Worked on a project recently in which part of the animation took place within the cytosol of a cell. I needed to build some organelles including the nucleus, endoplasmic reticulum, golgi and mitochondria. Here are some images.
Look dev for the Nucleus and ER:
Then built some Mitochondria:
Made some tweaks,and then incorporated these together into the cellular environment:
And a final render with a bit of cytoskeleton around the edges of the image:
Thanks for looking!
Just picked up a license of Paul Everett’s new plugin and as all of Paul’s plugins, it has become immediately useful. VP is more than just an improvement to C4d’s built in vectorizer spline object, which for me always produced dodgy, unreliable results. Paul’s generator gives the user much more control of every nuance of the generated vector object,which can be built from an imported bitmap or animation sequence, producing animated spline/vector objects. Paul added a useful feature (which he seems to be doing almost daily!) allowing the user to reference any UV shader (static or animated) to use as the source for your vectorized object. And for me this is where the fun began.
Using Biomekk’s Enhance 4D shaders, I loaded a procedural hexagon tile (see screenshots below), and from that a hexagon patterned mesh was created. After making the result editable and preparing for cloning, I used mograph cloners to duplicate the tile so it interlocked many times. Then subdivided the results and added displacer deformers to get some organic randomness to the mesh, and voila!: another way to create tileable cells. I should mention that VP has built in extrusion controls, so I could have kept the whole thing procedural without making the original results editable. I just chose to do that as I wanted a little more control.
Great plugin and Im looking forward to discovering more things I can use it for.
Just messing around with SPD using a shader from the Biomekk Enhance4D procedural shader set. Rendered using C4D Physical Renderer in R15. (click on each to see full size)
One of the things I love most about art, and visual media in general is complexity. I love getting lost in an image chock full of minute detail, whether it be a computer generated image (or SEM) of a blood clot, a detailed pen and ink panel from a graphic novel, or the pitted surface of a huge spaceship in a sci-fi film. I’m easily awestruck by complexity of detail and scale.
I strive to apply such detail to all the work I do in the field of medical animation, and whatever other types of cg artistry I find myself involved with. Detail generally takes a lot of time and focus. But sometimes a tool comes along that literally gets you most of the way there with a push of a button. Robert Templeton who develops plugins for Cinema 4D under the name Koroyume offers a plugin called Greebler which kind of does just that. I have had my eye on the plugin for a few years, but because I don’t do a lot of scifi vfx modeling in my day-to-day work, I put it on my wish list for a later time. A recent post by Robert in which he shares some personal hardships made me consider trying Greebler out, and I’m glad I did.
What ensued was a weekend of enjoyable experimentation, and a bit of geeky scifi fun. The plugin is easy to use, fast, and allows for users to create custom libraries of “greebles” and “nurnies”; terms used in the practical effects and cg vfx industry as well to describe the detailed panelling and chunks of metal machinery applied to a spaceship model or cityscape to add that extra level of complexity and realism. Just think of the Deathstar from Star Wars, or really ANYTHING from Star Wars and you get the idea. Getting back to the mentioning of “custom greeble libraries” I should mention that Greebler comes with built in ready to use “stock” greeble shapes with loads of parameters for tweaking.
Here are several images that came out of my initial Greebler playtime.
Below, I added some tubing on the surface–everything esle is Greebler.
In my last post, I talk about X-Particles and include a sample of liquid poured into a bowl. I took the skinned liquid, made it editable, frozen in time, and tried greebler on the surface of that object. Here are the results after dropping the object into a radial cloner and adding some antennae.
The results have a bit of that Gigeresque organic, yet mechanical feel, ala Alien or Prometheus. When I get a chance I’ll see if I can build some custom greebler libraries as the basic geometric obejects dont hold up well up close.
And just a few more…
So now the weekend is over, and time to get my head back into the more organic, biological work I do for a living, but it’s fun to take a detour now and then. Thanks for looking!
[Postscript: Still at it. Help.]
I’l just keep adding to this post as I come up with interesting results. Here’s another one. Some sort of big pipe thing. You can click on the mage to see better detail.Check back if you’d like!
Added 10/31/2013. Testing with VRAY 1.8. Still kind of a VRAY newb!
Just rearranged a few already greebled models.
