Scientific Animations

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Recently I've been playing around with some of the newer features that have been added to Lightwave by Newtek. I started by importing a PDB structure of a basic antibody for IGA in blender, then exporting out to Lightwave's native format.

Next was adding in the bones to control the movement of the arms of the antibody so that they could be made to bend or rotate like the real structures (or as close to real as can be imagined since they are so small and move so fast). The basic bone structure was two simple bones going down each of the "arms" to provide it with shoulders and elbows along the narrow linkages. Other bones were built up the main body to keep it rigid against movement from the arm bones.

After testing the basic rig, I started playing around with Lightwave 11 to see how the new Flocking controls and Instancing worked to allow a flight of antibodies to be created. The long run idea is to try and make them swarm over an object surface and have some of the "stick" to it to demonstrate something that is actually happening in the lab. So, starting with just 10 instances, I had them follow a target around the scene. I then increased the number of instances to 500 and tried again.

Playing with the settings I started to figure out what the various values affect in both the controller and the generator. Some of my intial values I found were off causing the "flock" to appear to not actually follow the target. Setting the minimum speed of the flock to 0 fixed that as they stopped orbiting the target when it was sitting still. Setting the size of the flock to a larger range causes the various items to stay further away from each other, which is useful to help make them more visible as individual elements.

Below is a playlist of the progression of the test animations I setup to test bird flocking. Some of the other types of movement include schools for fish, swarms, herds, etc...

It was interesting adding a basic surface to the antibody and then figuring out how to create a unique surface coloring on each instance. Behold the power of gradients in Lightwave.

Some of the lessons I've learned from these experiments:

  • The Instanced object can be hidden from the renders by going to the Scene Editor and unchecking the "A" box.
  • Targets and the various deflectors are just spheres. A surface doesn't seem to be able to be used to deflect a flock away from it.
  • The surface of the instances can be controlled with a node in the surface editor. I chose to use a gradient based on Instance ID.