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Burning Question: How can I create medical animations?

medical animations burning question

I find medical animations to be fascinating, viewing microscopic entities doing their work or watching how viruses infect their hosts. The field of technical medical animation has grown exponentially over the past decade, especially with the pandemic and recent medical discoveries. When I first published this article several years ago, the pickings were slim but now YouTube has hundreds of great examples. This is definitely an area seeing growth, used in research, biotech, and pharma. But judging by the tutorials, it seems like a field that employs a lot of women!

It’s worth mentioning that you these tutorials and tools are also useful for medical themed entertainment. For example, use them in a film about a viral outbreak when your character is looking through a microscope. Or perhaps you need to show some alien DNA in a lab. Or maybe you are creating art for a medical drama. Lots of possibilities!

How to become a Medical Illustrator and Animator

Below, Annie Campbell explains how to become a medical illustrator.

In the interview below, Emily McDougall talks about getting into the Medical Illustration and Animation field.

Medical videos are used to educate patients, train doctors, and sell pharmaceuticals. And, there are lots of tools out there that can be used to create and animate everything from cells and viruses to the different systems of the body.

Here, we’ll show a few cool examples, and give you some tutorials on dividing cells, blood flow, and more. In addition, download some free models, or purchase some tools to create your own medical animations.


Medical Animation Examples

COVID-19 Animation: What Happens If You Get Coronavirus?

This video hit the web just as Coronavirus hit the world.

OneDown: Make Cancer the Victim

Cancer is a scary thing. Believe me. I went through it in 2019-2020. This video for OHSU Knight Cancer Institute explains the leaps and bounds that have been made in the research and treatment of chronic myeloid leukemia. Directed by Robert Sethi with Animation from The Mill, the 3D was created in Cinema 4D with effects and compositing in After Effects and Nuke. 

There’s an article on The Mill website about the animation. 

Instead of individually sculpting each cell we used a set of noise and rules to randomly generate them, giving us a lot more freedom. And the comp team, led by Martin Karlsson, did a really excellent job. They took our renders and really pushed the electro-microscope effect to the maximum.

Ashraf Ghoniem, 3D lead artist, The Mill

Geometric Medical Animation Showreel 2020

Geometric Medical Animation shows their fine work.

Medical Animation – Vessel Studios

Watch Vessel Studios’ beautiful reel of medical animations and microscopic elements.

3D Medical Animation Demo Reel – John Liebler

John Liebler says, “A collection of my 3D medical animations, including “The Inner Life of the Cell”, “Powering the Cell: Mitochondria”, “Biology: How Life Works”, and other more recent work.”  His website, which is at the bottom of the video, is artofthecell.com. John created this beautiful work in Lightwave and After Effects, and I’m guessing that these are scientifically accurate.


Medical Animations Tutorials

Below, check out several tutorials on creating cells, DNA, and more. The tutorials are for Cinema 4D, ZBrush, X-Particles, Maya, and After Effects.

Veronica Falconieri Hays | Maxon NAB 2020 Rewind

Veronica Falconieri Hays is a Certified Medical Illustrator. She shows you how to create a nanoscale cellular landscape in Maxon Cinema 4D. In addition, she explains how she modeled DNA and cellular structures with dynamics, splines, and sweeps.

ZBrushLIVE Industry Spotlight: Medical Illustration – Andrew Swift – ZBrush 2022

The webinar below aired on 26 July 2022 with Andrew Swift from SO-form and the ZBrush Team. Andrew showcased how he uses ZBrush within his medical illustration pipeline, and it’s riveting!

Athanasios “Noseman” Pozantzis: Organic Shape Morphing Inside Cinema 4D

Learn how to create a medical-style motion graphics animation in this NAB 2017 presentation by Athanasios Pozantzis. This was featured in our MAXON NAB 2017 Rewind – Volume 8: Character, Organic, Procedural Modeling with the video from Cineversity.

Blood Flow with MASH in Maya

This tutorial from 3D Splanchnic explains how to animate blood flow through veins with Maya 2020, using MASH. MASH is Maya’s motion graphics toolkit. This tutorial comes to us via Lester Banks.

Medical Animation Tutorial: How to Create DNA in Autodesk Maya using MASH

Watch another tutorial from Emily Holden with a focus on how she animated DNA.