And another VRAY 1.8 test 11/8/13. OK I think need to move on to something else…
I’ve been on the beta team for X-Particles, a particle plugin for Cinema 4D by the folks at Insydium Ltd. for about a year now. It’s been a real pleasure watching the plugin develop from the inside, and I’m continually in awe of the skill and talent demonstrated by the development team on a daily basis. X-Particles, which is currently at Release 2, with version 2.5 right around the corner, is destined to be the must have plugin for pro c4d motion graphics VFX (and medical) artists alike, if it isn’t already.
Among its many features, X-Particles Pro includes fluid dynamics, something that many C4D artists, myself included, have hoped would find it’s way into the software’s feature list for years. While there is still some growing to do in this area of the plugin package, I can say that this growth has accelerated greatly since version 2 was released, and I think many will be blown away by how easy fluids are to work with as well as the quality of the results in the upcoming 2.5.
Here are a few of my tests.
This short “teaser” began as a simple test of the upcoming “Move Over Surface” modifier. Particles are simply emitted towards a sphere, which the particles then land upon and traverse the surface of. A very common need with particle work, but was missing in X-Particles until now. I switched on fluid dynamics and was liking the way the particles flowed towards and onto the surface. I then used the Skinner generator object to mesh the particles, applied materials and lighting, and shot the scene from several angles.
What would make the results of that test better, would be the addition of wet maps on the surface of the metallic sphere, and better particle meshing, both of which hav been included since this clip was rendered. Xparticles 2.5 now includes wet map generation as well as two new particle mesh algorithms: Fluid, and Zhu-Bridson.
Below, I drop several million particles into a torus object. The particles are rendered with its’s proprietary particle shader. The particle shader and render engine in 2.5 have been enhanced by the development team to render in a fraction of the time compared with version 2.0. Partciles will also render using the C4D physical renderer, and render with refraction and reflection. This test not only demonstrates ray-traced rendering within a transparent, refractive object, but also illustrates some of the improvements in fluid/liquid dynamics.
Here are two more tests. A viscous pour into a half of a sphere. The first is the particles alone. the second is the meshed version of the same scene.
Hope to post some more tests soon.
To wrap up, I should say that this release is just amazing. Not the beta-fanboy hyperbole “amazing” but the fast, useful, jam-packed and affordable kind of amazing. So many areas have been improved since 2.0 and many new features have been added. XP is a lot of fun to work with and provides the c4d community an affordable arsenal of cg weapons that will aid not only your standard particle needs, but motion graphics, visual effects, and even modeling needs, for instance, using the skinner (XP’s meshing generator) in conjunction with particle painting allows for organic sculpting without the need for the outdated cumbersome and poorly topologized metaballs. If anyone has followed the development of similar 3rd party toolsets in other packages and thought, I want that too”, well there’s no doubt you’ll be getting that with X-particles. Already looking forward to version 3.
Thanks for reading.
This was just a little exercise in space animation (astromation?) which is something I’d like to do a lot more of. I downloaded the excellent ISS model from NASA’s site for this test. The file can be found here: NASA ISS model
For the Earth and moon I used high res maps from NASA’s Blue Marble site.
The cloud map was composed of two separate 21K maps, which needed to be stitched and cleaned up. The cloud file was too large to save at 42K x 21K so I reduced it down a bit, while still retaining detail. Its the cloud maps that seem to break up the most when rendering closeup, orbit shots of the Earth, so the high res maps were important. For the atmospheric glow and shading on the Earth model, I used Michael Welter’s great free plugin shader Atmosphere (make sure you donate to his site if you use any of his plugins!).
Heres the very short animation test. Theres a bit of flicker on one of the solar panels–looks like I might have some overlapping geometry there. Good enough for a test.
A recent animation project has provided me the opportunity to build one of the most interesting looking structures within the human body as far as I’m concerned, the glomerulus: a jumble of capillaries within the nephrons of the kidneys responsible for filtering urine from the blood. I have actually gotten the chance to build this intricate and beautiful micro organ two times before: once about 8 years ago and then one more time maybe 5 years ago. In both situations I needed to resort to kind of “shorthand” representation of the structure, partly due to time constraints (always a challenging factor in medical animation) but to be totally honest, mostly due to lack of know how as to how best to model it at the time of the projects.
This time, I really wanted to take a step back before diving in and figure out the most efficient and most accurate way to approach the modeling process. After studying several scanning electron microscopy images online, as well as looking at how other medical illustrators have approached it, I decided to begin by building the intricate multi-tentacled octopus-like cells called podocytes separately from the capillaries that they wrap around.
