CGSociety 3D contest: Human Immunodeficiency Virus

The winners of the CGSociety contest that challenged digital artists to illustrate how the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) attacks critical immune system defense cells in human blood, causing the disease AIDS.

CGSociety :: Special Feature
30 April 2013, by Paul Hellard

Scientific visualization is a multi-billion dollar industry, which aims to investigate and communicate the realms that exist beyond our normal senses. In the molecular world of alien-looking shapes and bizarre physics, Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) attacks critical immune system defense cells in human blood, causing the disease AIDS. This pandemic has taken over 33,000,000 lives, with millions more added each year.

Autodesk has united with two leading research institutes, challenging artists to explore this mysterious world. They provided competitors with a cellPack model of HIV in blood serum and a powerful open source app, called autoPACK. Artists were asked to convey humanity’s complex relationships with this virus, be they emotional, political, or intellectual. An opportunity to be a pioneer on the frontier of science!


Christopher Harkins (Charkins) from Louisville, KY, USA wins the VIDEO First Prize for ‘Anatomy of the HIV Virus’.

Artist comments:
I put in a great deal of effort on this challenge, more effort than I’ve ever put forth on a personal project. A lot of learning and flexing new muscles. I lost track of how many hours I put in, but much of the time was reworking and refining, a luxury I don’t often get with most projects. I’m proud of this animation, I’m just so happy that it’s being recognized! In the last days of the competition, it was stressful waiting on renders, hoping everything would come together on time, but overall it was a fun, rich experience. I’d love to do more medical animations in the future, a great blend of technical information and abstract illustrations.

Judges’ comments
Nice. Educational and well shot!” – A. Ward

A nice approach to a “Tour of HIV”. The visuals are sumptuous and it succeeds in its goal to educate about virion structure.” –D Goodsell

“... this “110%” effort you put in should really make a huge difference when scientists watch this and it can now become a valuable teaching piece. Outstanding job to fit in the addition of the HIV RNA with only one week to go, especially since you had to go out to Blender to get it all working. I love the lens zoom effect and the thorough exploration of this early version of the autoPACK HIV model.” – G. Johnson (host)

Charkin’s AutoPACK Challenge page



Alexey Kashpersky (mrRIDDICK) from Poltava, UKRAINE and the small team wins the Image First Prize for ‘Human Immunodeficiency Virus’.

Artist comments:
As for the artwork, in fact, I was pretty worried about its position among the works of other participants.
Before I get started, I’ve learned a lot of materials, reviewed hundreds of photos, and studied the AutoPACK 3D model. How and what is there.
And over some time realized that I had somehow change the initial “correct” form of HIV, in the direction of artistic exaggeration, since I did not want just to render a model, but to express in the form and shape the depth of the problem, and I decided to stop on this. Consciously decided to make an artistic exaggeration, but knowing that my work can cause a controversial reaction from respected judges. Because they DO know how real HIV looks like!

I am very grateful to them for the fact that my thoughts and what I wanted to express in the form, in some way violating the “truth”, understood and appreciated. This means I did it! I have express in this work the pain, suffering and fear of unknown, which in inconceivable tandem go hand in hand with physical beauty, light feelings of love and passion.

Judges’ comments
The benchmark image as far as I’m concerned.” –

Stunning and inspirational. I’m in awe. This is exactly the type of artistic engagement I was hoping the story of HIV could evoke. I’m thrilled to see artistic license used with such precise intent.” – G. Johnson (host)

mrRIDDICK’s AutoPACK Challenge page


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