Pixeldust Studios, a digital animation and visual design company with studios in the Washington D.C. area and New York City, has produced eight minutes of original animation sequences which will be featured in a one-hour special episode of the NOVA series, “Cracking Your Genetic Code.” Set to air March 28, this PBS special examines the medical benefits and moral dilemmas posed by new technologies that decipher and analyze an individual’s genetic makeup.
Pixeldust Studios produced several animations depicting the workings of DNA strands, genes, chromosomes and cells within the human body for the show. The company also animated sequences depicting how drugs bind with certain proteins in the bloodstream, in efforts to help battle against a variety of illnesses.
“Pixeldust did an amazing job coming up with creative ways to visualize the human genome,” said Sarah Holt, producer for NOVA/PBS and Holt Productions. “Their animators skillfully took the audience inside a human cell, past human chromosomes, and into DNA that is coiled inside the nucleus. The animation was sophisticated and artistically gorgeous to look at, but also helped the audience grasp difficult concepts in genomics. The Pixeldust team labored to ensure the accuracy of the scientific details, and dealt gracefully with last-minute narration changes.”
“Our goal with these animations was to present a highly futuristic yet contemporary style for the depiction of the medical information this NOVA episode was presenting,” explained Ricardo Andrade, founder/executive creative director of Pixeldust Studios. “To give our work a more organic look and feel, we used warm colors for the internal cells and organic tissue of the human body. This warm and bright color palette was contrasted with a shiny and reflective bluish palette for illustrating the medicine and DNA strands. While we always kept an eye on medical accuracy, we allowed ourselves a good bit of artistic liberty with our lighting, shading and 3D modeling along the way.”
“To best prepare ourselves before producing our animations, we consulted with a noted cell biologist to ensure that our representations of DNA strands, genes, cells and chromosomes would be medically accurate,” explained Tim Mrozek, Pixeldust Studios’ lead animator on this project. “Our work within this show was also presented at multiple levels of magnifications, often moving from cells to chromosomes to DNA strands, so our animation team used microscopic imagery as source material behind the organic modeling of our creations. We also used a proprietary plug-in to help us portray molecules that had been previously scanned as guide material.”
“Cracking Your Genetic Code” premieres March 28 on PBS. The program illuminates technological advances in genetic sequencing and what this will mean for the future of healthcare administration, the treatment of chronic genetic diseases, lifestyle choices and medical ethics.