The team had a blast letting their imaginations run wild!—Mitch Wishart, Partner/Executive Producer
Sometimes a medical animation project requires the creation of a GAME OF THRONES style CG dragon, and when it did, the ferocious MadMicrobe team was more than ready to tackle the task.
During the summer of 2019 MadMicrobe was given this unique challenge: presenting something that was totally fantastic—in this case a threatening dragon-like creature—emerging from a believable representation of endothelial tissue within a blood vessel. The concept involved having this creature—a metaphor for Endothelial Injury Syndrome, or EIS—bursting through the interior wall of a blood vessel resulting in a blood clot forming around it. The concept was to be the focal point of a campaign to bring awareness to EIS and was to be utilized across various deliverables including Print, AR, Video, disease education web banner ads and a looping top banner for a Web Portal to conicide with the American Society of Hematology (ASH) conference in the fall of 2019.
To begin, our team of concept artists and ZBrush sculptors, led by Joshua Lockwood, Aleksey Scheludchenko as well as friend of MadMicrobe and professional dragon wrangler, Glen Southern got to work sketching nearly 100 creature designs total (some included below). The designs ran the gamut from classic reptilian dragons to those more otherwordly and alien. The team had a blast letting their imaginations run wild! Eventually we honed in on a straightforward dragon design with a slight bit of asymmetry to the horn structures emerging from its skull.
Once the design was approved, the dragon was modeled, refined and posed within the blood vessel environment. Science elements such as blood cells, schistocytes, platelets, fibrin clots and endothelial cells were also designed and modeled to be incorporated into the environment.
From there, animator and Redshift look/dev artist Patrick Letourneau worked closely with Aleksey to set up the scene for animation in Cinema 4D, optimizing ZBrush assets, baking out displacement maps, rigging the dragon and lighting the scene. MadMicrobe CG artist Luke Letellier then created a rig in Houdini to grow fibrin webs around the dragon and stick to the surrounding vessel.
One of the many assets we needed to deliver was a real-time interactive animation to play on a Looking Glass holographic display. Aleksey reworked the dragon and stripped it down to a lower res version which could easily work in real-time. The asset was handed off to the clients interactive developer team for integration into the Looking Glass display system. Below is an animation test created during that phase of the project.
Along with other deliverables such as large booth banners, brochures and pamphlets, ultra-wide versions of the dragon were also needed for things like a Pufferfish spherical display system and a circular rotating banner as seen below.
All in all this project proved to be an exciting and enjoyable challenge for the MadMicrobe team, allowing us to explore our imaginations and creativity as well as our science expertise and technical skills to deliver a result that surely makes an impact in spreading awareness of EIS to its intended audience in a surprising and unique way.