Sub Surface Scattering, Blurry Reflections, X-Particles, Physical Render, and Blurry Transparency

Nick Campbell explains how to create some cells with Cinema 4D and X-Particles

Medical Animation Tutorial – Creating a simple cell model in Maya

Annie Campbell, featured above, explains how to create red blood cells with Maya and After Effects.

Cell Dividing: Adobe After Effects Tutorial

Caleb Ward explains how to visualize cell division in After Effects.

CINEMA 4D Neuron cell Easy Animation l 뉴런 애니메이션 쉽게 표현하기

This one from Tutorials View+ has English and Korean subtitles and looks really cool!

Medical Animation tutorial: Track Mattes in After Effects for Protein Transition

Learn Medical Art, which specializes in Medical Animation, shows you a technique in After Effects.

Brain Cells in Cinema 4D and After Effects

An oldie but a goodie from motionsquared, in two parts.


3D Models, Textures, and Tools from Medical Animations

To make this fast and easy, check out these pre-made options, as well as tools you will need to create Mmedical animations.

VFXER Bio Cell for Element 3DVFXER Bio Cell for Element 3D

A collection of 50 exciting organic Element 3D models for Sci-Fi VFX, medical & scientific visualization.

The pack includes numerous stylized biomedical 3D models, which include DNA, virus cells, blood cells, neurons, bacteria and other micro organisms. It’s everything you need to create organic animations.

Learn More

VFXER Bio Cell for Element 3D, of course, requires Video Copilot Element 3D. Element 3D is a fantastic tool for making repeated elements, like cells, move around. In addition there is a VFXER Bio Cell Bundle available.

Pixel Lab Medical PackPixel Lab Medical Pack

20 medical related elements that will hopefully save you tons of time on your projects!

This one doesn't contain cells and microscopic elements, however, you may need models for defibrilators, EKG Heart Rate Monitor, MRI Machine, and lots more. Use these models with Cinema 4D.

Learn More

Dosch 3D: Medical Details - Human EyeDosch 3D: Medical Details - Human Eye

Detailed 3D-model of a human eye. For close-ups and animations.

Dosch 3D: Medical Details – Human Eye contains a detailed 3D-model of the human eye, including the optical nerve, blood vessels, muscles, retina, lacrimal gland and more.

Learn More

Pixel Lab Octane Lighting Essentials Volume 2Pixel Lab Octane Lighting Essentials Volume 2

18 Fully Customizable Studio Lighting Scenes

This pack includes a scene inspired by microscopic medical graphics.

Learn More

Renderking V-Ray Texture Pack 1 for Cinema 4DRenderking V-Ray Texture Pack 1 for Cinema 4D

150 V-Ray Textures

And 10% are microscopic shaders, including Mucous, Red Globule, Virus, and more.

Learn More

And the tools to create your own medical animations from scratch…

ZBrushZBrush

The All-In-One Digital Sculpting Solution Designed for the Pursuit of Art

ZBrush sets the industry standard for digital sculpting/painting. Use customizable brushes to shape, texture, paint virtual clay.

Learn MoreTry ZBrush for free!

Maxon Cinema 4D SubscriptionMaxon Cinema 4D Subscription

3D computer animation, modeling, simulation, and rendering software

Maxon Cinema 4D is a professional 3D modeling, animation, simulation, and rendering software solution. Its fast, powerful, flexible, and stable toolset make 3D workflows more accessible and efficient for design, motion graphics, VFX, AR/MR/VR, game development, and all types of visualization professionals. Cinema 4D produces stunning results, whether working on your own or in a team.

Learn MoreTry Maxon Cinema 4D Subscription for free!

Autodesk MayaAutodesk Maya

Create expansive worlds, complex characters, and dazzling effects

Maya is professional 3D software for creating realistic characters and blockbuster-worthy effects. Bring believable characters to life with engaging animation tools. Shape 3D objects and scenes with intuitive modeling tools.Create realistic effects—from explosions to cloth simulation.

Learn More


Medical Animation Freebies

10 Free Medical and science models and project

10 Free: Medical, Anatomy, and Science 3D Models & AE Projects

Medical and science animations have become wildly popular in the last month. Today we’re featuring a collection of free medical, anatomy, and science models and projects from around the web. Many are for Cinema 4D, but some will work with any 3D application. There are also a couple of After Effects projects here to keep things interesting. All are free for personal or commercial use unless otherwise noted. You can’t redistribute them, obviously. Enjoy!

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Posted by Michele Yamazaki