I began in Cinema 4D using the old metaballs object. I drew dozens of spheres from the top view to block out the interlocking “pseudopods”, the feature which gives the podocytes their distinctive look. I then played with the metaball settings until I got the tightest skin around the spheres, while keeping the resolution light enough to be able to almost paint the meatball shape in realtime.
I built about 4 or 5 variations of the podocytes at different sizes, some large and complex and some simple and small, so I could pick and choose the perfect fit for each section of blood vessel I would be wrapping them onto. In order to begin the wrapping process, I first needed to break up my tubules into small sections. Each cylindrical piece of the tube would need to be individually UV mapped, which I accomplished using the built in bodypaint UV tools. The reason I needed to UV map the glomerulus tubules was that I would be using C4D’s Surface Deformer to wrap the podocytes around the tubes.
This process, although tedious (lots of time spent UV’ing about 20 parts of the tubes) worked pretty well, but I still found that there were still lots of areas beween the separarately wrapped podocytes where there were noticeable gaps. I wasnt getting the feeling that the podocytes were continuous throughout the surfaces of the tubules. I then turned to the plugin Paint On Surface to draw the spheres DIRECTLY onto the surface of the tubules. This proved to be a MUCH MORE efficient way to create the podocytes, and soon realized that I should have done it this way from the start! Here is a VIDEO from the DNS plugin site showing how this workflow works.
If I would do this again, I’d probably take a stab at this via ZBrush which is probably the ultimate way to go for most complex organic shapes like this one. I actually just bought a license of Zbrush recently from a friend who no longer had much use for it, so I do plan on getting up to speed with it soon.
Sometimes you just have to accept that there just isn’t enough time or budget in a project to do things exactly the way you want to, but the results are still good and more importantly, your clients are still over the moon with the end product despite your feelings of not hitting the mark. In time however, and especially with medical animation, where the subjects tend to run in cycles, you will eventually have the chance to do things right.
Joren Kandel at Pixel Lab posted a link to a free 3d scanned skull model from the company Ten 24. Messed around a bit and ended up with this:
The 3D file is available as an .obj or zbrush format. You can get it from The Pixel Lab here:
or go directly to Ten 24 Here:
Playing with an old file and tried rendering it using the Physical Sky in C4D. Added some post work in After Effects, mainly Red Giant Looks, Optical Flares and a touch of grain. Would love to render this out as a short animation clip, but unfortunately I am getting very long render times. This render was 90 minutes. Perhaps I’ll try baking the AO, and possibly the GI.
I have recently purchased VRAy for C4D so I will next try rendering it with the VRAY engine and see what kind of times I get.
I know this is just an experiment, but thanks for looking!
Was messing around in Cinema 4D with no particular goal in mind. Decided to give the new aerodynamics feature a go which, like so many things in c4d, was a piece of cake to set up. Added a physical sky, a touch of sub surface scattering to the paper whirligigs and used a tracer object on them to mimic dynamic trailing strings. Rendered with the Physical renderer, and post work done in AE with a touch of Looks, OF and RSMB.
Wasted render due to forgetting to turn off hair dynamics, so thought I’d play with it!
French Cinema 4D artist and developer Cesar Vonc has released a cool little python plugin which generates volumetric “swiss cheese” based on C4D’s noise shaders (as well as any 3d shader). Medical animators will especially find this plugin to be perfect for quick creation of trabecular bone matrix for your osteoporosis animation. But more than that, this plugin is just plain fun.
The plugin can be found here:
For those whose knowledge of the French language hasn’t progressed beyond the ham and cheese croissant you ordered at Starbucks, the US strings can be found here in the Maxon forums on CGTalk
Just replace the french strings in the plugin folder with it.
Oh…and if you like it and plan on using it in production in the future, please be sure to donate via the paypal link on his page.
Some more experiments. Very un-sciency.
Just a test render for a head lice project I’ve started. Yuck.
Just some shots from various work over the past year or so
Microfloaties is a FREE* tool for Cinema 4D that lets you quickly add floating dust particles to your scene. It’s a rig fashioned from some of the mograph tools (cloners and effectors), some xpresso, and given specific user data to control the amount, size and speed of the dust particles, as well as the scale of the area they occupy in your scene file. Microfloaties requires Cinema 4D R12 Studio. You will need to have the mograph module and dynamics for Microfloaties to work properly. Special thanks to C4D-ers Dominic Faraway and Brett Morris for their feedback and assistance.
