How do science shows do their animations?



I’m wondering what the process is by which science shows go from having a massive amount of scientific information to distilling it into a workable set of key points that can be used to create a animated sequence that explains the concepts being discussed. I assume that most of the people who do the scientific animation for shows on The Discovery Channel or National Geographic are not themselves experts on the subjects they are animating, so who are the people tasked with creating the framework for the animation, and how do they do it?

I am currently working on an animation about how MRI functions at a molecular level, but it’s been a very laborious and ineffective process thus far. No matter how much I ask the scientists to simplify their answers, I inevitably get referred to equations and terms that are beyond my understanding. I try to make as much sense as I can of what I get, use that to make revisions and hope that the next iteration comes closer to being correct, show that to the scientists, then the process starts over. As you can see, not very effective.


I’d hazard a guess that the animators are experts in what they’re animating (well perhaps not experts but they have scientific experience i’m sure). The field of medical/scientific animation /visualisation is a growing field and animators are needed to create things like blood flows and visualisations of MRI data.

The skill of communicating extremely complex subjects like MRI scanning to a lay person is rare. Thats why when someone who comes along who can explain complex subjects well they’re usually employed pretty quickly


I once interviewed for a job at a company that does 3D animation for the DiscoveryChannel.

they were interested in me because I had been through pre-med. But when I toured their facility, I found that most of the artists didn’t really need to know much about the subject matter, as long as they could replicate it and follow the directors instructions.

I DID get the sense that they were frustrated that their people weren’t more up to speed on the sciences, and that’s why they were interested in people like me. But trust me, they were getting along just fine with only a handful of people having a science background. I would think that at least ONE science-minded person who can communicate with the art-staff is an absolute must.

As far as production goes, it all seemed like any other production with a few weird additional software packages for molecular modelling and such, etc…


Hi, I work at a company that is specialised in earth movement, strength and all things to do with water and tides and keeping everything under control

There is a lot of information here and even more calculations than you can wave your hand at. But until now I, we (I work with a small team) are quite effective in getting the information out.
Key is to keep asking and having people look at what you do and let them draw out what they think is happening… and you gotta learn and if you can get your projectmanager to let you follow a lecture or small course on the subject take that chance.

I have at least a basic understanding of advanced micro biology at the moment because I made an animation about bacteria, who start a chemical process to change and clean the soil. I have forgotten most of it over the next half year… but I got through graduation the same way :stuck_out_tongue:
I basicly use the same process you do.
Good tips are keep the iterations of your work very quick and small. Make sure you can change anything at all since those science people never seem to agree on points. And will want to change things until the very end.
And ask, ask, ask. Basicly I ask everything I don’t know and when they explain it to me I ask about the things I don’t get in the explanation. And usually I have a sketchpad with me to draw the things I do understand like a comicstrip and ask them if that is correct. Usually it isn’t but you get to the basis of your image quite quickly that way.

Hope this helps. bye!


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