Thursday, December 13, 2007

The Democratization of Animation

Therefore for our research purposes, both science visualization and quantitative visuals were suitable for our research purposes since one of our main areas of inquiry was the domain of aesthetics and how aesthetics relates to the fields of science, art and animation.

In our research it was found the scientists and artists have a reciprocal relationship in terms of how they regard visual phenomena and natural processes. Scientists use animation as a communication tool to educate the general public, gain grants, and support their hypothesis. While artists use visual phenomena and depictions of natural processes as sources of inspiration for their animations and visual effects (i.e. crystals, jellyfish, nebula, lightning, etc…). This relationship is becoming more cohesive with the democratizing of digital animation.

The democratization of animation is something I write about a lot. It is my personal view on how animation is transforming visual culture in general. I gained this view as a graphic designer in the early 90s and by witness how Photoshop and, computers in general, help expand the field of graphic design. At the time, many graphic design journals, such as Émigré, Eye magazine, and the AIGA talked about the democratization of graphic design. The same thing is has already happened with animation, for example Autodesk has created a curriculum package enabling high school students to model and animation science visuals with Maya software. For the most, the democratizing of animation puts the software in the hands of the scientist, or access to an animator with the software allowing scientists to communicate more ideas at a greater rate.

science visualization vs. information graphics

The terms science visualization and information visualization are often used interchangeably, and while the two disciplines can overlap both tend to present visual data in separate ways.

Science visuals often deal with concrete data structures that represent natural processes, i.e. weather, medical anatomy, and physics, etc… where as information visualization or quantitative information deals with mathematical data structures and are often presented as charts as graphs.

3D renders, hyper-realistic visuals, fly-through animations, and flash cartoons are often the domain of science visuals while vector graphics are more often associated with information graphics.

But from an aesthetic stand point the distinction fades and both scientific visualizations, such as nebulas and electron microscope imagery and graphic content of visual complexity can be captivating sources of inspiration to animators and visual artists.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Women Illustrators

Dave's Seminar Post

- Enabled in 1990, the Children's Television Act was created to enhance television's potential to teach children. The CTA establishes a guideline that every station airs at least three hours per week of core educational programming.

-Captain Planet, a cartoon superhero, was created with the intent of entertaining viewers into an awareness of environmental hazards

-Bill Nye, an engineer by day, stand up comedian by night, created the show Bill Nye the Science Guy which aimed to teach specific topics in science to a preteen audience.

-Many children's programs today seemingly have little to no educational value. A few stations continue to put forth an effort to teach, but the shows are predominantly on cable television. These stations include Discovery Channel Kids and National Geographic, and PBS on network televsion.

Women Illustrators

Bulleted List for Science and Spirituality:

• Co-Exist? Judy Lemus said she was spiritual, but not religious. Dr. Francis Collins is religious and scientist. CNN Article

• Faking Science? Especially Web misinformation

Creature Museum: creatures
Water Crystals: crystals

• Human Judgment: Erroneous Science

Da Vinci: Da Vinci
Flat Earth: Flat Earth Forum

An Animation dealing with both:


This is an awesome animation created earlier this year by students in the Vancouver Film School dealing with the creation of the world and humans. It is interesting because it approaches the creationism theory with scientific dialogue and the Evolution/Big Bang theory with a middle ages/religious dialogue.

Watch all three videos.


The Differences/Similarities between artists & scientists

This research on the similarities and differences between art & science was taken from a book called The Origins of Creativity edited by Karl H. Pfenninger (Jan Pfenninger's dad - thanks Jan!) and Judy Lemus's footage from seminar. Added are a few thoughts of my own.

Similarities Between Artists & Scientists:

For both, the creative process in not linear with time.
Both seek to discover and communicate truths about the world in which we live
Both rely on elements of choice, inspiration and serendipity


Scientists strive for commonality, artists tend to be unique
Art needs the artist to exist, science can exists without scientists
Artists a can make things up, scientists must rely on truths

The Mysticism of Sience

Krome Barret's book, Logic & Design, In Art, Science and Mathmatics is a treasure trove of excepts and illustrations depicting the interconnections between science and art. In his introduction is an inspiring paragraph that mirrors Ernst Heackel's views on artist's and scientists from a contemporary perspective.

Barret states:

"It is fascinating to observe that physicists are moving closer to the thoughts of the ancients... of the mystics who found magic, and the origin of the universe, in number and geometry. As they search beyond our sensory scales into concepts of intergalactic space/time their models for is structure are based upon the minutest of particles."