You can grab it here: MICROFLOATIES This zip file contains the Microfloaties C4D project file as well as a library file for use with your Content Browser in Cinema. If you wish to keep Microfloaties handy in your Content Browser, just drag the microfloaties.lib4d file into your Browser folder found within Maxon>Preferences>Library folders. Here is a tutorial to help get you started. Enjoy!
(*By FREE I mean feel FREE to make a donation if you have found Microfloaties to be useful to your work. Thank You :) )
To all who have been asking about adding functionality to allow the change of materials and cloner objects… Yes, I do intend to look into adding these functions to a future version of Microfloaties. For now, it is what it is :)
Finished a spot for a new show on History called Invention USA. Had a short window of time to come up with the concept and go to finish, which I do admit consists mainly of a bunch of things that Cinema 4D does well (and fast), namely stuff falling on a floor and bouncing around. A little lazy perhaps on the concept side, but it was one of those situations where I just needed to come up with something fast, in the midst of doing 12 other things, and see how it flies. Client liked the concept so I went with it.
I gotta say though, when I'm in a tight bind, C4D always comes through for me. Setting up the dynamics required minimal effort. It just works. And the rendering was fast as well. I started off meaning to use GI and also tested the scene with the new R13 physical renderer, but because time was an issue (needed to go straight to finish in a very short amount of time) I went with the standard renderer. The still above was rendered with the new physical renderer, however the final shot (not shown here) didn't really look much different in the end and rendered in a fraction of the time. Hope to eventually post the spot. Some style frames also included below.
Just a test to get up to speed with the physical renderer in Cinema 4D 13. Wondering if it is viable for real animation work. The kind with deadlines.
I am currently getting ~8 min per frame rendering at SD widescreen. Only rendered a short sequence (130 frames) so I looped it a few times.
SSS was turned OFF as it was taking ages for the irradiance thing to cache (this was with optimized SSS settings).
I have 1 bounce for self illumination, AO on, motion blur and DOF on.
At the moment it looks like I still have some more optimization options to explore. Render times feel too heavy at the moment for long-form medical animation (usually between 4 to 10 minutes of HD animation) but maybe Ok for short shots for spots and such. We’ll see.
Continuing my experimentation. Removed sub-poly displacement and put SSS back in. Reduced settings significantly. see below)
Got much faster render times (~2min/frame). Still needs refining. Lighting is all HDRI now so could use a bit more directional light. Turned on reflections as well instead of using an HDRI environment map for fake reflections. Also added a second layer of phospholipids (now its a proper bilayer) and threw a couple of proteins into the dynamics group.
What started out as a simple test to explain camera-driven shader effects in Cinema 4D to a friend in need, turned into, well I don’t know, THIS I guess. Staring at that Optical Flare in the hazy distance makes me ponder the meaning of existence. Then I just click on a cat video and I’m all better.
But I digress. I’m using the gradient shader in “3D spherical mode” set to camera space applied to cloned spheres. As objects come closer to the camera, they glow. Objects in the distance are dark. A nice way to fake fog in your scenes (and a lot of other things depending on which channels you use it in)
The radius value (below) determines the length of the gradient effect (left to right, left being the camera which is at the center of the “virtual” sphere). I copied this shader setting into my diffuse channel to darken the objects in the distance.
I’ve done some post work on the clip above which kind of makes the camera falloff luminance harder to spot, but hopefully it makes sense. I got a little carried away.
I came upon this technique maybe a decade ago as described by CG/VFX artist Richard Morris (aka Jackals Forge of Gallerie Abominate fame) on his website documenting his cg production process for the science documentary BodyStory 2 for BBC. Make sure you check out his work. Although his website is over a decade old, the work still looks great and the information can still very useful to those in the biomedical visualization field. The relevant information can be found in the “Dynamic Shading” section of the article.
Jackal’s Forge BodyStory 2 Tech. Click here for website/article
Just got Cinema 4D R13 and thought I’d see if i could figure out some of the new rendering features, mainly the new sub-surface scattering system as well as the the physical renderer and camera. Struggling a bit, but challenges make this stuff more fun.
I was inspired by Maxon’s marketing image for R13 of the grapes by Marijn Raeven, which I’m sure many of you have already seen. Didn’t want to waste time modeling anything, so I did the next best (i.e. easiest) thing, and cloned a bunch of dynamic spheres and applied SSS. 13 minutes later I had this image.
