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3D Animation

The Influence of Textual Elements in 3D Animation for a Medical Student Audience:
Visualizing cancer-associated thrombosis


While literature shows that a combination of audio and visual cues can improve learning, the literature examining the role of text in animation is limited and does not address the role of callout text. With the increasing popularity of 3D animation as multimedia instruction in medical education, biomedical animators need to consider the use of text, not only as a design element, but as an evidence-based tool to reinforce learning. Although animation is commonly used as a teaching tool in medical education, little research has been done to determine best practices when designing animations of medical subject matter (Ruiz et al. 2009). Since this research is targeted towards the introduction of unfamiliar scientific information to a medical student audience, the topic chosen for the animation to be tested is cancer cell-derived tissue factor-positive vesicles and thrombosis. The basic concepts behind this topic, such as cancer progression, the secretory pathway, and thrombosis are likely to be somewhat familiar to the audience, as they are often introduced in pre-requisite anatomy and physiology classes, but the primary topic— the role of the UPR and tissue-factor bearing vesicles in cancer associated thrombosis— is a recent development that will be novel to all participants.


Animation: Sydney Agger, BA and Ana Beiriger, PhD

Client: Robert Flaumenhaft, MD, PhD and Jeffery Zwicker, MD
Harvard Medical School
Division of Hemostasis and Thrombosis
Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center


Audience: Medical students

Software: Pixologic Zbrush, 3ds Max, rendered with VRay, tyFlow, Protein Data Bank, Visual Molecular Dynamics, Red Giant Universe, Adobe After Effects, and Audition

How will callout text and captioned text in narrated 3D animation compare to one another and to an animation without text in increasing gain of knowledge when introducing a scientific concept to a medical student audience?

Research Question

Final Animation

SAMAShow_AggerS_EndoplasmicReticulum sma
Currently in Production



All pre-production stages were done as a collaboration between myself and Ana. During production, scenes were split up equally between us depending on our individual focuses for research. I was responsible for the opening scene, Intracellular scenes, and extracellular scene. Ana was responsible for the tissue factor close-up scene, pancreatic tumor scene, and circulatory scene.

Style Guide

My animation partner and I decided to go with a lighter color palette that incorporated colors typically associated with cellular stains used in pancreatic cancer research. We also thought a split hue pallet, with a bright cyan for the tissue factor protein, would help direct our viewers attention through the story. 

For my text elements I followed established guidelines on readability from the Web Accessibility Initiative Guidelines, published by the World Wide Web Consortium. Other label and leader line decisions were made based on literature from the fields of cartography and interactive
web design. 



I am in the process of completing testing for my research project and will be incorporating final client edits and textual elements after the completion of my research.

SAMAShow_AggerS_EndoplasmicReticulum sma
Currently in Production

Composited Stills

Below are some WIP still from the animation so far.

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