The art of animation of cellular and molecular processes has developed immensely in the last decade. One of the interesting trends is the increasingly sophisticated practice of mixing scientific footage with animation procedures.

A nice example is ‘The Golgi apparatus’ movie (Sougrat R. The Golgi apparatus. ASCB Image & Video Library. 2008;VID-142) that was awarded 1st Place Public Outreach Video at Celldance 2008, the annual cell film and image contest for members of the American Society for Cell Biology (ASCB), organised “to open the eyes of the world to the best in visually stunning videos and images that illuminate cell biology”. See it here: http://cellimages.ascb.org/ 

The Golgi movie animation takes you inside a mammalian cell where you can see the nucleus and its envelope that is connected to the endoplasmic reticulum (ER). Transition electron microscopy and tomography was used to create an animated image of a portion of a Golgi ribbon, where the trans-Golgi network peels off from the cisternae while a new component from the ER enters the cis-element of the Golgi. Very dynamic — very instructive — even looks nice!

This video is the first project by the Biovisualization program at the National Institute for Child Health and Human Development. Computer science and animation students collaborated with researchers to produce this visualization. As they say: “While the main focus was scientific accuracy, aesthetics were also considered”:

To convey the sense of scale, a progression is made, from actual confocal microscopy into an SEM style animation and then into non-photorealistic rendering of what can be seen at TEM level magnification. The software tools utilized for this project include Autodesk Maya, Adobe Photoshop and After Effects, Final Cut Studio, Mercury Amira and Imod. 

The winner of the 2009 Celldance contest will be announced at the ASCB meeting in San Diego, 5-9 December.

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