Over the next few months I’ll see if I can reign in the times and quality to see if its feasible to use physical rendering in animation production, but in the meantime I think I will be sticking with R12.
Here is the first image I created. Its a model of a trichinomas (yucchy parasite). I chose it as I thought it would be a good object to test the SSS due to its general blobbyness. Its a starting point. Still a ways to go…
A few years ago I got to work on an episodic TV project called Factory Floor. You may have already seen my other posts about it earlier on in my blog. Yeah, I know, I’m milking it. It was not a particularly successful series (it only lasted one season) but looking back it was really a great experience overall, and I learned a lot about what its like to be involved in a TV series production. There were ups and downs, funny stories, sleepless nights, stress, and ultimately, a feeling of relieved satisfaction bordering on triumph when we delivered the last approved graphic call after a roughly nine-month period of working. I still marvel at how I and my then business partner R. Scott Purcell, our producer Bob Larkin, (and the occasional 1 or 2 extra freelancers) were able to turn around 100 graphics calls while jumping through all the usual hoops of a production schedule.
The image above is the beauty pass render for a piece of machinery called a pencil extruder. It squeezes out bits of lead that will be inserted into the pencil. Below is what the final call looked like after compositing (and thats CAULK GUN by the way. Get your head out of the gutter.;)
One of the things I really liked about this project was that it required me to QUICKLY build and rig dozens of mechanical objects, mostly factory machinery, but sometimes the odd item like cheese curds, toilet paper or potato chips. I’d get a script, and usually a rough cut of a given episode, and from the low res quicktime footage, as well as google picture reference, I’d need to knock out various models in a short amount of time. I’d usually spend no more than 5 or 6 hours a night researching, building a model, then get started on roughing out the animation timed to the corresponding piece of the rough cut. Each night I’d shoot to have a shot ready to go. After a few weeks, (and then months), the process was like second nature. Research, build, animate.
The style of the graphics was to resemble a sort of moving 3D blueprint. We developed a workflow right from the beginning in which we had a master Cinema 4D file which included all the shaders and lighting we would need in every scene.
The rendering and compositing workflow would go like this:
1. Beauty Pass. We would apply realistic shaders and textures to our models with a decent lighting setup and render this pass usually with ambient occlusion if rendering time allowed. We had a set of metallic shaders we would reuse again and again for the various pieces of machinery.
2. X-RAY PASS. We also developed a set of x-ray shaders using a variety of colored fresnel (angle of incidence) gradients loaded into the alpha channel of the shader. We would take our master project of the given scene and then apply these shaders and render that pass.
(below , the X-ray pass for the lead extruder call, a fire extinguisher, and a taser X-ray right below that)
3. LINE ART PASS. We heavily utilized the Cinema 4D module Sketch and Toon to generate a bluish line-art pass on white. Although the S&T render method can give a big hit to your render times, we found that setting S&T quality to low and turning off AA sped up rendering times considerably and still looked great. Sometimes we would create custom overshoot and perspective lines and render these in yet another line art pass.
4. BUFFERS. Each animation would require us to hold and highlight a specific part of the object or machinery. When this occurred we would need to glow each part. To help with this we rendered object buffers for each part of the model. If a piece of the model was obscured in some way, like for instance, a battery or valve inside the main object we would render those pieces out separately in their own scene file.
Scott developed a a template in After Effects from which we would create each and every shot from. It included a blueprint overlay, background textures, labels and leader lines as well as a layered workflow to style the renders into that blueprint look which would need to mix with the textured background. Scott used the linear light layer pass which yielded the perfect look. We would also use feathered masks to accentuate certain areas, and bring out more of the beauty pass, line pass or X-ray pass as needed.
1. We would typically drop the beauty pass in first then apply the layer effects to mix it with the background texture.
2. Then we would bring in the x-ray pass, then mask out areas as needed, and fade it back considerably.
3. We would drop the line pass in and mix it a bit, set to multiply.
Below is an example of a typical AE Comp.
In the end the final look was nice, and completely in line with what was appropriate for the show, as well as being exactly what the producers wanted. I’ve recently gone back through the files, remembering how much time went into building them all. I thought Id share some of the pre-processed beauty passes and showcase them a bit, as much of the detail gets lost in those original blueprint renders. These are by no means examples of rendering excellence. No global illumination or linear workflow, just some simple down and dirty 3-point lighting and metallic shaders with a touch of AO.
I may continue to add more images to this post, so check back. I have tons of them.
Thanks for looking!
Just a C4D doodle, playing with text and the mograph extrude object. Applied a shader effector to the extrude object to alter visibility and scale of extrusion with the noise shader. Nothing groundbreaking here but fun to explore.
I think the GI looking text on the reflective cyc might be a bit overdone these days– so easy to do.
Five or six years ago I was contracted to design and build a character for an up-and-coming game company. It was really my first character gig, but was excited to dive in and give it a shot. Not sure if the game ever saw the light of day (not much of a gamer actually) but it was a fun project to work on and learned a lot in the process.
Never finished it completely–the boots were meant to be snowboard boots (Its Danté, the Snowboarding Demon from Hell!), textures were never refined and sub surface scattering’s a bit blown out. There are some anatomical problems too. Blah blah blah…
But thought I’d share anyway–just to show that it’s not always microbes and slime for me.
UPDATE: January 9, 2014
Its been 2 and a half years since I wrote this blog post, with the best intentions of recording a video tutorial to explain how to build the procedurally tiled cellular surface shown below. Well, as with many ideas I’ve had for this blog, life and work kind of got in the way of all that, and I just never got around to it. As consolation I thought I’d at least share the file with the c4d community, so other artists could pick the file apart and hopeful learn something new…maybe pickup a workflow that could benefit someone on a project.
It just came to my attention today that another cinema 4d artist has used the file, pretty much as is with a few very minor modifications, and has passed it off as his own for a medical animation project that he is crowd funding on Indiegogo. This is a no-no. I can’t believe I have to actually say this, but any scene files I have shared here, unless stated otherwise, are not to be used for commercial purposes, but for educational use only (Microfloaties is Ok to use for whatever you want). You are not going to get very far in this business if you can’t actually create the work you display on your website yourself. A very short-sighted business strategy.
Anyway..back to the blog:
Working on a tutorial that will show you how to create this tiled cell image below with nothing more than a rubber band and a paperclip. Actually, a sphere, plane, and a disk primitive. Plus a little help from some Cinema 4D generators…
Took it a little further….
Working on a new tool /rig for Cinema 4D users for the quick creation of animatable floating dust particle environments. Should be ready soon!
Doing some R&D look and feel tests for an upcoming project. Playing with sub-poly displacement and the native sub surface scattering shader in Cinema 4D. Long render but looks kind of cool. AO is baked in, so will have to see what else I can do to reign in the render times.
Just a few test shots done in Cinema 4D. Thought they looked interesting.
The top one is procedurally animated using R12 dynamics (which I love). Unfortunately still wrestling with some GI issues so the animation hasn’t come out so great. When I get a chance I’ll try again. I really need to do it sooner than later as I’m itching to be the first Cinema 4D animator to render dynamic GI spheres.
The other 2 look pretty but I will have to figure out how to animate them in such a way that the renders would finish within this century.
Messing around with the glass and GI settings in Cinema 4D R12. Don’t get a lot of opportunities to explore these 2 facets of C4D but thought I’d share the result. Inspired a bit by the Maxon R12 logo. Trying to get rid of that white sphere reflected on the floor to the right. Would like it to reflect in the glass but not on the floor. Tried excluding it via the compositing tag just on the floor. I’ll get it…
Looking for some micro-environment inspiration and found a nice scanning electron microscopy image of Stomach Lining. Still a work in progress.
The displacement really needs to be enhanced as the surface doesn’t look like its composed of the individual mucosal cells, looks more like a displaced surface. Need to add the thin webbed membrane stretched over the surface as well. And also need to add a better sense of the folds and “caves” prevalent on the stomach surface.
Cinema 4D render:
Some more fiddling. One mesh. Five deformers. (not sub-poly displacement–displacement is achieved with displacer deformers)
Still NOTHING like the reference image, but it illustrates how when using multiple versions of the same displacer deformer with the same noise loaded in and set to Vertex Normal you can get quite interesting looking surface. (Updated a bit since original post)
The bottom 2 displace deformers are using the same noise/settings.
The first of the 2 displaces the normals based on the noise shader. The second 2nd of the 2 takes the new normals (pushed out and altered by the 1st deformer) and pushes them further with the same noise. This way you create the illusion of separate spherical objects while its really all one mesh.
Below is the mesh with just one 1 displacer deformer activated used just to create an undulating base mesh from which to apply the bottom 2 deformers to.