Medical Visualization Part 2 of 3: Uses

Medical Visualization Part 2 of 3: Uses

You’re in our second article for our series on medical animation and you’re probably interested in this niche. Yes, the games and film markets for 3D animation have become saturated, but exactly what kind of work is in demand for Medical Animation? In what specific ways is Medical Animation useful? How exactly can one’s artistic talents be used in an industry, which according to the Animation Career Review , will soon reach $300 million in three years?

If you are interested in the history of Medical Animation and Medical Visual Communication in general, then visit our first article in the series. Here, in the second article, we will discuss the main uses of Medical Visual Communication and give you an idea of just how in-demand this niche really is especially for 3D animators and motion graphic designers.

Patients’ Education

It’s not immediately obvious why this trend exists. Why would patients need Medical Animation for education? To understand this, let’s use an example that hits close to home: carpal tunnel syndrome. Digital artists know and fear it. Do you know what causes it? “Well, because I use a mouse too often in my work as an artist. Duh.” Yeah sure, but how much help does that sentence give you if you want to pinpoint the exact movement, angle, or hand position that sets off carpal tunnel? What if you want to avoid it; is there a correct angle for your wrist? If you saw gloves that supposedly prevent carpal tunnel, would you buy them? If they are cheap, probably. But if they cost thousands of pounds or dollars, you might reconsider right?

Some medical conditions, even those that are not life-threatening, can be solved by surgical procedures or treatments that cost thousands. Whatever patients are suffering from, one would think that all patients will want to get treated, no matter the cost. But that’s not always the case especially when we are talking about painful or complicated procedures, surgery, or expensive treatment.

Medical visual communication, medical animation

If patients can’t clearly grasp how something is going to help them, they won’t trust it. They might even opt for easier, less painful methods or even choose to live with their disability. They might even flat out deny to themselves that they need treatment (just think about anti-vaxxers, some of them might be impossible to convince, but if things were explained to them in nearly concrete, visual terms, they might just be turned).

Patient education is a growing trend not only for surgical procedures. Many new and old pharmaceutical mechanisms, drugs, and treatment methods need medical animation for patient education so that the treatment would be easy to explain (and sell) to patients. You’ll find these on TV, doctors’ offices, medical websites, and in hospital waiting rooms. So, for big pharmaceutical companies that want to sell their new treatment, they usually use medical visual communication to sell either to patients or to medical professionals who would use them and recommend them. That’s why this is a growing industry that is not likely to dry out any time soon.

Aside from creating detail, it’s also about being more entertaining. Think of those commercials that anthropomorphize diseases and germs, turns them into snickering trolls or little buggers with ill intent. They then characterize medicine, pills, or white blood cells as soldiers or superheroes coming to save the day.

medical visual communication, medical animation
Somehow, we just have to draw a face on these squiggly nothings. Source:

For a clearer picture of the size the medical animation B2B and B2C markets, think about how many new medical equipments are being made everytime a new tech or drugs are invented. It’s virtually an endless market of new products, treatments, and equipment. The B2C market application for medical visual communication is marketing over the counter medicine or other mass market medical equipment for home or personal use. These typically require strong visual marketing. B2B market include specialized or prescription drugs and treatments as well as high tech and extremely expensive hospital or doctors’ equipment.

Examples of medical devices and diagnostics equipment by Random42

Doctors’ Education

Doctors start out as students so they obviously need education too. To understand medical simulation, think about it as video games for medical students. That’s a fast way to learn, without needing to practice on dead bodies. You can now have incredibly accurate animated cadavers instead. There are some simulations that are not controlled and are essentially videos that can teach surgical concepts in depth. Without a great focus on hyper-detailed animation, these concepts can’t be taught as effectively.

Medical animation can help teach surgery, emergency care, and general medical concepts. One of the most popular is cellular and molecular animation. The miniature world of biological drama is just as unfamiliar and alien to us as outer space. Microscopic processes shouldn’t be taught in a vague way because smaller details of small details of small details, matter a lot when talking about DNA or other sub cellular and cellular phenomenon. DNA, molecules, and atoms are obviously never going to be clearly seen in literally any other way.

medical visual communication, medical animation, Zika Virus
Zika virus by Brad Baxley
Peeling the layers of the Zika virus by Brad Baxley, the man behind scientific visualization studio, Part to Whole. Software: Modo. Read our interview.

Forensic reenactment or reconstruction

If you’ve ever seen an episode of House or CSI (or for a more current reference, The Good Doctor), you’ll see a lot of medical animation. Most of the time, these shows will show a reenactment of exactly what went wrong in the victim or patient’s body. Visualizing the cause of death in a post-mortem investigation for example has a big impact in field of forensics whether for solving crimes or archaeological mysteries. You can also recreate a crime if you are a detective and show how the victim died, for example. But you can also recreate how a specific medical complication occurred as well. This is the field where 3D mographers and 3D VFX artists are even more in demand because the reenactment need to be animated with accurate physics.

Medical visual communication, medical animation
Using toys like these, for example, will make the jury think you’re playing around. Source:

Key Takeaway

Things happening inside your lungs, things happening in your bloodstream, things happening inside your cells, and even things happening in the level of DNA cannot be photographed and therefore need to be illustrated and animated. Imagination can only go so far, but with this fusion of science and art, we are literally able to push the boundary of the layman’s imagination. That’s not some cliché expression because most of these medical events really are beyond our imagination. It’s just like when one of your non-designer friends watches as you do modeling with your favorite 3D software, they have NO clue what’s going on. It’s all Greek. That’s exactly how a biologist or a teacher of bleeding edge medical science feels when trying to explain things to students or to a board that will offer him or her a medical grant. It’s also what a lot of doctors experience when trying to explain some concepts with their patients. It’s a completely different language or code. And as a 3D artist working in the field of medical animation and visual communication, you are the translator. As you know, the faster one can render any code, the faster the medical world can progress and the more lives will be saved (yes, we just made a gratuitous comparison here about render farm speed).

If you want to get more insights on the software and on what it takes for someone to enter into the field of medical visual communication or medical animation, then watch out for our 3rd article. Like us on facebook where we post our newest articles and other helpful content for all 3D professionals.

Medical Animation – Vessel Studios from Vessel Studios on Vimeo.

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