Computer Animation Festival - Electronic Theater
"Birth of Planet Earth" Fulldome Excerpt: Photosynthesis in a Chromatophore
Event Type
Computer Animation Festival - Electronic Theater
Registration Categories
TimeWednesday, 20 November 201913:36 - 13:41
LocationGreat Hall 1&2
DescriptionThis visualization of the quantum-mechanical process of photosynthesis involved combining structural models from atomic, protein, organelle, and cell scales. We descend into a prehistoric hot spring, revealing primitive bacteria which use an early form of photosynthesis to turn sunlight into chemical energy in structures called chromatophores. This fulldome animation follows the energy through progressively more stable forms: a captured photon; electronic excitation; pumped protons; and finally, synthesis of ATP molecules.

The team used VMD, a GPU-accelerated molecular visualization tool, to create geometric abstractions from a 5-million-atom static snapshot of the scientific research model. To achieve an organic flight path through the 3D data, they adapted their Virtual Director camera choreography software to interface with VMD. In Houdini, they choreographed particle effects which were then exported to VMD for rendering of the hero chromatophore.

Nine more layers were rendered in Houdini’s Mantra, including 500,000 instanced chromatophores and particle effects, 300 high-resolution cell membranes, and depth passes to control luminance and depth effects. The visualization treatments from Houdini and VMD were combined in Nuke for a seamless flight through this dynamic microscopic light show.