Novedge: Tell us a little bit about Random42 and what you do.
Random42: We take people on a journey through the body to explore complex biological processes involved in the development of various diseases and how cutting-edge treatments can be used to overcome such conditions.
Novedge: Let's talk about the name of the firm....
Random42: Our founder, Hugo Paice, was interested in chaos theory at the time, which is where Random comes from. The 42 element comes from the Douglas Adams book, The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, where a machine was tasked to determine the meaning of life – the answer was 42.
Novedge: Would it be accurate to say that you are at the intersection of technology, art and science?
Random42: Yes, this is correct, where scientists, artists and programmers work side by side in our London offices. Technology is becoming a bigger part of the company with around a third of the work now within the virtual reality, augmented reality and mixed reality space, to complement the extensive work we do in the field of medical animation. The inside of a cell, sculped with Z-Brush.
Novedge: How big is your Animation department?
Random42: Our 3D department is just over 30 artists, in a company that totals just over 50 people. We like to hire ‘specialist’ generalists, artists who can do every part of the production pipeline, but have something they specialize in, love, and are particularly good at. Compared to many other animation studios, we work on a huge number of projects each year. Our generalist approach helps us work dynamically between projects, allowing everyone to share their knowledge and bring their own visual ideas to the table. We like our artists to have a big part in the animations they work on, having ownership of their work and not just be a tiny cog in a big machine.
Novedge: Can you talk about some of your favourite projects through the years?
Random42: Over the years we have produced hundreds of high-end animations for various clients, but if we were to pick a couple of examples I would include the animation we developed for an IMAX National Geographic film – Mysteries of the Unseen World.Additionally, we recently created a series of 17 educational animations for Merck Manuals about various organ systems within the body, which is proving hugely popular as a learning resource for universities around the world. We are also extremely proud of our work in VR and snippets from these project can be seen through our app that can be downloaded through the Apple App store. If you download this app you can view it through a Google Carboard device.
Novedge: Is it necessary to possess a medical and scientific knowledge to work for you as a 3D Artist?
Random42: We have an in-house team of PhD scientists, they write the scripts and talk to the artists about the various processes. We rely heavily on the communication between the artists and scientists to ensure our work is always visually stunning yet scientifically accurate. This has become a symbiotic relationship, in which the artists have developed an in-depth understanding of biological processes and the scientists understand the processes involved in the 3D workflow through this collaboration – making life easier for everyone.
Novedge: What kind of software do you use?
Random42: We use 3DsMax with V-Ray as our main 3D package, but as we are constantly developing new styles for various interbody processes, we find we can make use of many of the exciting 3d software and plugins out there. ThinkingParticles has been a great asset in depicting the more complex systems we find ourselves creating, such as bacteria dividing and RNA translation.
Houdini is becoming a bigger part in what we do, being such a powerful simulation tool there is no end to what we can use it for (an example of Cell apoptosis ,Cell death, below).
We have also recently been looking into substance designer and painter, as we work with a lot of simulations and procedural mechanisms, complex procedural textures are definitely the way forward. Additionally, Z-Brush is very handy to create the more organic and abstract looking models, such as, the insides of a cell. (See image at the top)
Novedge: Who are your typical clients?
Random42: Our clients are mainly pharmaceutical companies who want to educate people about a disease and how specific drugs work. However, we do occasionally develop content for documentaries as well as educational films outside of the pharmaceutical industry.
Novedge: How is Virtual Reality transforming your business?
Random42: Quite a few of our animations end up being 360 videos to be viewed on various VR headsets. This is just the beginning however, as within the realm of biology the VR possibilities are almost endless. We have a growing interactive team that keep on top of the new technologies coming out, creating various applications and tools, thinking of ways we can use them to help people engage and understand how our bodies work. The main drawback at the moment is people having singular experiences within VR. When people can experience the same environment together a floodgate of inclusive educational ideas will be opened. We are also keeping a very close eye on Augmented Reality tech, which is an exciting feature that we have been able to include in a new app that we have recently released. The app uses visual recognition technology to bring traditional content to life. The user can browse visually stunning medical animations on a variety of scientific topics or learn about the latest research and development in the new wave of technology taking over the health industry.
Novedge: You have won over 150 industry awards in your 25 years history. Should the Oscars include a scientific movie/documentary category?
Random42: We would like to think so! Our equivalent of actors are things like white blood cells, which wage war on invading pathogens – it’s a bit like a war movie!
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