National Center for Macromolecular Imaging


The use of animation can significantly enhance the visualization of three dimensional structures. It provides a focused train of images revealing a story, or it can be used to systematically scan through previously unfathomable quantities of data to examine for unknown deviations and consistencies. Computer standards are evolving and offer strategic advantages in setting up an animation production environment.

We have enhanced the IRIS Explorer scientific visualization software package to perform animation using a simulation based engineering design. Our animation software has undergone several design and development cycles over the last few years. The resulting software is called SAIL - Scientific Animation & Integration Library. SAIL reads the 3D mass density data file in MRC format, generates animation sequences according to a script. Considering that the image sequences are generated digitally, and that the International Standards Organization and Federal Communications Commission have actively been developing and advocating a digital video strategy, we opted in 1994 to use the MPEG digital video standard as the primary method to manage and compress the images. We have adopted an inexpensive and reliable means of production and use of animation in lectures and poster sessions around the world regardless of the local TV standard (NTSC or PAL).

During 1996-98, we piloted and refined two major sets of animations including HSV-1 capsid and acrosomal bundle, resulting in approximately 500 animation sequences. We have distributed our animations using inexpensive consumer electronics devices to play back the animations. Utilizing the interactive multimedia features such as pausing, cursor-sensitive actions and hierarchical organization of the animation segments, the animations are presented in a coherent and smooth fashion in combination with 35 mm slides in a lecture.

Please contact Matthew Dougherty ( for software.

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