Haeckel states -

"The tasks of scientists and artists are really identical, to depict the world around us with the precision of the scientist and the passion of the mystic."

The Process of Discovery for the Scientist, Artist and Animator

Thomas R. Chech, in his essay, overturning the Dogma: Catalytic RNA discusses the evolution of his creative experience in researching RNA. Elaborating on how the creative process is enacted for the scientist, Chech mentions, that in the sciences he is familiar with (chemistry and biology), problems are rarely solved with a linear set of experiments. Hypotheses are proven to fail and lead scientists to other hypothesis. In Chech's research, the Hypothesis was that RNA is not pure. A protein enzyme should be responsible for replicating the catalyzed RNA. But experiments lead to new discoveries, and it was found that RNA is indeed self-replicating - a breakthrough discovery that has foundations for the origins of life.

Artists, he believes, also follow non-linear paths in their creative workflows. For example, Pollock tried to become a proficient draftsman as young artist. His attempts to created representational and symbolic paintings inspired by Diego Rivera and Picasso were often not well received. His action paintings, which made him famous, happened by accident. In preparations to paint a mural, several drips of paint fell to floor, and Pollock's love of the resulting drippy design evolved into one of the most influential periods in Modern American Art.

Both of these processes of discovery exemplify what Chech calls "progress that is not linear with time." He discusses how both artists and scientists have periods of belaboring frustration (i.e. struggling with draftsmanship of reoccurring failing hypothesis) and periods of rapid insight (i.e. is self replicating and the drips are aesthetically pleasing).

On a personal, as an animator, I can relate to Chech's notion that progress is not linear with time. Most of us go about our work in a very linear way. First we come up with a story, then we write the script, then visual development, then the story board, then the animatic, then the casting, then the ADR session, then animation which replaces the still images in the animatic, then post-production, etc. But when the animation begins, I often find myself revisiting the story and making changes. This can be especially true for areas of "dynamic animation." For example, two characters are fighting on the edge of the cliff, in the script there is heavy dialog explaining a crucial part of the story. But the animation must be dynamic and quick. It must be suspenseful and gripping. At this stage the dialog has to be cut, maybe edited. What, I have to do another ADR session and call back the actor?! Oh dear. But wait. I can cut the dialog out entirely. The scene is more suspenseful, even better. Egads! What a great discovery.

works cited:
Overturing the Dogma: Catalytic RNA, Thomas R. Cech
from The Origins of Creativity, Edited by Karl. H. Pfenninger

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Religion and Science: Can We Get Along?

Usually when anyone surveys the news about the conflict between science and religion, the two issues are considered to be polar opposites. Despite the fact that there is a great historical precedent of strongly religious scientists (and, gasp, Artists!) that have contributed greatly to mankind, today's world believes that religion and science are oil and water. They do not mix (except in salad) and that if those religious scientists had been alive today, they would have found either religion outdated or science dogmatic.

Dr. Francis Collins is both a scientist and a believer in religion, specifically Christianity. In this article, he describes how he was able to unite the two seemingly polar opposites. Continues the debate between science and religion and whether they can co-exist. Not only is he both, he is one of the closest scientists at the crux of many of science and religions latest scrap, evolution. He is the director of the Human Genome Project, which was formed to read out the 3.1 billion letters of the human genome, our own DNA instruction book.

This world is Flat

Flat Earth Society

So you believe in a spherical earth? Not so, says the Flat Earth Society who follow the Flat Earth hypothesis. The contemporary flat earth movement originated with an English inventor, Samuel Rowbotham. The Flat Earth Society believes that the moon landings were faked and there is no evidence to support a spherical based earth. Test for yourself how the widely discredited hypothesis holds up.


Judy D. Lemus

Judy D. Lemus,Research Assistant Professor of Biological Sciences, is also the Marine Advisory Program Leader for USC Sea Grant where she guides interpretation and technology-transfer of marine science research. She completed both her BS and MS degrees in Biology at the University of California-Los Angeles and received her PhD in Biology from the University of Southern California. Her Creative works include Ocean Science Animations, Animations created through collaboration with Division of Animation and Digital Arts to help teach public audiences about ocean science concepts and research.

Ernst Haeckel

3D Medical Animation

Bill Nye The Science Guy

William Sanford Nye, aka Bill Nye the Science Guy, is an American comedian, television host, science educator, and mechanical engineer. Nye began his dual career as an engineer by day, and stand up comedian by night. His television show, Bill Nye The Science Guy, ran from 1993 through 1997. Each episode (100 in all) aimed to teach a specific topic in science to a preteen audience, yet it garnered a wide adult audience as well.

