3D Medical Animation Studio, Ghost Productions, “Inspires Hope” for the Future of Cardiovascular Medicine
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CLIENT: Dassault Systems / Simulia
In the business of 3D medical animation, we can always count on the engineering geniuses at Dassault Systems to not only amaze us with new technologies that ride the very cusp of possible and science fiction, but also to challenge us to find ways to explain and market these technologies. Their software products are nothing short of revolutionary. SolidWorks, just one of their many titles, completely revolutionized computer aided design and manufacturing so much so that 90% of our medical device clients now provide us CAD models from SolidWorks. As little as a few years ago, the vast majority used ProE. Simulia, their division dedicated to the developing new standards in finite element analysis and frighteningly accurate simulations for engineering, brought in a new challenge for us with this particular project.
We’d worked with Simulia in the past when they needed us to create an animation that helped explain the features and benefits of their Abaqus Knee Simulator, a software solution that allows engineers to test their designs virtually, radically speeding the development of new joint implants. This time we were challenged to explain the potentials of using similar software to provide cardiologists with significantly better diagnostics by allowing them to run extremely precise simulations on their patient’s hearts. Because the simulation is run using a 3D model generated from each patient who needs treatment, doctors may soon be able to dramatically improve patient outcomes. They’ll know exactly where to place pacemaker leads and potentially other treatment options for the best result for each patient.
The goal for this project is to inspire thought leadership and help the world realize how valuable individualized 3D models and accurate simulations could be in treating life-threatneing conditions. This software gives doctors the ability to explore various treatment possibilities with each patient’s specific condition and physiology and this is likely to cause a dramatic improvement in how doctors diagnose and treat their patients. Ghost Productions knew that this project is extremely important and they needed to deliver a presentation that properly conveyed this importance.
Nic, who is responsible for directing our medical animtion projects to insure medical accuracy began brainstorming with our Creative Director, Josh. Together they came up with a few possible scenarios that may be useful to explain Simulia’s vision. They pitched their concepts to Executive Producer, Stephan, who immediately latched on to a concept that Josh had pitched because the concept both adequately explained the concept and because many of the assets needed for production had largely been completed. Several years earlier Stephan submitted a script to Medtronic that was written as a sequel to Heal, except this animation was to feature cardiovascular technologies instead of orthopedic and trauma devices, and starred Mario, the somewhat overweight character that accidentally caused the events leading up to Leo falling from the ladder. The animation also featured a little girl who was to be Mario’s granddaughter as the protagonist to help inspire empathy from the audience. Though Medtronic ended up passing on the script and the animation, Ghost had already begun building assets, including Mario and the little girl. Because Simulia’s deadline was critically short, it was necessary to choose a story that was both possible and successful.
Stephan then wrote a script to tell the story of a young girl with a life-threatening cardiovascular condition receiving care from her physician who had the full benefits of Simulia’s heart modeling and simulation technologies. We got the production rolling at breakneck speed and didn’t take a breath until we were finished. With only 43 net-production days from script approval final draft, we delivered the animation in time for our client’s marketing campaign and technology showcase event.
PUBLIC RELEASE: 6/9/14
BUDGET: Undisclosed at client’s request
We’re hiring Maya animators with medical experience. Send your reels now! Only looking to employ those who can work on-site or are willing to relocate.
Client: Aesculap Implant Systems
Mission: Medical animation studio, Ghost Productions, created this 3D medical animation for their client, Aesculap, to demonstrate the controlled and precise sponylolisthesis reduction obtained using the S4 SRI. After illustrating the features and benefits of the spinal implant, the animation shows a brief surgical procedure of the implantation of the device and pedicle screws.
Budget: $20,000 – $30,000
Re-blogged from Spine-Health.com
Veritas Health is proud to announce it has been named a Silver Award winner in the 35th Annual Telly Awards. The Silver Award, the highest possible honor, is for the company’s new patient education video, Sciatic Nerve Anatomy.Screenshot from our award winning video outlining the sciatic nerve.
As a select few of the nearly 12,000 entries from all over the nation, Veritas Health is honored to receive this prestigious award.
Veritas Health publishes peer reviewed, in-depth patient education through its network of websites, which include Spine-health.com and Arthritis-health.com. The company is developing a full suite of animated videos like this one to help patients understand their conditions and treatments.
See below for our newest animated videos:
Founded in 1979, the Telly Awards is the premier award honoring outstanding animated content.
Less than 10% of entries are chosen as winners of the highest honor, the Silver Telly award.
President of Veritas Health, Sylvia Marten, comments, “We are dedicated to publishing trusted, comprehensive and in-depth patient education to our audience. All of our articles and videos are written and blind peer-reviewed by medical professionals.”
Veritas Health was launched in August 1999 by Peter F. Ullrich, Jr., MD and Stephanie Burke, with a shared goal of providing intelligent, unbiased, and highly relevant medical information and support for people dealing with pain conditions and related issues. The company’s primary sites are Spine-health.com and Arthritis-health.com.
