How many animators can say they dissected corpses as part of their educational apprenticeship? For Jennifer Platt, a Senior Medical Animator at INVIVO, understanding human anatomy – especially at the molecular level – is a huge part of her job.
INVIVO is a medical marketing agency. They’re contracted by medical and biotechnology companies, especially pharmaceutical companies, to help provide visualizations that educate potential users and clients about the intricacies of the human body, and how medical interventions – drugs, surgeries, and vaccines, for example – can fight off infections, cure the sick, or repair damaged tissue.
Most recently, Jennifer has been working on visualizations to explain wet macular degeneration, caused by blood vessels leaking fluid into the macula, resulting in blurred vision and blind spots. “We need to educate doctors about it, about how it affects their patient’s lives, but also what is happening at the molecular level, so that we can try to fix it.”
The storyboarding process, familiar to all animators, begins with the onset of the disease and progresses through treatment and cure, but unlike narrative fiction – in film or video games – these animations are based on what is actually going on in the human body. In other words, there’s no room for invention or error – the science has to be accurate.
Neurons by Jennifer Platt
That means that on top of her regular duties as an animator, Jennifer also has to be comfortable doing research and consulting scientists about the intricacies of human biology. “You end up reading a lot of papers, because you're trying to visually distill this information in the most digestible way possible, taking this intense molecular process and turning it into a tight story that gets you from A to B.”
In more traditional work, when clients review early drafts of the work animators do, they’re hoping that it looks compelling or that it conforms to their unique creative vision. But for medical animators, your clients are after verisimilitude. “Each part of the animation has to be accurate, because the client will have a team of medical experts following you every step of the way, and your work will eventually be presented to doctors, some of whom will be specialists in what you’re animating. It’s incredibly important to be accurate in every detail, even if it’s only a minor part of the story or in the background.”
Angiogenesis by Jennifer Platt
While most of Jennifer’s work has been for pharmaceutical companies, there are also numerous opportunities to work with a variety of partners. The team she works with for instance, has worked for Doctors Without Borders and other medical groups working to vaccinate communities with cultural resistance to, for example, getting vaccinated. “You have to really come to understand the culture and their motivation for hesitating, and then think about how you can frame vaccination to break down those barriers. We’ve done a lot of animations for malaria, HIV, Ebola, and tuberculosis, and they have to be clear and concise enough that people who maybe don’t speak English or French can nonetheless grasp what’s going on and understand why intervention is important.”
If you’re someone passionate about science – particularly human biology, if you love animation and enjoy the prospect of doing your own research, the growing field of medical animation might be perfect for you.
Want to know more about Jennifer Platt? Connect with her here.