Children's Television Act

The Children's Television Act was enacted in 1990 in the United States to enhance television's potential to teach the nation's children valuable information and skills. The Act requires each television station that offers children's television programming in the U.S. to serve the educational and informational needs of children through its overall programming, including programming specifically designed to serve these needs (or "core" educational programming). In August 1996, the FCC adopted new rules to strengthen the enforcement of this statutory mandate.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Mystical Connections Between Science and Art

"The regular pentagon, in association with the hexagon, has been credited with magincal powers through out recorded history.

"It came as no surprise to mystics that DNA is found to function like a right handed helix in which each tread is of the same size and turns at the same rate of 36 degrees per tread".

"On each tread the chemical lattice is coded in hexagons and pentagons!"

- taken from Logic & Desgin In At, Science & Mathematics by Krome Barratt

The design of the web site will be base on the pentagon. This was inspired by an earlier post on the mystical properties of snowflakes. Snowflakes form as hexagons, but a pentagon is a simpler form to work with for design purposes. But based on further research, as seen in the except above, a pentagon is just as appropriate.

- joe

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Aesthetics help the universe survive

Babies are born "cute" so parents don't discard them. That is nature's way. Beauty is a survival mechanism and the Earth is alive. Nature has programed our senses with the capabliity to cherish and protect beauty in the world. But doesn't this hold true for the Solar System, Galaxy and Universe as well? We protect what we find to be beautiful, whether its a child, a puppy, a forest, a mountain or a nebula. But what role do artists and scientists play in this process? Why do they care? Have they been programmed by God and nature to protect the universe? Scientists and artists, and others as well, study nature in order to perserve it. They study biology and medicine to ensure a child's survival. They archive data, such as DNA and landscape paintings, so we can perserve information for furture generations. A museum is an archive of beauty. A petri dish is also an archive of beauty. Scientists and artists are the white blood cells that help protect the system.


Universal Principles of Design

The book Universal Principles of Design by William Lidwell, Kritina Holden, and Jill Butler is a concise guide into various rules that guide aesthetics and design. Each page references a different principle, some common, such as "highlighting," to more obscure ("The Law of Pragnanz"). Sidebars on each page denote the research involved in backing-up the principles.

As an animator, artist and designer I find this book to a valuable resource in developing my ideas. Some concepts are more relevant than others. For example, a knowing the principles of Baby Face Bias, Attractiveness Bias, Archetypes and Face-ism Ratio, would be of great benefit to character designers, screenwriters, and story development artists. But what I find most intriguing is the amount of scientific research which goes into each principle. By studying the various principles, it becomes obvious, that aesthetics are guided by a combination of science and pyschology.

Here are some of the principles in the book:

80/20 Rule
Advance Organizer
Aesthetic-Usability Effect
Attractiveness Bias
Classical Conditioning
Cognitive Dissonance
Common Fate
Defensible Space
Depth of Processing
Development Cycle
Entry Point
Expectation Effect
Face-ism Ratio
Feedback Loop
Fibonacci Sequence
Fitt's Law
Form Follows Function
Golden Raton
Gutenberg Diagram
Hick's Law
Iconic Representation
Interference Effects
Law of Pragnanz
Mnemonic Device
Most Average Facial Appearance Effect
Ockham's Razor

taken from Universal Principles of Design: A Cross-Disciplinar Reference, by William Lidwell, Kritina Holden and Jill Butler


The Relationship Between Art and Science

I've been reading a great article by Jesus R. Soto in an old issue of Leonardo Journal. Here is his take on the relationship between art and science:

"The relationship that exsists between art and science cannot be reduced to a simple case of an artist 's appropriation and application of scientific methods and concepts. Art is not the illustration of scientific ideas; there is no cause-and-effect relationship between the two fields. At and science are engaged in a common struggle to confront universal questions".

taken from The Rold of Scientific Concepts in Art, Jesus R. Soto, Leonardo Journal, Vol 27, No 3. pp 227-230, 1994

But I wonder if there is a greater connection between art and science that we cannot fathom at this time. In some way, all time and matter in the universal is connected. As artists strive for greater aesthetic achievements, is it possible for their imaginations to visualize what scientists can only see with technology? Is beauty universal?

