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Molecular animation: a cinematic experience?

If a picture is worth a thousand words, then what is a movie worth?

Molecular animation is a new field that combines science, computer graphics and cinema to visualize a universe billions of times smaller than a meter. One of its practitioners is Janet Iwasa, who uses the technology to depict molecules and proteins in a way that is difficult to do by any other means. Trained in Hollywood for three months to learn how to use 3D animation software as part of her postdoctorate, Iwasa chose molecular animation instead of going down the route of creating animations for companies like Pixar.

Although a new field, it is rapidly growing, and garnering great acclaim. Four years ago, the BioVisions project at Harvard University released a three-minute video called "The Inner Life of a Cell" and it was an instant success.

The 'films' have been described as a cinematic experience, where the visual perspective is taken as if from a microscopic entity flying through the environment. The BioVisions sequel below, entitled "Powering the Cell: Mitochondria," was released in October 2010.

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