Biomod Blog

Making of "What is Biomod?"

May 28, 2014

The Backstory

I met Jason Brown 27 years ago in first grade, so we’ve been doing fun projects for a while. It’s been 4 years since Jason and I created a whiteboard animation called “What is Bionanotechnology?

Last winter we thought it would be cool to make a new animation to explain the concept behind the BIOMOD competition. Just like all our previous projects, it took about 3 times longer than expected, but I’m happy to report that it’s finished!

The Making Of…

The best part of any project is usually the start. We just hang out, joke around, and draw silly sketches and reflect on the fact that the Simpsons writers really have done everything already.

Our initial storyboard.

Building the Team

Our projects have gotten too ambitious for only one or two people to do in their mythological “spare” time. So the first step was convincing folks at the Wyss Institute to give us a budget so Jason could be paid for the work (he now does freelance animation professionally through his company PSM). We also contracted with Leslie & Kevin from C3 Science on initial drafts of the script. Finally, our multi-talented friend Joel Wasko chipped in for the sound design and editing, even coached via telephone our voice talent Dani States, whom we found at

What Is Biomod? Script, version 5.

The Tools

Whiteboard animations are everywhere now, so we wanted to upgrade into full-fledged animation. There are some things we’ll probably always use, like the amazing Wacom Cintiq. Or Adobe After Effects (at least as long as we can avoid “Creative Cloud”). For this project we also used Animate Pro from ToonBoom.

The Slog

Jason really did all the heavy lifting on this project… his hours are well into triple digits, and I’ll probably be paying him for overtime well into retirement age. It turns out that puppeteering in Animate Pro doesn’t really work like you’d hope, and traditional frame-by-frame animation is way more fluid. And (surprise!) it takes a ton of effort! Interestingly, the inking process (re-tracing with color) can take even longer than the initial animation! It also takes a while to learn to hit the right keyframes and use the right gestures, and generally animate in an economical fashion. At this point Jason is a self-taught pro.

The Final Product

What is Biomod? (YouTube, 3:20 min)

Making it was the fun part, as usual, but we hope a few people enjoy it as well. Perhaps current and future BIOMOD students will find it useful to share with friends and family in response to the inevitable question “So…. what are you doing this summer? Relaxing on the beach?” :)

cheers, Shawn

BIOMOD website redesign

February 03, 2014

We (Kris, Byron, and Shawn) launched a new (and hopefully improved) BIOMOD website! It now includes photos from the first three years of the competition, as well as a handy countdown timer to see how long is left until the next deadline or event. The design itself is responsive, so it should be more mobile-device friendly.

If you have comments, or notice anything amiss, please send us feedback via the contact form.

BIOMOD 2014 Registration is OPEN

January 21, 2014

Hello BIOMODders!

Ready to sign up? Visit our online form to register between now and April 30th, 2014. Please make sure you have read our how to join and requirements pages.

This year we are implementing a nominal fee ($250) for registration. In recent years, the event, including free lodging for students, has cost roughly $4000 per team. In order to make BIOMOD sustainable, we must begin to recover some of the costs from each team. Moreover, some teams have previously signed up but failed to attend, creating additional administrative burden for us. We hope that that a small fee will also mean fewer cancellations, and more time for us to spend making BIOMOD a success!

Team 'DNA Diamonds' from LMU wins BIOMOD 2013 Grand Prize!

November 03, 2013

The students from Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität in Munich Germany took home the top award. Second place was Dresden Nanormous from TU Dresden, and Third Place was Team Sendai from Tohoku University!

Check the Winners page for full results.

BIOMOD 2013 Jamboree Schedule & Quick Guide

October 25, 2013

Some files participants may find useful:

Download the Quick Guide PDF here

Download the Schedule PDF here

Keep up with BIOMOD events and updates via our newsletter!