Anatomy and Art

a blog by Sara Egner

2013 AMI Conference

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Okay, so the last time I wrote in, it was a race to see how quickly I could get something coherent down before falling asleep.  Let’s see if I can slow down now and try to recap things a little better this time.

**note – A lot of letters that are meant to be printed after people’s names have been left off for the sake of my sanity in trying to get a recap down.  Rest assured we had a lot of degree toting folks out**

My coworker and I arrived in Utah last Tuesday to settle in to our room and be up and ready for an early Wednesday of workshops on ePMV and AutoPACK with Graham Johnson, and co-instructors Fabian de Kok-Mercado, and Merry S. Wang.  We use ePMV all the time at Sapling Learning to explore and illustrate molecules.  It’s a plug-in that works with the major 3D animation programs, and probably works best with Cinema 4D.  It reads pdb files, and when you pull them from the Protein Data Bank, they come chalk full of all kinds of information.  The polio virus molecule image that I posted last time was created using data labeled as 2plv. What was especially cool about this, was that we learned how to pull in a repeated portion of a molecule, undo the auto setting for it to center to origin, and then apply another setting that repeats the biological unit to fill out the entire molecule.

We also got our hands into AutoPACK which I didn’t have previous experience with, but I’m looking forward to exploring further now.  It allows you to pack molecules appropriately into spaces like in blood serum or cytoplasm.  Actually, it lets you pack any objects that you might want organically into any defined space.  It’s a cool trick, and one that I’m sure will come in handy.

We also had the big salon opening that night.  There were walls full of fantastic pieces, as well as those that needed tables, there were interactives, animations, all sorts of awesome.  I had “Translation” showing that I made last year with Sapling Learning.

The next day started up early with the mentor breakfast.  I haven’t participated on either end of the mentor program as of yet, but it seems like a nice idea.  Over breakfast, a man named David mentioned doing a little model sculpting on the side and he told me about this stuff, CX5 that sounds really cool.  I may have heard of it once before, but I’ve definitely never played with it.  I think I want to.

We then caught Dr. Roberta Ness‘s talk on Innovation.  She spoke a lot about frames, meaning expectations or what is conceivable from a particular mindset.  She spoke about the power of metaphors, and the importance of frame breaking.  And she reported that innovation and creativity has been dwindling in America.  And told us that creativity can be taught.  It was a good talk, and one that I have called pieces of to memory on several occasions since.

Then Jens Krüger spoke to us about 3D data visualization rendering systems that he has been working on.  I’m not sure I really got the full potential of everything he was showing us, but there were some really nice representations he had to show.  Seemed like he kept coming back to the notion of looking for more problems for all of these solutions they were developing. I think that they will do just fine finding ways to implement their technology.

We had the big business luncheon that day, and afterwards Chris Converse spoke about the future of web animation.  He showed us some fun examples of html5 simple interactives and spoke a bit about Adobe’s Edge Animate.  It is on my list of things to do, to explore that particular software, so the little tour was much appreciated.

After that I caught Tim Butler’s talk on past and present mobile technology.  Having grown up along side the advent of mobile phones, it was interesting going through their history, and I might someday have to make my own personal timeline of communication technology.  I’ve pretty well gone from corded phones and pen pals to Facebook, blogging, and a smart phone with a whole lot of steps in between, but even more steps outright missed, as Tim’s lecture really pointed out.

I also attended a workshop on improving one’s posture and work habits for healthier working with Esther Smith.  We went over some stretches and work station arrangements.  She recommended finding a MacKensie physical therapist to anyone looking for someone to work with them on improving their own work set up and personal habits.

Friday morning started with a talk from medical illustrator, Dr. Carlos Machado.  His work was beautiful.  And the only note I took, was reminding myself to never take up gouache.  Seriously, that stuff sounds like such a pain to work with.  But man, Dr. Machado has really mastered the art. The way he paints skin, just blew me away.

