Medical Animation

A still from my first attempt at creating a medical animation. I used Maya with Arnold renderer. 

Generally when people think about animation they think of cartoons, but animation has many more applications than storytelling such as medical animation, scientific visualisation, VR, special effects, educational videos, architectural renderings and visualisations. It’s an incredibly powerful tool, which has the potential and capability to help educate people from all around the world, no matter their background, culture or location.

Education through animation is something I am so interested in and am avidly trying to seek out more information about. Over these next few posts I want to share my findings about education and animation, and have a go at making my own medical and educational videos…(of course the content of the animations will come from experts in the field, as my scientific knowledge is rather minimal. Content is King. If the information is wrong then no matter how good the animation, it is redundant).

Whilst I still love animation for its ability to communicate a compelling story well,  I have become increasingly interested by the way animation can communicate challenging and difficult information incredibly concisely and effectively.

In particular I am fascinated by medical animation. Medical animation essentially consists of visualising things that happen within the body using 3D animation software. A medical animation could show the molecular, cellular and physiological mechanisms associated with Alzheimer’s disease. Or it could demonstrate how DNA replicates.

‘Inside Alzheimers’, by Fusion Medical Animation, for Nature Neuroscience
Stills from Fusion Medical Animation’s ‘Inside Alzheimers disease’.

An article in Healthcare Business Today said ‘ 3D animation, aided by computer modelling and other techniques, is an increasingly indispensable tool for teaching, patient education, planning of complex surgeries, and the marketing of drugs and devices.’ I completely agree with this as I believe 3D animation has the ability to show complicated information very clearly and effectively, and improves greatly upon vastly oversimplified images and diagrams that have been used in the past.

‘Increasingly, instructors have turned to technology-assisted materials such as animations to provide students with the most accurate representations of these processes and techniques.’ Instructors and educational institutions are not alone in adopting animation as an effective communication tool. Surgeries and clinics have also begun to use animation to help explain surgical procedures to patients. Oftentimes the information about a certain surgery or condition can be difficult to understand, especially as some of the terminology and names are foreign to most people.

As an article in Flatworld Solutions said ‘Visual learning is always considered the best form of learning new things and understanding complex concepts.’ 3D animations can aid doctors explanations of a particular health condition or surgery and help to put the patient at ease. As medical animations contain lots of information and are easily accessible to people it creates a chance for patients to process information and to think of questions before they see their doctor, increasing the efficiency of consultations and doctors time.

Janet Iwasa, a molecular biologist, is someone who sparked my fascination and curiosity of medical animation. I found her Ted talk about molecular biology and animation very fascinating.  I never really knew animations could be so beneficial for biology. If you haven’t seen her talk I definitely recommend doing so, it’s a fab way to spend five minutes of your time!

Towards the end of her speech she said ‘I believe that animation can change biology. It can change the way that we communicate with one another, how we explore our data and how we teach our students.’ I really believe in this, and it makes me so happy to think that something connected to the arts can be so helpful for the sciences!

Thanks for reading!



Journal Articles

“Applying the cognitive theory of multimedia learning: an analysis of medical animations”, Blackwell Publishing Ltd, 2013.   Authors: Yue, CaroleKim, JessieOgawa, RikkeStark, ElenaKim, Sara

Animation Pitch, English National Opera

Hello this is a pitch I created for the English National Opera, who were looking for a 90 second animation to accompany music from operas they are showing presently and in the future. The purpose of this was to reach out to the public and invite them in to the world of opera and become slightly familiar with some of the amazing stories these operas are telling.

Pitch – Presentation

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A rough outline of the speech I gave…if memory serves me correctly:

Hello my name is Jessica, I have chosen the song ‘Che Gelida Manina’ from the opera La Bohéme.

Before I explain the synopsis of my idea for an animation, I would firstly like to tell you a little about what is being said in this particular song.

Mimi and Rodolfo are in Rodolfo’s apartment looking for Mimi’s key. Rodolfo finds the key but doesn’t tell her, instead he begins to serenade her and tell her about his life and what he does.

I wanted to replicate this in the animation by showing Mimi and Rodolfo leaving a Parisian cafe. On the way out Mimi drops her key, but neither of them notice. The door of the cafe swings shut and the open sign swings round to show that the cafe is now closed. A cascade of moonlight beams through the window and begins to work its magic. All of the objects in the cafe are brought to life, including a radio that begins to play the opera, and we see Mimi’s key (a representation of Mimi) looking upset and lost.

The key is desperately trying to push the door of the cafe open so that she can find her owner. On a table nearby is a candle (a representation of Rodolfo) he see’s the key struggling and wants to help her. He is excited by the prospect of making a new friend and invites her to take a tour of the cafe with him. He introduces her to his other friends, shows her the views of Paris from the window and imitates poses in the posters that adorn the cafe – to try to make her laugh. The door swings open and the objects in the room assume their natural positions. It is Mimi and Rodolfo looking for her key, when Mimi see’s her key she shrills with delight and hurriedly leaves the cafe. A sad candle looks on at the friend he has just made and lost.

In summary I want this animation to reflect the overarching theme in La Bohéme which is essentially dreaming versus reality. This is a story about dreamers and artists all striving to reach their potential, but struggling against the demands life brings. This animation shows a small window into the hope and wonderment cafe objects have in their moonlight hours before reality comes in to end the dream.

Thank you.


I really appreciated the feedback of the panel who said the storyline was strong but struggled with a few details which I will share now.

One point was that they felt it would be difficult for an audience to empathise with a key and candle, which is a valid point and something I would have to work hard on in my character design, acting and scripting of the 90 second animation.

A second point which I had overlooked and is something I am glad that was brought up, was that they felt Mimi should not be represented as a key because she is constantly battling with illness and eventually dies in the opera. Having something as durable as a key doesn’t demonstrate that her moments in the story are fleeting. I think the reason I had overlooked this is because I felt that because Mimi (the woman) was taking the key away from the candle this sort of simulated a parting, such as death. Only on reflection do I see that this isn’t really strong enough and doesn’t really make the audience worry that the candle and key will never be reunited again.

If I were to pitch this idea again I would have switched the roles so that the candle was the representation of Mimi, constantly flickering and spluttering, as it is a more fragile object that ultimately will burn out.

Overall it was a positive experience which helped me practice presenting my ideas clearly, concisely and enthusiastically. I also learned a lot from my classmates who all had excellent pitches and took note of the charisma and research that students brought to the pitch.

Thank you for reading.