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3Pointedit created part of a farmaceutical commercial with Blender.

I needed to create an animation of falling pills for a work assignment, as the drug in question was to expensive to film. So I knocked up a hard body simulation with dupli objects and cached them falling to a table (transparent so I could shoot from below). I found that I had to enclose the simulation as the pills would scatter everywhere!

pills screeny

After that success i decided to value add the work by constructing a biology illustration of the drug in effect. After downloading the actual HIV cell from Autopack  I decided that the geometry that resulted was far to dense for this simple explainer video. So I created basic geometry that was inspired by source data. I tried to use the chemical structure of the drug to represent it's molecule too.

After the initial success of rendering the pill fall in cycles i tried the same for the bio animation, alas the render times skyrocketed due to my desire for extreme shallow DOF effects and volumetric lighting. In fact the pill drop animation was quite noisy but I could clean it up with some blurring. In the bio animation any blurs for noise reduction resulted in patchy looking blobs instead of smooth areas.

After rendering the same animation from different angles I had a total of 20 seconds of video, taking about 4-5 hours render time. But I had to restart a few times after testing the playback, checking for the appearance of the particles and SSS effects.

Fun fact, the first bio shot of the inside of a blood vessel has a cool wobble. I made a simple tube with a bend in it and applied a soft body effect to it. This resulted in a gentle pulsing effect. However the blood platelets tended not to respect the walls of the tube properly. They are a particle emission following a curve path that spirals down the centre of the tube. All the particles have self collision turned on.

Finally I applied to much shallow DOF to the image and killed the cool material on the HIV (green) cells. I used an image of bare tree branches mapped to the NOR and EMIT value of the texture.

Oh I almost forgot that the last scene, of the RNA strand being transcripted into a DNA helix was a problem. I wanted to use the same mesh motion for both but the RNA was a just the same base mesh of 1 side of a ladder. After it goes through the transcription molecule it appears as a DNA helix. But I didn't want to render the scene twice with a mask between them and the lighting would have impacted on each side anyway.

molecule screeny01

My solution was to duplicate the geometry, once without the mirror modifier and twist (RNA side) and then WITH the mirror and twist modifier (DNA side). I then added a transparency texture (a linear ramp blend) that could be flipped for each object. So one disappeared at the centre of the transcription molecule while the other object appears at the same point. Note that the image here shows only the DNA strand as it obscures the RNA single strand, the effect only works in rendered view.

About the Author

Avatar image for Bart Veldhuizen
Bart Veldhuizen

I have a LONG history with Blender - I wrote some of the earliest Blender tutorials, worked for Not a Number and helped run the crowdfunding campaign that open sourced Blender (the first one on the internet!). I founded BlenderNation in 2006 and have been editing it every single day since then ;-) I also run the Blender Artists forum and I'm Head of Community at Sketchfab.


  1. Well done,
    A very different type of render from what we often see here.

    I cannot help to think, that after seeing it (with any kind of cure), how is it possible that those chemical atoms are just there in the right place at the right moment, (as there are around 7*10^27 atoms in our body). I probably never loose a key if just knew how they find each :))

  2. Hey there, thanks for the kind words. I made this animation for a News TV show in Australia (sorry that wasn't clear). Yeah I fudged the mechanisms pretty bad here for illustration purposes ;-) but yeah I think that chemical just has to be exactly the right shape to fit in the receptacle. It probably has to be the exact right shape and won't fit anywhere else. Amazing.

    I was so impressed after doing the research, biology is incredible. The numbers are vast.

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