Next we had Andrew Hessel come out and talk about genetics, nanotechnology, bacteria, synthetic virology, and all kinds of teeny tiny awesome that could easily be imagined turning creepy, but his enthusiasm was contagious!  We learned about Project Cyborg, and iPhone controlled roaches, and how Kickstarter is becoming a good funding platform for scientific innovation.  He also brought up the new wave of kids working with Autodesk software, namely 123D.  I don’t know how robust the software they’re using is, but I can’t help but think that those kids will have such a great edge on understanding how to communicate in software, and understanding the inherent usefulness of geometry and physics as they go through their early math and science classes.

Peleg Top was next on the stage to talk about the importance of marketing and how marketing is more than just advertizing.  At the time, I didn’t feel like I was that in to all the marketing fervor, but while he was talking I scribbled down a couple of good ideas, so maybe it was a more effective talk than I’d realized.  One was for Sapling Learning, and the other was a website design strategy for selling my paintings online.  Here’s hoping I can follow up on them.

After lunch, we reconvened to hear Brian Dunham discuss his strategy for improving the surgical atlas.  He was bringing work to a digital format, and emphasizing more of the routine surgical steps that accompany the surgical cuts and maneuvers themselves.  It sounded like he was doing good work.

And the next one I’m still pretty excited about.  Brandon Pletsch, who I had met earlier and gotten a little mini view on what he would talk about, and Adam Pellerite spoke to us about Autodesk’s 123D Catch application.  It’s a free app for the iPhone, or a desktop app if you use a PC.  It lets you take a bunch of photos of something, or someone holding very still, and the software weaves the images together ala stereophotogrammetry to create a 3D image that you can look at from different views, and even bring in to your 3D software as an obj file with a photorealistic texture map.  So far I’ve managed to capture a moderately good 3D image of my co-worker Alex but I’m not sure if she’d want me to post that attempt on the internet, so I’ll just snag the shared image of this guy from the website to give you an idea.

They were using it mostly for capturing dissections.  I can only imagine having something like that to study from when you’re trying to memorize the spacial relationships in anatomy.  And I am excited about finding ways to use this one in future endeavors!

After that I caught Tonya Hines (our new AMI president)’s talk on Open Access publishing and contract dilemmas.  After so much attention at work lately on the various kinds of licenses out there, this was especially interesting.  I honestly had no idea just how varied people’s perceptions were on what the expression “commercial use” means.  I may have even submitted my animation to the salon incorrectly, I was so convinced that anything that was sold was commercial.  But apparently a lot of people take more the advertizing definition of commercial when deciding what is or isn’t a commercial use.  And people put out creative commons licenses without realizing just how varied that label is.  I’ve always found contracts and permissions to be difficult terrain, but this talk definitely made me take note of a couple pit falls I hadn’t yet thought of.

That night we had the awards banquet.  My animation didn’t take any awards this time, but one of my teachers from grad school, John Daugherty, was recognized for his long time legacy of fantastic work.  I’m glad that I got to see that.  I learned a lot from him in school.  He’s pretty much the guy in charge over at my old biomedical visualization department as I understand it now.  Go John!

Then Saturday morning, people were thrown to find themselves eating breakfast to Fredric Hellman’s talk on criminology and solving violent crimes.  I heard a number of people lament not having been ready for some of those photographs over their morning coffee and bagel.  But he did present an interesting area where medical illustrators could conceivably go and be of value.  It was also interesting to hear a little about how these violent murder cases are worked out.

Christine Young then delivered the presidential address, and we were then off to the tech showcase.  These are generally a fun opportunity to walk around and check out all different sorts of expertise.  I know I learned a little about Zbrush, picked up a few C4D tips, was introduced to VMD, but I was probably most excited about the guy making guitars using autocad software and a CNC milling machine in his basement.  I mean come on, that’s just awesome.  It also plays into my dream of just being able to just make everything I need rather than getting stuck in so many shopping loops as seems to so often happen.

The event ended in a final speech from Carl Zimmer, who has some really interesting work on evolution and all kinds of crazy creatures.

After his talk, the AMI presidential gavel was passed from Christine Young to Tonya Hines.  And then a good portion of the conference attendees landed in the hotel bar to unwind a touch after such an educationally packed event.



Written by Sara

July 27th, 2013 at 1:52 am

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