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The inner life of a cell

The inner life of a cellEver wonder what happens inside your cells, the building blogs of your body? The Inner Life of a Cell, an eight-minute animation created in NewTek LightWave 3D and Adobe After Effects by XVIVO and Harvard University, tries to answer that question in a way we can visualize. Below is a 3 minute version of it which was presented at Siggraph in August.

I don’t know about you, but I think it’s really cool!


An Animation Company takes Harvard University Students on a 3D Journey (Press release) (Rocky Hill, CT)

Harvard University selected XVIVO, LLC, a Connecticut based scientific animation company, to customize and develop an animation that would propel Harvard’s Molecular and Cellular Biology program to the next level of undergraduate education. XVIVO’s recently completed animation, titled “The Inner Life of the Cell”, has already won awards. The eight minute animation transports Harvard Biology students into a three-dimensional journey through the microscopic world of a cell.

The first in a planned series of animations for Harvard University’s Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology, “The Inner Life of the Cell” takes undergrads beyond textbooks and vividly illustrates the mechanisms that allow a white blood cell to sense its surroundings and respond to an external stimulus. This animation explores the different cellular environments in which these communications take place. “I was impressed by the ability of the XVIVO team to transform all the structural information and the very detailed sequence of molecular events that I assembled in a story-board into a visually pleasing work of art. This was made possible because the XVIVO team combines artistic talents with a good understanding of biology,” says Alain Viel Ph.D., Associate Director of Undergraduate Research at Harvard University.

XVIVO collaborated with Dr. Robert Lue Ph.D., Director of Life Sciences Education at Harvard and a faculty member in the Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology, and Dr. Viel to create an educational piece that is scientifically accurate as well as visually engaging for students. “We have received a tremendously enthusiastic response from students, both in freshman biology and sophomore cell biology courses,” says Dr. Lue. “Both the quality of the final product and my experience working with XVIVO has reinforced my interest in a long-term collaboration with this team,” adds Dr. Viel. With the support of a Howard Hughes Medical Institute undergraduate education grant awarded to Dr. Lue, Harvard University is able to bridge the gap between multimedia and undergraduate education.

XVIVO’s animation plays an instrumental role in the BioVisions at Harvard program established by Dr. Lue. “Furthermore, preliminary evaluation shows that using animations as a part of their study resource enhances performance on questions requiring data interpretation followed by hypothesis building in the cellular context by almost 30%,” says Dr. Lue. BioVisions is a computer-based learning environment for undergraduate students that will allow them to delve into the science of cellular study with more depth and opportunities to enhance their understanding. Dr. Lue describes BioVisions as a long-term project which brings top multimedia professionals together with students and faculty to harness multimedia applications – from streaming video to three-dimensional renderings – to further undergraduates’ understanding of laboratory techniques, protein structures, and molecular and cellular processes (Harvard University Gazette, 2002.)

David Bolinsky, partner and medical director of XVIVO, worked side by side with Mike Astrachan, partner and production director and John Liebler, lead animator, to breathe life into the complex animation. Bolinsky says, “Working with Rob was intriguing and exciting from our first conversation because we shared a passion for the intricacies of the content material and an equal respect for communicating with high aesthetics.” The intricate animation and highly detailed environments of the “The Inner Life of a Cell” animation were built with Newtek’s Lightwave 3D, Adobe After Effects and Happy Digital’s HD Instance plug-in. Sean Hyde-Moyer’s PDB (Protein Data Bank) Reader was used to develop the many protein structures that populate the cell. “Putting the complexities of Dr. Viel’s extensive material into tangible visual forms, made it easier for me to grasp, and I hope it makes it more accessible to others as well, ” adds Liebler.

A three minute condensed version of XVIVO’s “The Inner Life of the Cell” animation was recently selected out of 750 entries to receive a coveted spot In the Siggraph 2006 Electronic Theater. The Siggraph Electronic Theater showcases the finest achievements in animation, simulation, visualization, visual effects, and technical imagery. XVIVO’s “The Inner Life of the Cell” animation also won a 2006 Telly Award. The Telly Awards is the premier award honoring outstanding local, regional, and cable TV commercials and programs, as well as the finest video and film productions. “The Inner Life of the Cell” can be viewed at http://www.xvivo.net/.

XVIVO, LLC provides pharmaceutical corporations, medical device companies and advertising agencies customized bio-communications solutions that are scientifically accurate and visually compelling. This includes 3D and 3D stereoscopic animation, interactive media, continuing education projects, educational consumer videos, and tradeshow media. Some of their clients include Novartis, Genetech, GlaxoSmithKline, and DARPA.

Bill Larson
Bill Larson
Bill Larson is  is politically and socially active in the community. Bill is a member of the Friends of Dunbar Cave. You can reach him via telephone at 931-249-0043 or via the email address below.

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