I needed to create an animation of falling pills for a work assignment, as the drug in question was to expensive to film. So I knocked up a hard body simulation with dupli objects and cached them falling to a table (transparent so I could shoot from below). I found that I had to enclose the simulation as the pills would scatter everywhere!
After that success i decided to value add the work by constructing a biology illustration of the drug in effect. After downloading the actual HIV cell from Autopack http://www.autopack.org/news/autopackforblenderreleased I decided that the geometry that resulted was far to dense for this simple explainer video. So I created basic geometry that was inspired by source data. I tried to use the chemical structure of the drug to represent it’s molecule too.
After the initial success of rendering the pill fall in cycles i tried the same for the bio animation, alas the render times skyrocketed due to my desire for extreme shallow DOF effects and volumetric lighting. In fact the pill drop animation was quite noisy but I could clean it up with some blurring. In the bio animation any blurs for noise reduction resulted in patchy looking blobs instead of smooth areas.
After rendering the same animation from different angles I had a total of 20 seconds of video, taking about 4-5 hours render time. But I had to restart a few times after testing the playback, checking for the appearance of the particles and SSS effects.
Fun fact, the first bio shot of the inside of a blood vessel has a cool wobble. I made a simple tube with a bend in it and applied a soft body effect to it. This resulted in a gentle pulsing effect. However the blood platelets tended not to respect the walls of the tube properly. They are a particle emission following a curve path that spirals down the centre of the tube. All the particles have self collision turned on.
Finally I applied to much shallow DOF to the image and killed the cool material on the HIV (green) cells. I used an image of bare tree branches mapped to the NOR and EMIT value of the texture.
Here is the final render in an excerpt from the 730report story
Oh I almost forgot that the last scene, of the RNA strand being transcripted into a DNA helix was a problem. I wanted to use the same mesh motion for both but the RNA was a just the same base mesh of 1 side of a ladder. After it goes through the transcription molecule it appears as a DNA helix. But I didn’t want to render the scene twice with a mask between them and the lighting would have impacted on each side anyway.