The Human Body The Human Body Mobile

The Human Body: Secrets of Your Life Revealed

3 Part Series Documentary
Release Date
25th September 2017

To showcase the effects that day to day tasks, extreme conditions and exercise have on our body, as well as the amazing metamorphosis our body is constantly undergoing through a mixture of visual effects and motion graphics.

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The team at Jellyfish Pictures spent four months working on BBC 2’s The Human Body: Secrets of Your Life Revealed. Tasked with over fifty shots, we took a scientific delve inside the human body

The educational series takes viewers on a journey of the most remarkable physical transformation in the world. The one that happens within all of us. Over three episodes, the documentary educates audiences on how we all start life as one single cell, evolving to a walking, talking sentient being made up of 37 trillion cells, through a cascade of hidden processes.

The aims of the show are to educate audiences on the amazing ability the human body has to rejuvenate, grow, survive and learn. With a new frontier of scientific information revealing the hidden workings of our body, it’s critical to share this with a wider audience, so we understand both the positive and negative effects we have on our body.

Our artists began their process with studying video footage and notes from scientists. This careful appraisal of the live action element of the show was crucial to the team, enabling them to gather a deeper understanding of what was to be crafted. It was vital for the team to create something not only visually stunning but educational.

The overall objective for the graphics were to present an informative illustration of the adaptations and mechanisms of the body in real life situations. The show specifically looked at organs and systems within the human body while the audience watched how they were affected by different tasks, for example, the lungs of children swimming in icy water, how the brain reacts when undergoing a task such as playing the piano or the effect on the body of an 87 year old running the Escape from Alcatraz triathlon! Showcasing the process like this, enabled viewers to connect the information to their own experiences in a more tangible way. The device for doing this was to cut away the body from live action footage and replace it with a 3D representation of the various organs inside.

It was important to the artistic integrity that the material did not feel too gory or horrific, which could easily happen when cutting holes in people's bodies. Equally it had to seem believable, and not a simple 2D overlay. Our team worked out a balance involving realistic lighting and physically plausible shading, while other components were treated in a more striking and less realistic style that nonetheless described their function.


The first step in the creation process was to build and rig a true to life human body with all organs and systems accurately portrayed. The skeleton, circulatory system, nervous system and lymphatic system formed the foundation. The major organs were then added - brain, liver, lungs and kidneys. The main body was modelled in Maya, with simulation and effects completed in both Maya and Houdini. The motion graphic sections employed a mixture of the above and Cinema 4D and After Effects, with the final compositing done in Nuke.

Custom animation cycles were created to illustrate the functions of the organs - for example the flow of blood through the chambers of the heart, and the movement of lungs during breathing. Each individual animation had a custom way of highlighting the action described. Fluid simulations for blood were conceptually straightforward, but electrical connections within the brain required a multi-layered approach of particles and instances to show the nonlinear nature of synaptic connections.

Within the lungs the alveoli were shown in detail on the outside of the lungs and occupying the volume of the interior. This was achieved using l-systems in Houdini as well as custom Paint Effects brushes inside of Maya. The transport of gaseous volumes was handled using a mixture of particles and mattes.

A significant amount of work was done to accurately track the rig to the different people in the clips. As there were different body sizes and types - from small children to fully grown adults - and all with differing proportions and structures - we devised a rig that could be re-targeted to accommodate this. The main track of the camera was done in 3D Equalizer, but a lot of the match animation was done by hand. This was particularly necessary as a lot of the structures inside the body cannot be accurately positioned by tracking what happens on the surface of the skin. Some of the complex movement of the shoulders and elbows in the tennis shot were a particular challenge.

When the scale of the action depicted needed to be at a microscopic level this was handled in motion graphics, then connected to the live action clip by a sympathetic technique of moving into freezeframes from the original 3D.