The way I have chosen to illustrate the immune system relies on showing most of the types of cells that play a role. My inital problems with a 3-5 animation on the subject were about knowing where to draw the line. Certain things can't be included and others have to be. I was thinking that to be able to give a truthful impression of the complexity of the immune system, every gear in the machine needed to have its place in the story. After expressing these problems I was motivated to shift my focus on making an animation that could get an audience excited rather than informed, so I moved away from the science part a bit, more towards an atmospheric approach while making sure to keep everything in a grown up tone. I have kept the seriousness and true information in the animation but stopped trying to explain it too much.
Science and Entertainment
What has come out of this approach is much more freedom for slightly more keen visuals and certainly a more exciting overall feel. At first, I tried to keep the narrator voice in it, but I realized that it makes no sense to try and explain scientific facts with a medium that is meant for entertainment. I'd have preferred to make events in the animation more complete and absolutely logical but this other approach works in its own right. However, I did not want to get rid of all the scientific facts. A narrator speaking to the audience would have represented a third party in the experience of watching the animation and the illusion of a story would have been impossible, thus removing any captivating effect from the animation. Without actually being able to be scientific about the subject, I still wanted to keep the tone of this approach. This would have to translate a bit like serious entertainment, if something like that could exist. The solution would be the choice to include the names of the cells as 3D text in the film. This would present a nice balance between the experience of a story, and a slight Brechtian alienation effect of actual scientific truth. Enertainment, but not too much, truth, but not too serious. (I also found the placement of roles - the story being the magic by which the subconscious would be willing to be seduced - and the scientific content being the Verfremdungseffekt, quite amusing for an audience of biology students). Maybe a subconscious impact could be caused this way, a waking of a sense of magic and eagerness for discovery in the audience in their otherwise often theoretical domain.
In the 3D domain, the view through which everything that happens is to be observed is most often forgotten. I'm not claiming to be an expert on camera work, but I do know how to make relevant choices. Two exteremely important tools in my work are always scale and perspective. While talking about visuals, to me it is evident that perspective and scale are the major controllers of emotion: They can be used to put the audience in a certain place, they dictate whether the world is big or small and which parts of it are reachable. I think they are more important than content and even color and as far as visuals are generally used to affect logic and audio to affect emotion, perspective and scale are the unsung and extremely powerful exceptions.
My idea is to give a sense of exploration to the experience of observing a process that is larger than the ego. I think this is an interesting approach: Magnifying this process what is generally perceived to be much smaller than the ego to make it much larger and to bring out its amazing force. I've therefor chosen to create a cave-like environment which does not specifically represent a certain location in the human body, but rather an unknown spectacular place. I have given the camera a mix of controlled movements of exploration and delayed reaction to movement of the unknown. I've also tried to limit my tendency of creating lengthy shots and overly "floaty" movements. I hope that the movement of the camera will be able to dictate the correct expectations to the audience and lead them into believing that while watching, they are amazed.
I have depicted the invisible inside of the body as liquid. Atmospheric density plays a key role in the visual style in this case. The design of cells, the environment and the shading in the short are based on microscopic imagery to reflect the remaining scientific tone. I've tried to move cells just far away enough from their reality so that they could become recognizable and characteristic. There are no direct shadows and no logical direct light sources in the visuals and I've tried to reduce the use of dark areas in general. I have used light and brightness to represent life and a lot of subtle color variation to give a sense of playfulness to the depicted processes.
There are no direct sounds under water and for the first time I'm trying to work without sound effects. Sound effects are a way of creating proximity and the audience uses the auditive clues to assess situations more than through visuals. (The typical example of the horror film without the audio not being horrifying.) Instead of creating impact with sounds cued to visual events I want to hold the audience at a certain distance from the depicted events. This will further ensure that the spectator knows that they are only observing carefully, not interacting and treading lightly as not to disturb the magic.
Without sound effects, music must take on the role of guiding emotions and creating different levels of urgency. Music is being written by my brother Tom Winandy. We have decided on a mix of classical and electronic music to try and create the sound of an epic and modern experience.
Interpreting the unknown
We as humans would like to know in what sign an event stands. I am using color, light position, camera movement, scale and music to suggest these informations very slightly. Mostly though, a subtle distance from the depicted events should ensure that not too much judging and assessing is being done while watching.
I have had much less time to work on this project as I had planned, because important and pressing opportunities have risen up in the middle of production. I have therfor taken on board another designer who is helping with production at this late stage and this is also why I'm not writing the music myself. We are doing our very best to deliver the quality that was promised on time and I apologize for not being able to actively contribute enough to the spectacular science project and blog as a whole.
Here's a composite: