Illumen-Views: Looking at 3D From “All Sides”
An Interview with Tony O’Dell


Illumen-Views features interviews with experts from the world of custom eLearning.

We’re launching the series by addressing one of our eLearning capabilities that we are most frequently asked about – 3D animation.

To learn more about 3D, Senior Consultant Steve Harker interviewed Illumen founder, President, and resident 3D expert, Tony O’Dell.

Thank you for joining us today, Tony.

Thanks Steve, my pleasure.

Perhaps the best place to start is in the beginning. Tony, what is your background, and how did you start working with 3D?

I have always been an avid visual effects fan, and when I first saw Jurassic Park’s 3D dinosaurs I knew that’s what I had to do. So over 20 plus years ago I set out to learn how to do it myself. I found my passion in product and medical animations. They really appeal to my fascination with science and the world around us and how to communicate that in the most effective way to educate and train different audiences.

What defines 3D animation, especially for its use in eLearning?

Animation, motion graphics or anything else that moves needs to be well thought out to deliver maximum impact to the viewer. In eLearning this means getting often complex ideas across quickly and concisely.

What type of need does it typically address for our Illumen clients?

Usually these eLearning or training needs are based around the external or even internal mechanisms of a product such as micro-filtration, cell biology, or other mechanical systems. We also use 3D to create virtual environments that might be part of a simulation. Sometimes it’s things that are microscopic and can’t be filmed or photographed easily. I’d say that’s the big key, 3D excels at showing things that you can’t easily show with a video or photograph.

There’s a perception that it can be expensive. How have you and Illumen been able to use 3D in a cost effective way?

3D can certainly get expensive, but we have a lot experience in catering to just about any budget. We do this through the use of existing 3D assets from the clients themselves, such as 3D CAD files, various online libraries, and our own collections that we’ve built up over 20 years. Good planning at the start of the project also allows for creative solutions to any animation. I like to work for multiple departments at the same time where they can share the cost of videos. Say for example, marketing and training departments. They can use the same base animations with only slight modifications for their specific needs. Which in the end gives both of them a superior product at essentially half the cost to each individually. All these approaches give me different ways to leverage an animation to look amazing, be informative, and affordable at any level.

What are some examples of where 3D was used for unique Illumen applications?

Oh, that’s a great question. When I think of some of the unique projects we’ve done they really come into play with things you can’t readily see. For example, we did a project with ETS-Lindgren where they have a lot of technical items hidden in the wall to shield an MRI room. This isn’t something you’d be able to see but we allowed them, in an interactive format, to zoom to walls and see cutaways of the materials underneath.

And continuing on healthcare, we often leverage 3D in anatomical animations to help sales reps, surgeons, and even patients better understand medical procedures through animations and surgical simulations. Recently we created a number of interactive anatomy based educational tools for the Disabled American Veterans which was a really exciting project to work on.

A great place for animation is for things too big to simulate in real life.  A few projects like that are the virtual rearranging of a Harley Davidson store for customer traffic, and how to navigate a giant Case New Holland warehouse without getting lost in real life.  Both instances we used 3D and interactivity to allow a trainee to navigate and learn a space you can’t just simulate in the real world.

I’ve always had a soft spot for the type of projects were we can work with our clients to represent abstract ideas in a visual way. This can be anything from concepts and ideas to microscopic organisms and natural processes.  At the end of the day the proper use of 3D can make humongous and teeny-tiny things accessible to the learner in the comfort of their own chair.

One final question-when will Illumen come out with 4D?

I have a flux capacitor on layaway that I hope to achieve amazing things with. Actually, since a lot of our 3D animations are integrated into interactive projects where the audiences’ decisions direct when they play, we are already doing 4D!

All right, a little humor to wrap things up there. Thank you Tony for sharing today and thanks to you, our guest, for spending some time with us as well. We hope you found this interview to be “Illumen-ating”. Well that’s it, folks. We look forward to you joining us for the next “Illumen-View.” Have a great day.

Do you have your own eLearning project that could be enhanced with 3D?

3D can bring your eLearning to life and provide a much better learning experience. If you want to find out more or talk about your project, please connect with us today!

You can email us or call us anytime at 847-440-2222!