A Review of Primal Pictures
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Diana Boone, MA-LIS
Head, Learning Resources Center
Creighton University


Primal Pictures offers a variety of titles in 3D human anatomy, using images that were created over the course of 10 years using the Visible Human project, as well as CT and MRI images along with animations and real-life videos. The medical experts who contributed to the product are listed here: (https://www.primalpictures.com/Content.aspx?TopMenuId=28&LeftMenuId=55). Primal products are web-based and available on multiple platforms, including mobile. The products are geared towards health science educators for use in teaching human anatomy and physiology, for beginning to advanced students for use in self-directed learning and self-quizzing, and for practitioners who can use the images and animated sequences in presentations.

Full Disclosure: Creighton University Health Sciences Library has been an institutional subscriber to Primal Pictures for several years, so this review is a combination of experience with the product as well as trial access to some titles to which we do not subscribe.


When it comes to teaching and learning human anatomy, Primal Pictures offers what they call their “Core Four” products and each is a bit different:
• 3D Atlas of Human Anatomy (http://www.anatomy.tv/primal/atlas/index.html)
• 3D Human Functional Anatomy (https://www.primalpictures.com/primal/functionalanatomy/)
• 3D Real-Time Human Anatomy (https://www.primalpictures.com/primal/realtime/)
• 3D Human Anatomy & Physiology (https://www.primalpictures.com/anatomy-physiology.aspx)

3D Atlas of Human Anatomy is organized by body region, and each region opens in a new window when clicked on. The first image is bordered by all kinds of tabs, tools, and icons users can interact with. Unfortunately, this starting screen isn’t very intuitive, but there is a “Getting Started” guide in the upper right as well as a “Start” button in the upper left with video tutorials. Users can rotate, add/remove layers, identify structures, download the image to use later, save a URL to come back to a specific image, etc. A table of contents, index, and search function are available within the module as well. Each module includes MRI images, slides, and movies — all of which can be downloaded or bookmarked for later use. The movies are good illustrations of movement and surface anatomy but they are a bit small. It would be helpful if there was an option to enlarge them to full screen to allow for better viewing and more precise control of forward and backward movement. This product is more appropriate for advanced students who have already had a basic human anatomy course, as it requires more motivated students who will take the time to learn how to take advantage of all of the available options.

3D Human Functional Anatomy is similar in operation to the Atlas in that selecting a title opens a new window, and users are presented with the same icons, tabs, and tools. As the name implies, this product is focused on muscle function — flexion, extension, adduction, and abduction. Gross motor movement animations include jogging, pushups, walking upstairs, and standing from a sitting position. This product is appropriate for beginning to advanced students and practitioners.

3D Real-Time Human Anatomy, a newer product, is currently the only one to be in both English and Spanish. It also requires installation of the Unity Web Player plugin. A download link is included, but installation of software requires administrator rights on many computers, so this could potentially be a technical problem for some users. 3D Real-Time is also organized by body region and each region opens in a new window with a quick start image detailing what the icons and menu options do. Clicking on “Start” presents an image that users can drag, rotate throughout the 3D axis, and zoom, all with the click of a mouse. The images are detailed and the interface is rich with options: click on a structure and hear a pronunciation, add arrows, or change the colors. In addition to the quick start image at startup, there is a “Help” button in the upper right which reveals a point-and-click interactive guide or a step-by-step video tutorial. Due to the high level of customization available, it is strongly recommended that users take the time to go through the tutorials in order to understand how to take full advantage of this product.

3D Human Anatomy & Physiology is organized by system, but has the search and index features on the landing page. The search feature allows filtering the results by title, 3D view, slides, and movies, as well as selecting an individual module to search. This is an improvement over the search features in the other products, but it still doesn’t assist with spelling as users type, and it comes back with “no results found” instead of offering suggestions. For example, searching for “toe” yielded no results and no assistance. The index is well done and offers pronunciation audio. The modules are more of a self-directed learning/interactive textbook style learning. The landing page is a bit bewildering, so, as always, users should take the time to go through the tutorial to understand how to use the product. In this product, the video tutorial is accessible from the “Quick Start Guide” and detailed written instructions from the “Help” button. This product is most appropriate for beginning students as well as educators who are looking for a more interactive classroom experience.

Overall, these “Core Four” products from Primal Pictures would be a solid addition to a library’s anatomy resources in support of beginning, advanced, and research-oriented users. It is extremely easy to bookmark, print, or download a specific image or movie and then incorporate it into a presentation. However, due to the high degree of interactivity and customization that is possible, the user interface is initially confusing, so going through the tutorials is a must in order to understand all that is available. For example, the video tutorials aren’t in the same place throughout the four products. The search function is very basic but appears to be getting better.


Personal and institutional subscriptions are available. Individuals may request free 24-hour access and institutions may request trial access through a sales representative. Institutions may choose from various packages or select custom content. Packages range from the above four human anatomy titles to specialty packages for Sports Therapy, Dentistry, and Communications Disorders. Users also may pick individual titles for a custom package of their choosing. Personal subscriptions: https://www.primalpictures.com/Products.aspx. Institutional subscriptions: https://www.primalpictures.com/Educators.aspx.

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