MAXON's CINEMA 4D Assists in Brain Surgery

LillianH · March 14, 2005 3:00 pm

file_351780.jpg Dan Ginavan has come a long way since he made his first animation with Legos and his father's 8mm camera. After working for a local FOX affiliate, producing several commercials and taking on roles as international news researcher and producer, he was offered a job at the University of Kansas Medical Center.
Growing up and steeped in the school's philosophy and tradition (both of Dan's parents graduated from the KU Medical School, in medicine and nursing), Ginavan has a lifetime history with the university. Personally adding to the medical center's successes is akin to family pride. Becoming part of the University of Kansas Medical Center's team was a very natural progression in his career.

Ginavan is also the video producer for the Kansas University Center for Telemedicine and Telehealth
(KUCTT), and as such, has created videos for the University of Kansas Medical Center, the School of Medicine, the Center on Aging, the School of Nursing, Department of Neurology, and the Silver City Health Center.

Ginavan manages new and pre-existing televideo sites throughout Kansas, including the newest Kansas Video Network.

Since the inception of the program in 1991, this network has been host to over 13,000 clinical consultations, covering a range of 300 specialties.

Ginavan has incorporated several different pieces of software into his production department, but notes the addition of 3D animation has really allowed his presentations to stand out from the field. Recently, he was awarded 1st Place honors in the Open Industrial/Educational section of the KAN Film Festival for his film "Understanding Deep Brain Stimulation". For the film "Understanding Deep Brain Stimulation", Ginavan, who wrote, directed and produced, interviews doctors and advanced practice nurses who explain the process to prospective patients in this 25-minute movie. To illustrate some of the concepts and procedures described by the doctors, Ginavan created 3D animations. He credits his success, in part, to the 3D medical animations he was able to create for the film. This film was not his first, nor is it his latest.
file_351782.jpg Each production comes with a unique set of difficulties.

Ginavan notes, "The most difficult aspect of production varies with each job here. I have produced over 70 projects in five years. 90% of those jobs are entirely done by me. I write, light, shoot, edit, produce graphics, covers, labels, animations, and sometimes act depending on the needs of each project." For "Understanding Deep Brain Stimulation", Ginavan's production responsibility included creating 3D medical animations. To produce the animation segments, he employed MAXON's Cinema 4D.
"I couldn't have done this film without C4D. I have done 'traditional' animation on video and film, I have done rotoscoping, and claymation in film school. I even did some 'Clutch Cargo' type animation using keying effects to put human mouths into animated faces. With that background I can say that C4D is the reason these animations look as good as they do. I used metaballs to constuct the synapse and nerve dendrite. Then I simply shaped some primitive cones into receptors. I deleted some polys for the shaping, and used primitive spheres with a transparent yet slightly luminous texture to create the dopamine molecules. When the molecules are absorbed by the receptors the sphere has a very mild "melt" deformation at the end. I asked the neurologist to really critique what I had done, did he like the glow, the movement, the melt, everything? He sent me back two words; "looks great"."

Although Ginavan admits to having used the software since version 5, he still remembers the first time he used Cinema 4D. He recalls, "[The] learning curve is short, and with so many tutorials to work through, you can often times adapt tutorials to help with a specific client's project..."

High Frequency Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS) involves a micro-stimulation of specific parts of the brain, requiring unique animation in the production. Specifically, DBS is a surgical procedure involving the connection of a wire to the patient's brain to a pacemaker-like device which is placed under the skin, on the chest. The device electrically stimulates specific parts of the brain. This is believed to either reduce over-stimulated areas, or bring the brain activity back to normal. The device can later be programmed to adapt to the amount of brain stimulation necessary.
There are many different aspects of the surgery that had to be communicated within the film. With the demands of production bearing down, Ginavan was grateful to be able to easily model internal organs. file_351783.jpg
There are three separate areas of the brain that can be stimulated to reduce the tremors brought on by tremor disorders. Depending on the types of tremors, specific parts of the brain are targeted. The patient is awake during the brain operation, and can give the doctors immediate feedback on the success of the implant. Ginavan noted that purchasing prefabricated models that fit well into his production pipeline, including the model of a brain, purchased on-line is a convenience he could not do without.
file_351784.jpg Describing the animation of the brain activity, Ginavan reveals, "the electricity that 'shoots the gap' of the synapse was done with simple extruded splines that I drew free hand. That is why they appear kind of ribbon-like. [The synapse firing animation] is actually a really interesting bit of the animation. I used both a glow effect and a transparancy effect on those electrical signals. There are several different clusters of them and only one cluster is visible for one frame and then the next and then the next in a "firing" sequence."
Although some processes, like dopamine transfer in the synapse, are not visually recorded, allowing for artistic license to shape the look of the known scientific data, Ginavan concedes that his software makes it very easy to "come off looking like a genius. Medical students, PhD researchers, and MDs all comment on the explanatory power of the animations.? Ginavan gives the credit to C4D.