- joe

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Terryl Whitlatch

Here is some Star Wars conceptual work of some Tatoonine creatures:

from Star

Whitlatch has worked on numerous film projects, such as Star Wars: Episode 1 and Jumanji, in creating believable fictional creatures. She grew up around animals and her background includes studying at colleges for both vertebrate zoology and art. Her approach to her concept art is fascinating. She does not illustrate animals or creatures that belong to other planets by what is “cool.” However, she composes the purpose of each creature by drawing a realistic skeleton. This does not mean that she draws a couple bones to indicate where the spine and limbs are. These bone skeletons have to be able to conceivably move, grow, reproduce, and still exist. She studies both animal and human skeletons for reference. This mindset allows works for the rest of the conceivable anatomy of the creature to be formed. Everything must have a purpose in creating these creatures, from the types of teeth they may exhibit indicating their diet to the type of hide relating to their environment. She loved the earlier Star Wars films for their reality that made sense, such as the Tauntauns in The Empire Strikes Back. This similar design philosophy allowed her to fit perfectly into the production line for Star Wars: Episode 1. She has also illustrated several books that focus on this intensive creature design, such as The Katurran Odyssey and The Wildlife of Star Wars. She is considered to be the foremost creature designer in the world.

here is an article about her work on star wars:
along with her profile:

also: Doug Chiang has some really interesting work, including an animated film in production called "Robota"

Visualizing the Center of the Milky Way

Robert Hurt, PhD, is an astronomer working on NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope mission, an infrared counterpart to the Hubble Space Telescope. He is a part of the public affairs team and oversees science visual communications for the project. This encompasses rendering research data as visual imagery and in conveying scientific results through illustration and artwork. He is part of the "FITS Liberator" development team, a Photoshop plugin that directly imports astronomy research imagery.

How are these images created?
Robert Hurt: Observations from the Spitzer Space Telescope are distributed in a FITS file format that is common to the field of astronomy. To make the jump from data to image, many observatories now use the FITS Liberator plugin for Photoshop. This freely-distributed import filter acts like a digital darkroom for the image. You can preview the image, set the black and white points, and even select between several functions to compress the dynamic range of the image.

Seismic Velocity Model

Dr. Rob Vestrum is a partner at Thrust Belt Imaging in Calgary, Canada. His visualization geological formation with complex-structure imaging, anisotropy theory, velocity model interpretation, and anisotropic depth migration.
His project experience covers the Western Canadian foothills, the Californian thrust belt, and the South American Andes.


Computer graphics and animation, created at ACCAD, were used to give students the ability to see molecular interactions and the biological concepts those interactions supported. Computer graphics allowed students to see these processes as multi-dimensional, multi-colored images and sequenced events, with complex, time-dependent, three-dimensional processes.

Jane: Diary of a Dinosaur

In the Summer of 2001, The Burpee Museum of Natural History discovered Jane, a juvenile Tyrannosaurus rex, in the Badlands of southeastern Montana. Jane is the most complete juvenile T.rex ever found. Jane lived and died 66 million years ago during the Cretaceous Period. It's unprecedented for such a small museum to discover, restore and own a dinosaur of this magnitude.
Starting in January 2005, The Burpee Museum of Natural History, Rockford IL, The Advanced Computing Center for the Arts and Design (ACCAD) at The Ohio State University, and Engine Studios, Rockford IL collaborated on an IMLS funded project for Jane: Diary of a Dinosaur . ACCAD contributed computer animation and interactive touchscreen media for the exhibit which opened June 29, 2005 at the Museum.

Bio Unbound: Stuff Of Life

Bio Unbound: Stuff Of Life
Bio Unbound: Stuff of Life is a collaborative project involving ACCAD, the Department of Design, the Department of Dance, and theDepartment of Entomology from OSU. The project is hosted by the Columbus Center Of Science and Industry (COSI) and represents an exhibit prototype for learning about DNA.
The DNA multi-user touch screen workbench allows users to learn the concept of Complimentary Base Pairing by manipulating and connecting nucleotides by hand. Interacting with the wall projection next to the workbench, users engage their entire body in exploring the concept of super coiling.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

The Imagination of the Scientist...

"To be sure, when the pioneer of science sends out the inquisitive antennae of this mind, he must have a vivid intuitive imagination, for new ideas are not born of deduction, but indeed of creative artistic imagination.'

- Max Planck.

Planck was a German physicist from the early twentieth century. He is considered to be the father of quatum theory.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Sun Visualization

Inspired by the Griffith Observatory, and with the help of the latest issue of 3D World magazine I set off to make a Sun Spot visualization of my own. The sun spots still have to be added, they will be created with Fluid Dynamics. Also, I may have missed a step along the way - the rays should be much smaller. I believe I should have worked in meters vs. cm. If I worked in meters the Multi-Streak particles would be smaller. But working in cm is advisable for large intergalactic scenes due to clipping plane errors that can result from working at large scales.

