.





Similarly, the glomerulus was another tough challenge to tackle. Current depictions of the glomerulus in media and even textbook illustrations often do not show the tight packing of the podocyte interdigitations; nor do they show the fine branching covering the entire glomerular surface.

In my first attempts to model the podocytes on the glomerulus, I tried sculpting some branches in ZBrush. Not only was this highly time consuming, it was also very CPU-intensive as it required millions of points to get the level of detail I desired.

Next, I tried to use a repeating texture of podocytes as a bump map on the glomerulus. This was getting close, but still not quite as organic as I'd envisioned.

Attempting to sculpt podocytes in ZBrush.
Playing around with just the repeating texture.


I decided to combine using Quad Draw and using textured bump maps. With Quad Draw, I was able to carefully model the large podocyte cell bodies, as well as the big branches extruding from it. With the bump map, I used it to fake the fine texture of the smaller branches--with enough displacement, it merged with the modelled podocytes, making it look connected. As a result, I was able to model a highly detailed structure with a low number of points, and in a (relatively) minimal amount of time!


Character Rigging


3D characters, 2D style

This was a really fun part of the project for me. After deciding to include characters in the beginning and end parts of my animation (where it's geared more towards a general audience), I set to modelling my characters in a fun, low-poly, toon-shaded style.

I'm quite happy with how these turned out. Below are some WIP images that show my setup, as well as a short playblast of a character in motion.