Happy New Year!

Wishing all a happy and healthy 2016.

I’ve been working on some new shots for a new reel for MadMicrobe.

This one depicts a tight bombing run and pull out over space squids a dendritic cell; a component of the immune system whose role is to process any harmful antigens it comes in contact with, and then present fragments of those antigens on its surface (the little dummied-down spheres) to T-cells which. Through a cacade of events,  these T-cells will trigger the production of antibodies from plasma cells, which will then help the immune system seek out and destroy these antigens.


In other news, I have picked up a few new bits of software that I am excited to add to the creative arsenal.  I am working with Solid Angle’s Arnold Renderer using the plugin for Cinema 4D and loving it so far. Will post some images when I have something worth sharing. I’ve also finally gotten TurbulenceFD which is one I’ve been wanting to get for quite awhile. Still much to learn.

Cesar Vonc has released an update to his useful and fun Pro3durale plugin for Cinema. Proc3durale 2 has many more features and is much faster than before. Here is a sort of stylized depiction of trabecular/spongy bone which I was able to create after  about 30 minutes of play. Thanks for looking.



Some recent work: Cellular environment and organelles.

Worked on a project recently in which part of the animation took place within the cytosol of a cell. I needed to build some organelles including the nucleus, endoplasmic reticulum, golgi and mitochondria. Here are some images.

Look dev for the Nucleus and ER:


Then built some Mitochondria:


Made some tweaks,and then incorporated these together into the cellular environment:


And a final render with a bit of cytoskeleton around the edges of the image:


Thanks for looking!

-Joel Dubin

Vector Professional: A quick way to make neat stuff

Just picked up a license of Paul Everett’s new plugin and as all of Paul’s plugins, it has become immediately useful. VP is more than just an improvement to C4d’s built in vectorizer spline object, which for me always produced dodgy, unreliable results. Paul’s generator gives the user much more control of every nuance of the generated vector object,which can be built from an imported bitmap or animation sequence, producing animated spline/vector objects. Paul added a useful feature (which he seems to be doing almost daily!) allowing the user to reference any UV shader (static or animated) to use as the source for your vectorized object. And for me this is where the fun began.

Using Biomekk’s Enhance 4D shaders, I loaded a procedural hexagon tile (see screenshots below), and from that a hexagon patterned mesh was created. After making the result editable and preparing for cloning, I used mograph cloners to duplicate the tile so it interlocked many times. Then subdivided the results and added displacer deformers to get some organic randomness to the mesh, and voila!: another way to create tileable cells. I should mention that VP has built in extrusion controls, so I could have kept the whole thing procedural without making the original results editable. I just chose to do that as I wanted a little more control.

Great plugin and Im looking forward to discovering more things I can use it for.

Screenshot 2014-02-03 23.25.49

Screenshot 2014-02-03 23.48.14

Screenshot 2014-02-04 00.08.20

Screenshot 2014-02-04 00.07.56

The Glomerulus > Bowman’s Capsule > Nephron > Kidney.


A recent animation project has provided me the opportunity to build one of the most interesting looking structures within the human body as far as I’m concerned, the glomerulus: a jumble of capillaries within the nephrons of the kidneys responsible for filtering urine from the blood. I have actually gotten the chance to build this intricate and beautiful micro organ two times before: once about 8 years ago and then one more time maybe 5 years ago. In both situations I needed to resort to kind of “shorthand” representation of the structure, partly due to time constraints (always a challenging factor in medical animation) but to be totally honest, mostly due to lack of know how as to how best to model it at the time of the projects.

This time, I really wanted to take a step back before diving in and figure out the most efficient and most accurate way to approach the modeling process. After studying several scanning electron microscopy images online, as well as looking at how other medical illustrators have approached it, I decided to begin by building the intricate multi-tentacled octopus-like cells called podocytes separately from the capillaries that they wrap around.

I began in Cinema 4D using the old metaballs object. I drew dozens of spheres from the top view to block out the interlocking “pseudopods”, the feature which gives the podocytes their distinctive look. I then played with the metaball settings until I got the tightest skin around the spheres, while keeping the resolution light enough to be able to almost paint the meatball shape in realtime.


