June 5, 2012 · 11 min read

Oh SNaP! A Video – Part II

Written by:  Matthew Perrin
Resident Ghost Writer

Come one, come all.  For those readers just joining us, welcome!  We begin this post by returning to our previous week’s discussion of the technical travails involved in our recent SNaP character project.  But before we do so, let’s give that video another view…

Spiracur SNaP – Starring “Charlie”

[vimeo 39735736 w=500 h=281]

The final product may look like a walk in the park but, as previously noted, creating this animation required much more than just a snap of our fingers.  Okay, that’s enough with the puns.  Moving on…  We left our last post after discussing the value of using the Anzovin plugin for Maya called “Setup Machine” to rig our character “Charlie.”  His counterpart, the doctor, was also rigged using Setup Machine.  Her pivotal scene involved the actual application of the SNaP dressing to Charlie’s wound.  Realistic hand movements are always challenging to animate, particularly when those movements require multiple joint articulations and interactions with flexible and contoured objects.  The SNaP application scene includes all of those criteria.  Let’s explore some approaches to the construction of this scene.  As with our previous discussion of software specifics, the technical terms used below will abound unencumbered by digressive explanations.

The SNaP application scene presented multiple difficulties because it involved simulating the wound dressing alternately and simultaneously contacting and conforming to the doctor’s hands and to Charlie’s foot.  Jas Bajric, our animator responsible for producing this complex scene, did so by establishing a series of bend deformers, point constraints, and blend shapes for the respective objects in Maya.  He then timed precise transitions between those elements, which appear visibly seamless during the animation of the shot sequence.  Such studious attention to detail was necessary in order to replicate the physical attributes and behavior of the SNaP dressing and the human anatomy, while allowing them all to interact convincingly.  The result is that the wound dressing appears to bend under the pressure of the doctor’s fingers, then adhere snugly to the curvature of Charlie’s foot, never betraying the intricate mechanics underlying these subtle movements.

SNaP animated logo sequence

If concealment and subtlety are the hallmarks of 3D production in this video, emphasis and dynamism characterize the effects added during its journey through post-production.  This is evident from the moment that the video begins, as a frenetic cluster of rod-shaped particles swirl and unite to form the SNaP logo.  Bryan Politte, our primary compositor on this project, created the intro sequence using an imaginative alteration of a template in Adobe After Effects.  This is the main program that ghOst uses during video post-production, because (as its name implies) After Effects is capable of creating dazzling cinematic enhancements.

Pop-up SNaP video with magnification effect and desktop capture

That said, this animation allowed for using a different program called Camtasia to record activities on a desktop computer monitor and suture them into the SNaP video.  This can be seen when Charlie visits the Spiracur website to learn about the SNaP wound care system.  Camtasia allowed our post-production team (“Post”) to capture live desktop images of a mouse pointer interacting with the website and then selectively focus on the mouse pointer using a magnification effect.  The effect is used to show Charlie opening a video that demonstrates the features and benefits of the SNaP system.  This video, which is embedded on the Spiracur website, was the first created by ghOst Productions to showcase the SNaP product.  During the creation of the “Charlie” animation, Post pulled the high-res version of the web-based SNaP video from our archives and merged it with the motion capture sequence, making it appear as if it was streaming directly from the Spiracur website.

The sort of spectacle crafted during post-production of our videos is often a luxury in the field of medical animation, since such spectacle does not threaten or interfere with the technical accuracy of the medical information presented elsewhere in the video.  Generally, character-based animations allow for more room to explore the potential aesthetic and entertainment values of the video than similar pieces focusing exclusively on tools or procedures.  ghOst Productions thus loves character animation because it allows us to flex our full creative potential and bring all of our skill sets to the forefront of our work!  Stay tuned for our next project retrospective and check out our other videos on Vimeo.

Want to know more about what happens at ghOst Productions? Visit our primary haunt (a.k.a. homepage).