Molecular animations

Garvan's molecular animations

Animations can help us understand how the tiny molecules in our bodies look and behave, and how this can go awry to cause or progress disease.  

We strive to engage audiences deeply in the research at Garvan by creating animations and simulations that utilise emerging technologies that go beyond a standard screen, through immersive visualisation.

Cancer is not one disease 

Although different cancers may look the same under the microscope, they can have very different gene expression patterns. 

Tagging DNA

Tiny chemical tags can be added to DNA to affect gene expression, a mechanism that can change in disease. 

Heartbeats of our genome

The RNA pattern in each cell can change over time and also in disease (adapted from a 360 degree stereoscopic animation).

DNA can be tightly packaged inside our cells by nucleosomes (purple)
DNA can be tightly packaged inside our cells by nucleosomes (purple)

Why is animation so powerful?

Animation can show biological structures that can otherwise be impossible to visualise due to scale or resolution. These animations are created using authentic scientific data, and blend storytelling with the tools of art and design to inform, educate and engage audiences.

Complex scientific concepts can be difficult to understand, but molecular animations can help to make these more accessible. 

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Data-driven model of bone created in Maya using data from Garvan's research.
Data-driven model of bone created in Maya using data from Garvan's research.

How are molecular animations created?

Our animators work closely with Garvan researchers on each animation topic to make sure some of Garvan’s most fascinating, yet complex, research is being accurately represented and explained. A typical 3D animation is three to five minutes long and takes three to six months to complete. 

Various sources of scientific information are used in the content, and the protein databank (which contains molecular structural data) is heavily utilised. The animations are created using animation software Autodesk Maya and accurate 3D models of biological molecules can be directly imported into Maya via the plugin Molecular Maya.

Creating each individual frame

Individual scenes are sketched in hand drawn illustrations that contribute to the storyboard, a process adapted from traditional film making and animation techniques. When finalised, the 2D storyboard is then re-created in 3D using Autodesk Maya.

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Related information

Data visualisation at Garvan

Creating tools that transform how life scientists view and analyse their data.