I built about 4 or 5 variations of the podocytes at different sizes, some large and complex and some simple and small, so I could pick and choose the perfect fit for each section of blood vessel I would be wrapping them onto. In order to begin the wrapping process, I first needed to break up my tubules into small sections. Each cylindrical piece of the tube would need to be individually UV mapped, which I accomplished using the built in bodypaint UV tools. The reason I needed to UV map the glomerulus tubules was that I would be using C4D’s Surface Deformer to wrap the podocytes around the tubes.

This process, although tedious (lots of time spent UV’ing about 20 parts of the tubes) worked pretty well, but I still found that there were still lots of areas beween the separarately wrapped podocytes where there were noticeable gaps. I wasnt getting the feeling that the podocytes were continuous throughout the surfaces of the tubules. I then turned to the plugin Paint On Surface to draw the spheres DIRECTLY onto the surface of the tubules. This proved to be a MUCH MORE efficient way to create the podocytes, and soon realized that I should have done it this way from the start! Here is a VIDEO from the DNS plugin site showing how this workflow works.

If I would do this again, I’d probably take a stab at this via ZBrush which is probably the ultimate way to go for most complex organic shapes like this one. I actually just bought a license of Zbrush recently from a friend who no longer had much use for it, so I do plan on getting up to speed with it soon.

Sometimes you just have to accept that there just isn’t enough time or budget in a project to do things exactly the way you want to, but the results are still good and more importantly, your clients are still over the moon with the end product despite your feelings of not hitting the mark. In time however, and especially with medical animation, where the subjects tend to run in cycles, you will eventually have the chance to do things right.

Cinema 4D R13 physical camera test: Lipid Monolayer

Just a test to get up to speed with the physical renderer in Cinema 4D 13. Wondering if it is viable for real animation work. The kind with deadlines.

I am currently getting ~8 min per frame rendering at SD widescreen. Only rendered a short sequence (130 frames) so I looped it a few times.

SSS was turned OFF as it was taking ages for the irradiance thing to cache (this was with optimized SSS settings).

I have 1 bounce for self illumination, AO on, motion blur and DOF on.

At the moment it looks like I still have some more optimization options to explore. Render times feel too heavy at the moment for long-form medical animation (usually between 4 to 10 minutes of HD animation) but maybe Ok for short shots for spots and such. We’ll see.

EDIT 12/01/2011

Continuing my experimentation. Removed sub-poly displacement and put SSS back in. Reduced settings significantly. see below)


Got much faster render times (~2min/frame). Still needs refining. Lighting is all HDRI now so could use a bit more directional light. Turned on reflections as well instead of using an HDRI environment map for fake reflections. Also added a second layer of phospholipids (now its a proper bilayer) and threw a couple of proteins into the dynamics group.

Mmmm. Tripe.

Looking for some micro-environment inspiration and found a nice scanning electron microscopy image of Stomach Lining. Still a work in progress.

The displacement really needs to be enhanced as the surface doesn’t look like its composed of the individual mucosal cells, looks more like a displaced surface. Need to add the thin webbed membrane stretched over the surface as well. And also need to add a better sense of the folds and “caves” prevalent on the stomach surface.

Reference image:

Cinema 4D render:


Some more fiddling. One mesh. Five deformers. (not sub-poly displacement–displacement is achieved with displacer deformers)

Still NOTHING like the reference image, but it illustrates how when using multiple versions of the same displacer deformer with the same noise loaded in and set to Vertex Normal you can get quite interesting looking surface. (Updated a bit since original post)

The bottom 2 displace deformers are using the same noise/settings.
The first of the 2 displaces the normals based on the noise shader. The second 2nd of the 2 takes the new normals (pushed out and altered by the 1st deformer) and pushes them further with the same noise. This way you create the illusion of separate spherical objects while its really all one mesh.

Below is the mesh with just one 1 displacer deformer activated used just to create an undulating base mesh from which to apply the bottom 2 deformers to.