Mission: Ghost Productions created this 3D animation illustrating the versatility and osteoinductive potential of the Trinity® ELITE™ 3rd generation allograft. 3D animated surgeon hands show how easily Trinity® ELITE® can be shaped for the treatment of a wide range of musculoskeletal defects.
Budget: $30,000 – $40,000
CLIENT: Veritas Health – spine-health.com
MISSION: Produce a brief yet concise 3D animation that explains how an epidural steroid injection helps reduce inflammation of compressed nerves in the lumbar spine.
BUDGET: Market Value: $20,000 – $30,000
3D medical animation has grown from being an extravagance, to a convenience, to an absolute necessity for explaining surgical procedures and pharmaceutical products. When Ghost Productions produced its very first medical animation in 1994, the experience felt a bit like what Tesla must have experienced at the Chicago World’s Fair. Almost nobody had ever seen electric lighting, much less in such a massive display back in 1893, and in 1994, 3D animation had so far been presented only as an experimental medium in some very expensive advertising campaigns.
A lot has changed since 1994 and what began as an experimental medium has created an entirely new industry in the marketing and education of all possible aspects of healthcare. Ghost Productions has been fortunate enough to have been one of the pioneers of this new technology and helped bring significant improvements to the field along the way. This year the company is gearing up to make even more contributions than ever before.
Ghost Productions is developing new pipelines that make 3D animation in the field of medicine significantly more affordable and accessible to more sectors of the medical industry than ever before. Even more exciting than just affordability are the strategies they are developing for making animation more affordable and increasing the speed and quality at which animations can be produced. It may sound impossible to increase affordability, speed, and price. To be fair, one should always be suspect when they hear claims that violate the laws of triple constraints. In the study of economics, business, and project management, there is only one known factor that makes it possible to improve all three variables; a massive improvement in technology making it possible to apply the principles of automation in a way that doesn’t decrease quality.
Ghost Productions hopes that by reducing the cost, increasing volume, and maintaining or even improving quality, will help 3D medical animation become even more widely utilized in markets that previously couldn’t afford to use such a premium media. The primary methods that Ghost Productions will be developing to make this possible are:
• Increasing the efficiency of the production method
• Utilizing newer and faster technologies and maximizing the computer’s ability to automate redundant tasks
• Building custom pipelines for high volume work capable of reducing cost and time to deliver by as much as half.
Increasing the efficiency of the production method:
Goodbye storyboards, hello animatics! - The traditional production method used to begin with converting a script or outline into a drawn storyboard to create a visual reference to what was going to end up on screen. Ghost Productions has discovered through various methods of trial and error that presenting 3D rough animatics to their clients resulted in better comprehension and required less time than drawing storyboards. Because these rough animatics show a relatively accurate depiction of timing, camera movement, and object orientation, it allows clients and producers to begin having conversations about details sooner that couldn’t be easily conveyed using drawn stills in a storyboard. Also, everything that went into making the animatic is likely to be used in the final animation. This means that from the very beginning, we’re working to build the foundation of a quality end result. This gives each project a significant jumpstart and bypasses a timely process that is no longer necessary because of technologies like realtime rendering that gives instant feedback to producers and clients.
Fewer revisions means faster delivery of the final project at a lower budget. Another improvement new to Ghost’s production method came from a discovery made after completing an exhaustive study of the previous five years of logistical data. The greatest killer of production efficiency, profitability, and delivery time was the number of revisions that each project required. Ghost was regularly producing between 6 and 7 fully animated drafts before achieving the client’s approval to begin the final rendering. Draft animations are a finished grayscale depiction animation except that they are not fully-raytraced movies. Final renders require a substantial commitment in computer processing power that gives a Ghost Productions animation the visual depth and highly polished results seen in their demo reels. Ghost Productions discovered that they could decrease the number of draft revisions per project by investing more care in helping increase the client’s understanding of each element being considered when viewing a draft. Now, their drafts contain critical nomenclature and are 100% accurate to the 3D animation and the final product. Ghost is now spending an average of 1 additional day to produce what they call, RealDrafts, with the hopes that the improvements will dramatically reduce the revision process by helping the client achieve final approval using half as many revisions as before.
Decisive clients will pay less for their project. Changes to policy will also be a big part of Ghost decreasing the cost of the majority of their animations. Ever since the early beginnings Ghost Productions, clients had been offered a Done Right or Done Over (DRoDO) policy that allowed them to make nearly unlimited changes to the production. Ghost even offered clients a set of GoBack revisions to allow clients to make certain amount of changes to a various items in a project even if they had already approved the items in a previous draft. While the DRoDO policy speaks to the spirit of Ghost’s commitment to quality and was created as a direct opposition to other production studios that burned clients with excessive change orders, the numbers couldn’t be ignored. The vast majority of clients didn’t need nearly as many GoBack revisions as were offered and those that did resulted in projects that were inefficient and unprofitable. This made it obvious that Ghost could deliver a high quality product at a lower price to the majority of their clients if the few problematic clients paid for excessive changes and requests that were outside of scope. Ghost’s best clients are conscientious and decisive. These clients make it easy for Ghost to produce high-quality results with a profitable outcome. With this change in policy, those clients will pay less per project. Ghost’s worst clients, on the other hand, who are continually changing elements from draft to draft, sometimes back and forth, will likely pay more for their indecision.