I should also adjust the Color Accumulation for the Hardware Render of the Rays. But the composite is of my own devising, using a combination of blending modes and radial blurs. I think the image works, but this represents how visuals can be misleading while being attractive to the viewer.

It is interesting to note that two particle placement techniques have been used in this composition: Emit from Surface and Emit from Texture. The stars in the background are images of real stars. They have been mapped to sprites, and emitted from a black and white texture painted onto a large sphere.

Research at the Griffith Observatory

I recently visited the Griffith Observatory ( and was really impressed by the design and display of the various exhibits. Much of the research on display reminds of the work of digital artist, Jim Campbell ( Combining animation with scuplture, the Griffith Observatory is a captivating experience.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Brain Topographical Map

Here is an interesting take on mapping the human brain.


Saturday, December 1, 2007

Discovery Channel Kids

Discovery Kids airs informative and entertaining programming for children with an emphasis on real-life adventures, nature, science and wildlife from all over the world.

Mad Scientist part duex

This scientist is quite mad. How could he not be? Look at those clothes. He is generally friendly and always willing to lend a hand (sorry for the terrible joke).

Widget the World Watcher

Gonna Take Polution Down to ZERO!

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Beauty in Science and The New York School

1945: Thanks to World War II New York becomes the art capital of the world.

Dali, Ernst, Leger, Lipchitz, Masson, Matta, Mondrian, Tanguy, and Beton make New York their home.

Art evolves at an exciting pace. Cubism, Expressionism, and Dada-Surrealism lead to total abstraction. The pure aesthetic of Abstract-Expressionism is born. Pollock, Hofmann, Gorky, Rothko and de Kooning predate Warhol as the art world's media darlings. At the time, many question the talent of these individuals. Nevertheless, these artists opened a new doorway in humankind's spatial and spiritual visual journey.

1962: The National Academy of Sciences proposes the developement of a large space telescope.

1990: The Hubble space telescope is launched after a delay of 5 years, due to the Challenger disaster

1993: The world's largest contact lense is used to correct the Hubble's blurred vision.

Subconciously, The New York school foresaw the dynamic conflict between positive and negative, flatness and space found in the shifting forms of nebula and galaxies discovered by hubble. The awe inspiring beauty of such interstellar phenomena is no differant then the pure visual aesthetic developed by the New York School.

referance cited:
Art since the Mid-Century, 1945 to te present/Daniel Wheeler, pages 61 -81

Fly Anatomy for Conceptual Inspiration is a great website for anyone interested in creating insect-like creatures for their animations. The site itself is quite remarkable, letting veiwers zoom in on various fly species while highlighting specific body arts. This is another interesting example of scientific visualization taking advantage of web site innovations.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Mad Scientist Sketch

This is a sketch of the Mad Scientist that will guide visitors through our website. Different versions will be soon to come.


Saturday, November 17, 2007

Visual Complexity

We are often taught that less is more; an ideal that often places more focus on the animation than image. Counter to this notion is the website: Visual Complexity is an ongoing archive of highly complex graphs and data mines. The work featured on this site is scientific in nature while being abstract and beautiful. Several of the charts are animated, but even the still images convey a sense of movement due to their visual complexity.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Creating creatures from scratch

Here are 3 articles on creating the creatures from an artistic point of view.
For Pirates of the Caribbean, Art Director Aaron McBride and Creature Model Supervisor Geoff Campbell helped bring these creatures to life.
Geoff goes into detail of how they would continuously model the creatures until it was right for the animation group (and how he decided to trash phonemes)

Aaron describes his process of designing the creatures for Pirates, and that he uses many real life references to help him visualize his final images.

Visual FX Art Director Alex Jaeger describes how he went about bringing the Tranformers to life from realistic cars to thousands of moving parts.

All of these articles contain some sweet previs picts!

Thursday, November 1, 2007


1. Effects - Curve Flow - Select a curve for the curve flow to follow
set the following parameters: Control Segments = 6, subsegments = 4, emission rate=300

2. Scale up the control circles to control the width of the flow path

3. Instance the curve flow particles with the geometry of your choice

You can also make a particle based camera rig to fly through the flow but that is a little bit more complicated. The work flow involves parenting a 2 node camera, to two particles that have been attached to a motion path. You must also connect the World Centroid of the particles to the translation of two locators that are also parented to the particles.

Visualizing Multiple Dimensions

Check out this fascinating site that uses flash to visualize the ten dimensions: