Interviewing...

Chris Spronk

Founder of Spronk Studio

It's my pleasure to introduce you to Chris, founder of Spronk Studio, scientist and NMR specialist. 

Talking to us from his office in Vilnius, Lithuania, about his experiences within EU projects, about dealing with 3D artists without a scientific background or about something that made me laugh: "I think that science often is pretty boring...you know how people can present...".

 

Here you can see the full interview to Chris Spronk and below you can read parts of the transcript of the interview.

You can also listen to the full interview below on SoundCloud!

Sciencemotionology: What was your motivation to open your own scientific animation studio?

 

Chris:  Basically, we got the opportunity in one of the EU projects in which we were in, in two large EU projects. In one of EU projects we had to do an information campaign for structure biology and initially it was written that, you know, we had to make posters, we had to make brochures and go to conferences and you know, talk to people, and set up some events. After I had seen the beautiful animation from Inner Life of the [Living] Cell, I thought it was fantastic! It’s really impressive; it’s really, how to say? Hmm, very stimulating for scientists like me who never see actually what they study in reality. It was very inspiring...

 

Sciencemotionology: Do you find it curious that most scientific animation studios are founded by (science) PhDs?

 

Chris: No, not at all, because I think most people who don’t have a scientific background but who are in design or animations and in computer graphics...why would they go into science, science animations? First of all, they don’t understand about it, especially if you talk about nano sciences, it has no meaning for those people. They might have heard about it. And I think that more and more scientists see the power of these kinds of techniques to show things that otherwise cannot be shown properly. We all grew up with PowerPoint, those kinds of presentations, and you do things in 2D but, in our sciences, in structural biology – where I was in, being able to model in 3D is very important. But modelling in 3D is something else, and we have the software to do that. And also to present things in 3D make things much more clear. So, this is one aspect. The other one is that, again, this thing of inspiration is very important. I think that science often is pretty boring...you know how people can present...

Sciencemotionology: Which were your biggest challenges when opening your own animation studio?

 

Chris: [The] biggest challenge, basically, at least in Lithuania, was to find animators, CG [computer graphics] artists who actually have an affinity with science. And this is difficult. I mean, there are a lot of people doing architecture, interior design – that type of things, but not many people with an interest in this area, in science. And, of course, there is the thing that, as a scientist I think that’s probably, it might actually go for many small companies that were started by scientists – we are not typical entrepreneurs, we’re not typical marketing or sales people, so finding a good person who can actually do the marketing and sales, which is essential for running your business, that’s very difficult...

Sciencemotionology: What took Spronk Studio from The Netherlands to Lithuania?

 

Chris: That was an entirely personal story. I was disappointed at the universities; I had a good position as a post-doc but the bureaucracy and the fact that is always the bureaucrats who get the good positions and doesn’t really depend on how good you are as a scientist – I just had enough of that. At the same time, living in The Netherlands is a good life, in terms of material sense, quality of life is good but I also find it really boring. So, at some point in 2003 to 2004, when there would be 10 new EU members coming to the EU, I thought – This is an opportunity!...

Sciencemotionology: How is the creative environment in Vilnius? And how well is scientific animation being accepted or developed in Lithuania?  

 

Chris: About scientific animation acceptance here [in Lithuania] is hard to say. There are some biotech companies... Laser companies here are very strong; they are really world renowned – it’s a very strong industry. But I don’t know how far...I mean, they use some animations but it’s a different type of what we are doing. I think one of the issues in Lithuania is that many companies get scared about the budget they would have to have to make a proper animation. There might be a real budget issue but I think it’s more a cultural thing, wanting to get things for very little money. We didn’t do any scientific animation here in Lithuania, so all our clients are from abroad, so for me it’s difficult to say what acceptance there is. There is for sure interest...

 

Sciencemotionology: Many times there's some difficulty finding graphic designers with interest in science. Or vice-versa. How do you cope with this?

 

Chris: As good as I can. You know, the last artist that we hired – he knows nothing about science. And I just spoke with him a few days ago and I showed him again something he made which was the cellular nucleus and the endoplasmic reticulum and I asked him – What is this? Do you know actually what it is? – And he couldn’t answer. So, such a person we have to put entirely on the artwork. Of course, it would be good if he would... if such a person develops some sense for science, some interest here. I think this is definitely a challenge... 

© Spronk Studio

"...science often is pretty boring..."

© Spronk Studio

"...the bureaucrats... [always] get the good positions"

© Spronk Studio

"...this is definitely a challenge"

© Spronk Studio