A blog about scientific and medical visualization and all that’s involved.

Archive for March, 2009

Learning Flash and AdobeTV

Posted by Janet on March 27, 2009

This week is spring break. Since I’m not going anywhere, I decided to teach myself Flash.

I’ve been looking through video tutorials on the AdobeTV website, I found the Learn Flash Professional CS4 Series extremely helpful for getting myself familiar with the interface and its overall capabilities. In four days I’m able to understand how the program works, navigate with ease, create simple animations, and output a movie file. The videos are definitely worth watching. However, I will say that prior experiences in Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, Dreamweaver, and AfterEffects helped a lot.

The website also contains tutorials for other Adobe programs and videos for more advanced users. This is useful not only if you are trying to learn a new Adobe program, but also for learning new features in the latest version. I enjoyed watching demos of the different creative suite collections, especially in CS4 where Adobe have really begun to perfect the interface and create a more integrated workflow between programs. In my opinion, the interface prior to CS3 was extremely difficult. CS3 was a good improvement, but CS4 is the the one where they’ve nailed it (those who know me, this is the first time I’ve said anything positive about the interface. surprise, surprise). I’m sure it will improve by the next version, but I’m happy sticking with CS4 for a while.

Back to learning Flash–the one thing I felt was lacking on the internet was the amount of structured information about ActionScript for beginners. For someone like me with almost no programming skills, ActionScript is more difficult to pick up than the rest of Flash. I felt that the majority of the information was either too simple to be useful or too advanced for this skill level. At this point I think a book is the way to go.

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Anatomical Model–How It’s Made

Posted by Janet on March 24, 2009

Here is the segment from “How It’s Made” that I mentioned last week. This video focuses on the process of making the models, not so much on the design process which I also talked about. The process in the video is very similar to what I’ve seen.

Posted in anatomy, sculpture, videos | Tagged: , | 2 Comments »

Anatomical Model Internship–Part 2

Posted by Janet on March 19, 2009

(Continued from part 1)

A while ago I encountered an episode of “How It’s Made” on the Discovery Channel that showed the process of making anatomical models. If you have seen that episode, that sums up how these models are made in a nutshell. The process begins with a design. A prototype is created from the design. From the prototype, a metal mold is made and this mold is then used and reused many times to produce the anatomical models. The models are then trimmed, painted, and assembled. Even though this is considered “mass production,” the entire process is time consuming and requires a lot of “hand made” procedures. This is why anatomical models can be very expensive.

When a design is completely new, the model needs to be sculpted by hand. However, sometimes the anatomical model company already owns a model that is similar to the new design. If such is the case, the original model can be scanned with a 3D scanner and edited using a computer software. The final file is sent to a rapid prototyping machine, where a prototype is created. Some companies own their own rapid prototyping machines. Those who don’t usually send their designs to rapid prototyping service bureaus. This newly created raw model is rarely perfect. To complete the process, a sculptor must smooth the piece and re-carve the fine details.

The next step is mold creation. Metal is chosen for their heat tolerance and durability. The mold design can be tricky because anatomy often have very complicated shapes. In order to avoid undercuts, the design of both the model and the mold needs to be carefully considered. Like the previous process, the mold can also be created off site by another company.

Once the mold is made, a worker fills the mold with materials and churns it so the material fills the entire mold surface. The raw model is removed while still warm and left to cool. During the cooling process, the material shrinks slightly, contributing to the difficulty of fitting multiple parts together in a precise manner. The edges of each model are trimmed, and the models line up on shelves waiting for the next step. Eventually some models are sprayed with a base paint. Sometimes the base color is the color of the material, so the layer of paint isn’t always necessary. Painters then take the models and hand paint them according to a chart to ensure accuracy in all the models. The paint used in this process forms a chemical bond with the material, preventing the paint from being rubbed off easily. Finally, assemblers drill holes and fit the different parts of a model together.

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Anatomical Model Internship–Part 1

Posted by Janet on March 13, 2009

I would really like to share some things that I’ve been doing at my internship, but since the projects are manufactured into products, I can’t actually talk about it until the products come out. Instead, I will talk a little bit about the company, the manufacturing process, and give some tips for finding internships.

Denoyer-Geppert is an anatomical model company based in Skokie. It is a manufacturer as well as a distributor, which means that the company makes its own models as well as buys models from other companies to sell. In addition to making models, Denoyer-Geppert also produces illustrations. These illustrations can be a stand alone product, but they are often part of an educational package or used to compliment a model.

Most of the time, designers or freelancers (which is technically what I am) at the company design products and produce illustrations, and the company owns all rights to the work. Yes, this means that you can’t show your own work freely on your website without the company’s permission. You even have to be careful NOT to make derivative works from something you created at a company. Occasionally, an outside scientist, educator, artist, or anyone would have an idea for a model they would like the company to manufacture. So they will call the company and negotiate a deal. If this is the case, the creator of the model is credited and/or may enjoy certain benefits when the models sell. Examples of such models include “Plane Jane,” a model showing the anatomical planes, and the “Complete Sarcomere Model,” which illustrates the sliding filament theory.

Stay tuned for part 2 about the design and manufacturing process.

plane-jane sarcomere
Above Left (Top): Plane Jane; Above Right (Bottom): Complete Sarcomere Model

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Summer Forensics Art Course

Posted by Janet on March 7, 2009

I’d like to bring to attention a 5-day course at Northwestern University this summer. The course is designed as an introduction to forensic compositry and is taught by composit artist Lois Gibson. It takes place in Evanston, IL, just north of Chicago. It comes with a $900 registration fee and runs from 7/20/09 to 7/24/09.

To register, go to

The course is limited to 18 students. Register early if you are interested.

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Suggestions for Video Tutorials?

Posted by Janet on March 2, 2009

I’ve been thinking about making video tutorials of drawing, illustration, sculpting, and casting techniques to post online. This would likely be a long-term side project, seeing how I don’t have a video camera yet. I’d like some feedback so I can decide whether this is something worth doing and whether there is anything specific people want to see. Feel free to leave feedback in the comments section or send me an email at

Posted in discussion | 4 Comments »