The 3D animations play an important role in the Deep Brain Stimulation film, educating lay people, students, and doctors about the DBS surgical procedures implemented by KU Medical Center, and KUMC's quest to understand and treat abnormal physical disorders displayed by Parkinsonism.
Although the film could make the assumption that viewers would be interested and knowledgeable about Parkinson's Disease, there are specific points made to illustrate the known causes and effects of the condition in order to demonstrate the methods and successes obtained with DBS and alternate treatments.

The surgery for DBS requires a hole to be cut in the top of the skull. A frame is attached to the head that helps doctors map different areas of the brain to MRI sequences taken with the device in place. The MRI information is also used to plan out the best course for laying the wire that will act as a stimulus. Because the patient is awake, the actual nerve cell's electrical impulse can be heard. Sometimes the sound of the impulse will fire as the same time as the patient's tremor.

Using the amplified signal of the nerve's impulse can be used to fine tune the location of the DBS stimulus electrode.

After the brain surgery is complete, a pocket is made under the skin to allow the wire lead to run from the brain to the triggering device that is placed under the skin, over the chest.

When the surgical procedures are complete, patients will have their stimulation devices programmed several times, sometimes lasting over the course of several months. The initial programming alone takes 4-5 days. Because no two Parkinson's patients suffer the same physical tremors, stimulation needs to be fine tuned, sometimes over several visits, to ensure that the patient specific symptoms are addressed. Different combinations of stimulation programs are necessary for each patient.


Ginavan's footage of patients' progress at The Parkinson's Disease and Movement Disorder Center is truly breathtaking. The film does not over-simplify the procedure, but makes it understandable, for patients, friends and family. Even the casually interested viewer, will take away an appreciation for the inspiring effect that DBS has for patients with Parkinson's disease, Essential Tremor or dystonia.

Ginavan remarks, "The before and after effects of DBS on many patients are profound. Jaw droppingly profound. The end of the film has a few of these before and afters and they are truly astonishing." Including audiences of patients, technicians and doctors; specific parts of his film have reached television audiences around the country, airing on medical and news programs.

There continues to be a growing need for medical animations. As KUMC's therapies on DBS develop, successful methodologies will have to be recorded.
file_351787.jpg Ginavan sees the potential growth to be exponential in scale, projecting, "I work in the midst of hundreds of MD, PhD, and even nurse researchers who are working on solving biomedical problems. The neurology department wants to produce more films, and I am certain that we will work together again. [Biomedical] research is predicted to be a growth industry over the next few decades."

KUMC's work on AIDS, cancer research, and their world-renowned Kidney Institute will undoubtedly provide plenty of subject matter worthy of animation production. Cinema 4D will play an important role, not only to continually make the animations more descriptive, but the ensure that the production stays on time and within budget.

Producer, director, and self-proclaimed "scifi geek", Dan Ginavan continues to work with MAXON's Cinema 4D software to produce character animations at the University of Kansas Medical Center and at home in his spare time, and teaches computer animation at Kansas City?s Art Institute / Continuing Education Department.

Link to Deep Brain Stimulation animation on the KUMC website:

Ko Maruyama is a contributor to
and teaches at The Art Center School of Design in Pasadena, California.

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Article Comments

JJ54 ( posted at 12:00AM Fri, 11 March 2005

Really nice to know Cinema is in the mainstream of this great effort! As I suffer from MS - maybe there is hope for me too! Jim

deemarie ( posted at 12:00AM Sat, 12 March 2005

Congratulation on your Film Festival award for your film, "Understanding Deep Brain Stimulation." Thank you so much for taking us on a journey into your world. The research on this project was obviously intense understanding the limits [or limitlessness] of the C4D program and combining it with the knowledge and complications of the brain is truly genius at work the perfect blend of art, technology, and humanity.

Perry6 ( posted at 12:00AM Sat, 12 March 2005

What a wonderful article! Congratulations on your award. It's great to see Cinema4D being used for such a rewarding purpose. -Perry Edwards

EricofSD ( posted at 12:00AM Wed, 16 March 2005

Wow, I guess I timed out and have to redo the message. I am impressed with your work here. I am starting up a medical illustration deal for trial lawyers (because I am one) and using Poser (yes, Poser) and SoftImage XSI, and Bryce, and Amorphium, and Electric Image Universe, and any other app that works for the task. I'm working with an M.D. who is also a graphic artist and he's a MAC guy. I'm a PC person. We are having a debate on what app to use for a finalization process. Since most of the good stuff is PC only or MAC only, we have to chose something that works for both of us. In the running is LW, Maya, and Cinema. Not necessarily in that order. Having met Paul Bobb, CEO of Cinema, and having learned that 90-95 percent of the code is machine language and 10-5 percent is operating system usage, I am deeply impressed with Cinema. This is very interesting what you did with Cinema. Certainly worth look carefully at. Best wishes, keep up the good work.

cryptojoe ( posted at 12:00AM Sat, 19 March 2005

This is a wonderful article and so timely as well. Than You so very much Ko Maruyama for this well written piece.

OMG! I wish I could afford to have Dan help me on my latest project. I have a presentation to give before the local chapters of American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) and the Society of Automotive Engineers in Las Vegas Nevada on June 15th, 2005. The is "Alternative Energy through Resource Reclamation: Engineering the Infrastructure of a Sustainable Economy" Oh well, one can always wish...

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