Utilizing newer and faster technologies and maximizing the computer’s ability to automate redundant tasks:
Accelerating the process and working more efficiently means faster feedback and delivery of production assets. Over the past several years, Ghost Productions has logged every minute of every single employee in the company to find out how long each task took to complete. The software that collected the data automatically determined the most significant inefficiencies along the way. This helped the company identify the major problems and allowed them to focus their resources on functional solutions. One of the most offensive time-thieves was discovered in the lighting and shading department on test renders. Because this department is responsible for determining the look of the final animation, they spend most of their day making small adjustments to lights and surfaces of objects and then rendering a preview. Each of these previews took as long as several minutes using even the fastest computers on the market. Making a few hundred slight alterations to an animation’s lighting and shading added up to a significant amount of time every single day for every single artist working in the department.
Progressive and selective rendering to the rescue. In researching the process, it was discovered that every change, no matter how slight, required the software to re-render the entire preview area. This meant that if you rotated a single object 12˚ in a scene with 122 objects, the software was allocating a significant amount of processor time to re-render all 122 objects even if the change would only effect the one rotated object. This lead to the development of a progressive/selective rendering technology that only requires processing time on objects affected by changes. It also renders progressively, meaning that it instantly gives users feedback that appears slightly blurred at first and steadily becomes more refined as the processor calculates the render. This allows artists instantaneous glimpses of their work so they can respond faster and accomplish more in less time.
Delegating redundant tasks to computers reduces human time and error. Computer animation created a radical shift in the capability and capacity of the entire animation industry because computers can automate the majority of the work required by traditional animation. Ghost Productions is taking that even further by developing software that pushes significantly more duties from the artists and animators to the machines. At the end of 2013, the animation studio made significant resource investments in employees capable of designing automation technologies. Much of this investment was dedicated to the rigging department who is responsible for assembling 3D geometry and anatomy and establishing behaviors for their motion that can be easily manipulated by animators down the line. This makes it possible to take a very complex structure, like the human spine for instance, and articulate it into several positions and trust that the computer will know how to properly deform all the tendons, muscles, and connective tissues without any additional human intervention. This allows animators to make changes to 3D objects in seconds instead of spending weeks or months key-framing the thousands of corresponding connective tissues.
Building custom pipelines for high volume work capable of reducing cost and time to deliver by as much as 3/4:
In the same way that the Ford assembly line made automobiles affordable to nearly everyone, Ghost Productions is bringing animation to markets that normally couldn’t afford custom crafted high-quality 3D animation. Producing a single 3D animation for a new client is a bit like building a custom Italian sports car. Each client has their own specific needs and wants and it is very important that each animation be an original work of art. Obviously, it is expensive to have something made that is a one-of-a-kind original, customized to fit the specific tastes and preferences of each customer, but if that client needs not one but several animations that fit the same general design criteria, it is possible create a production pipeline that is capable of creating a large volume of work that excels in both quality and in value. For clients like Spine-Health.com who need hundreds of animation of spinal conditions, injuries, and treatments, Ghost Productions developed a custom 3D animation pipeline that dramatically reduced the time and cost to produce the animations. This pipeline contains all the tools that allow animators to quickly and efficiently deliver high-quality results without building everything from scratch for each animation. Though building a custom production pipeline is still a relatively large commitment, for a client that needs a lot of animation, it is a bit more like buying a fleet of production BMWs instead of a handful of Lamborghini Diablos.
Mission: Ghost Productions worked together with John Lymberg Productions to produce a series of animations exhibiting the features and benefits of the Orthaheel® technology, an orthotic capable of treating a variety of pediatric conditions.
Budget: $20,000 – $30,000
Client: K2M – Complex Spine Innovations™
Mission: As K2M keeps developing new technologies, Ghost Productions keeps adding them to the K2M feature reel. Watch several spinal injuries and pathologies are treated with the radical new medical technology so that the climbers can reach the pinnacle of K2. This project required ~1.5 minutes of new surgical procedure and about 50 seconds of modified character animation.
Budget: $20,000-30,000 -Note: Bulk of character animation was reused from previous versions of climbers movie
MISSION: Ghost Productions created this animation showcasing the unique features benefits of the Keo Brace used in the treatment of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome to be displayed in pharmacies beside the product. The client desired a high level of dynamic motion and visual sophistication while balancing that goal with keeping the message of the product’s use clear and understandable.