Achieving Broad Bacterial Protection Animation
Editor/Art director: Chris Larkin / Linda Gipson
Subject: Antibacterial Research by Dr. Angela Brown
Goal and Challenges: Animating the Importance of Bacterial Research
In most cutting-edge research centers and universities, scientific exploration’s foremost purpose is to advance knowledge. AKA, basic research. However, even if each paper published appears to be removed from the larger world, there is an underlying societal problem that the research seeks to address. We love working with scientists to honor their commitment to the details, while showing the broader public how scientific advancement is relevant to them.
Lehigh University P.C. Rossin’s center is a leader in engineering research, from medical engineering to nano-materials development. Lehigh scientist Dr. Angela Brown researches bacterial entry to our cells and how this relates to antibiotics. With the threat of bacterial antibiotic resistance looming on the horizon, Dr. Brown is approaching the problem from a new angle. Rather than trying to develop the next derivative, she’s entirely rethinking how we combat bacterial disease. She’s looking at blocking bacterial entry into our cells by protecting the docking receptors that allow bacterial particles to bind. This would lend broad bacterial protection, compared to our current arsenal which is ineffective against some strains.
To help others understand her vision, we worked with Chris Larkin and Linda Gipson at Lehigh’s Resolve Magazine to create an animation to tell her scientific story.
Process and Solution to Create the 3D Antibiotics Animation
To begin the animation process, we had to be sure we had the story right. We started off meeting to discuss Dr. Brown’s work, where she described what made her work unique. Chris Larkin followed up with journal articles from Dr. Brown so that we could understand the details of her work.
Often when we create an animation, we work from a script provided by the client. So although we are there to visualize the story and to clarify visual details, we know up front what the scene-to-scene sequence will be. But in this instance, they were looking for us to suggest how best to tell the story and to imagine the scene-by-scene narrative. We did so based on Lin and Chris’s guiding ideas, and our own reading of Dr. Brown’s research.
We started by creating a storyboard of the animation, or a step-by-step sketch of the key scenes. To bring home the relevance of her research, we started the animation with a hospital scene, and zoomed into a glass of water filled with bacteria (ick!). Next, we cut to a view of the bacterial cell inside the body, getting ready to attack the body’s cells. From the storyboard, we confirmed with the Lehigh team that it looked accurate, and got across the point we were after.
From there, we started creating components in Cinema 4D, from the wiggling bacteria, to the receptors on the cell surface. For each major scene, we exported the sequences to edit together in After Effects. Since we weren’t recording a voice over, Chris asked that we caption the animation, and add in quotes from Dr. Brown at key points in the animation to give it more resonance.
The Final Science Antibiotic Animation and Artwork
The animation was polished for final use across Lehigh’s communication channels. From the animation, we were able to multi-purpose still scenes of the animation, into evocative still art for Lehigh’s Resolve magazine, and other outreach efforts. Lehigh University featured the animation on their website and published the stills in Resolve Magazine, Fall 2016, Volume 2 (pictured below). The animation and illustrations continue to help bring well-deserved attention and respect to Dr. Brown’s work as she advances new techniques to combat bacterial disease.