Harnessing the Power of Houdini in Medical Animation

In the world of medical animation, technological innovations play a pivotal role in pushing the boundaries of scientific visualization. AXS Studio is leveraging the advanced capabilities of game-changing tools such as SideFX Houdini to offer unique advantages to our clients in scientific communications and medical affairs. AXS 3D Medical Artist Brad Kwarta, our resident Houdini guru, shares his thoughts on how incorporating Houdini in our workflow can provide our clients with unprecedented flexibility and efficiency.

Procedural Modeling: Flexibility in Medical Animation Creation

Traditionally, the process of creating complex organic models required labor-intensive sculpting done in a 3D software by hand. Once completed, these models were often limited in modification options, making subsequent changes potentially costly and time-consuming. Procedural modeling has effectively revolutionized the way 3D modeling is done by enabling artists to make edits on the fly. Instead of meticulously crafting every detail by hand, Houdini follows a set of rules, or a recipe, that we encode to generate complex scenes automatically. Just like tweaking the ingredients in a recipe, AXS Studio artists can adjust parameters or add new elements, and Houdini responsively updates the entire creation. Although the learning curve for Houdini is steep and challenging, investing in the creation of custom Houdini tools not only saves time but also allows for endless possibilities and creative exploration.

“After programming the custom model, I can adjust the inputs to dramatically change the branching structure of peripheral nerves, or turn a group of spheres into a realistic epithelium with any topology,” Brad explains.

One of our many in-house Houdini tools allows us to quickly generate procedural cellscapes with history, so that we can easily update parameters and change the downstream result
Combining our custom Houdini tools to efficiently create a complex blood vessel environment

Integrating with the Pipeline

Houdini doesn’t operate in isolation. It integrates well with existing 3D programs, ensuring a smooth exchange of assets and data, and facilitating collaborative projects between them. “It limits the need to hop between software, which can be both time-consuming and technically complicated,” Brad says. “It also allows those proficient in Houdini to build tools for other team members, meaning everyone on our team is able to leverage the powerful and versatile Houdini engine without needing to be a Houdini expert.”

The efficiency that our custom Houdini workflows provides is undeniable. In the realms of scientific animation and medical animation, where precision is paramount and timelines are tight, this procedural workflow enables our team to make real-time, art-directable changes to assets, while reducing the time traditionally spent on manual adjustments. “For the same number of work-hours put in,” Brad points out, “we can create significantly more realistic and visually interesting assets and environments than before.”

Molecular modeling and data-driven protein conformation changes in Houdini using Protein Data Bank (PDB) data
Our DNA tool allows us to generate editable DNA geometry with customizable base pair sequences

Charting New Paths with Houdini

With our Houdini expertise, we’re rapidly expanding our repertoire of reusable, procedurally generated assets. “We’ve already used Houdini to develop angiogenesis models, cell fields, apoptosis effects, complex branching systems, particle simulations, and thousands of art-directable nerve cells,” Brad says. “We’re working on using Houdini to: read PDB files; develop more complex branching tools; further improve upon apoptosis assets; create more realistic cell division; and build membranes that allow for improved vesicle budding. In the future, we plan to keep building upon our skills and asset library by taking full advantage of what Houdini has to offer.”
Manipulating Houdini nodes to create procedurally generated branching growth

For our clients in scientific communications and medical affairs, the benefits are substantial. Our custom workflows enable us to surpass industry-standard production to create more visually compelling animations. The ability to swiftly iterate upon complex organic 3D models means not only enhanced flexibility in representing intricate scientific data, but also unprecedented responsiveness to evolving project requirements. This adaptability allows us to tailor our visualizations precisely to the dynamic nature of medical information, giving our clients medical and scientific animations that meet their needs and exceed their expectations.

Setting up a Houdini network to simulate tumor growth

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