AUTHOR INTERVIEW: Nicky L Webster

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Read Nicky’s paper via THIS LINK

 

What first interested you in medical visualisation?

I’ve been working in medical illustration primarily as a photographer for 12 years now, and over recent years the 3D photogrammetric imaging I undertake started to expand and become a larger part of my daily workflow. It was just a natural career progression for me to investigate other specialities of medical illustration, in particular the 3D visualisation side.

Tell us a bit about your background and education.

After finishing my BA in Photography and Film, I started working with Medical Illustration UK Ltd at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital, and completed the Postgraduate Certificate in Clinical Photography there before moving onto a senior position at Guy’s and St Thomas’ Hospital.

When I later became more curious about medical visualisation, I taught myself the basics of 3D modelling using the online Virtual Learning Center courses that you can access for free with an IMI membership. When I realised my interest was becoming more serious I went to Escape Studios (a visual effects company in London) to complete an intensive 3D Foundation evening course, and I’m now halfway through a part-time MSc at Kingston University in computer modelling and animation.

It’s been tough working full time and studying too, but my background in visual media and understanding of photography theory has given me an advantage when studying 3D concepts, and I’m able to combine my university projects into my daily work, which has given them a lot of purpose.

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As a Senior Medical Photographer, what does your job entail?

My day-to-day job involves the production of photography, 3D imaging, videos, posters, and illustrations for healthcare purposes. There are also studio management duties, such as maintenance of the colour management workflows across photography studios and digital asset management systems, and general management duties of junior staff. I have a lot of one-to-one patient contact, and exposure to various medical settings, such as wards, clinics, morgue, and surgical theatres.

What tools or software do you use in your work?

At GSTT we currently have two separate stereophotogrammetric camera systems with a facial and a torso set-up. We use Vultus mostly for the analysis of the 3D datasets, and I’ll use Agisoft Photoscan for non-clinical photogrammetry projects.

We use Adobe Bridge for batch image processing, and then Photoshop for any further manipulation.  For 3D animation my main programs now are Maya and ZBrush, and I love texturing in Mari. For compositing I’ll use Nuke or After Effects, sometimes Photoshop, and we have a great video editing suite with Final Cut Pro.

Working within the NHS means that your internal clients may not have immediate access to a PC with great specs, so the ability to compress material and produce compatible file formats with a tight turn around time is crucial – when working with multimedia in this environment you have to do your best to work within these confines.

Can you briefly tell me about the project “High poly to low poly workflows for real-time rendering“?

A module on my course requires students to choose one topic to research in-depth, so I decided to get to grips with the high poly to low poly workflow made famous by the videogames industry. The paper was the consolidation of my practical research, and the action of writing the paper really helped me to process this new information, and share the workflow that I found to be most effective.

Did you need to learn any new skills during the project?

It was all new information to me, but in particular I hadn’t yet learned ZBrush (a digital sculpting tool), so I had to teach myself quickly using Pluralsight lessons in the evenings after work.  

What was most rewarding about the project?

I found learning the user interface of ZBrush a wee bit trickier than other software, so it was really rewarding on a personal level to realise I was becoming proficient with it. It’s also great now being able to turn to real-time rendering engines to speed up the process of content generation, while keeping my 3D models looking as high resolution as possible.

What are you working on right now?

Our department is in the process of testing a project to create custom prosthetics for mastectomy patients who have chosen not to have implants after surgery, which uses each patient’s own dataset obtained from the 3D cameras.

I’m also now in the research stage of my final master’s assignment; the intention is to produce a VR project involving my facial palsy patients. Right now I’m making the most of the facilities I have access to such as the pathology specimens in the Gordon Museum, and the KCL dissection rooms during my lunchtimes.

Is there another project you would like the opportunity to undertake?

I would love to work with a user-experience designer to create a patient information app aimed specifically at kids, I think I would learn a lot from having to see through such a different perspective.

READ MORE about Nicky and her work here:

My portfolio is currently on Behance – Behance.net/NickyLWebster and I love to share all things medical illustration on Twitter @NickyLWebster

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