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Artem help unravel the mysteries of life 'In The Womb'

Visual effects specialists Artem have completed work on a groundbreaking two-part special that explores the journey from conception to birth from the human foetus’ point of view.
To be broadcast as 'Life Before Birth' on Channel 4 (featuring poetry from Roger McGeogh) in March and as 'In The Womb' on National Geographic in April, the special follows the bewildering transformation of a fertilised egg on its way to becoming an individual person.
Advances in 3D scanning have revealed that the behaviour of the growing foetus is much more complex and advanced than ever previously imagined. During its nine-month gestation, it will become capable of recognising its parents’ voices, learning tunes, smiling and even dreaming.
Despite groundbreaking filming and scanning techniques, five ultra-realistic and anatomically accurate models, sculpted in modelling wax, moulded, cast in silicon rubber and painted, were required to engage the audience and illustrate the foetus (complete with placenta, umbilical chord and membranes) at key stages of development that would be impossible to film for real.
Simon Tayler, Artem SFX Designer/Supervisor, said: “When Director Toby Macdonald from Pioneer Productions approached us about this project, we knew instantly that we could bring the right approach to the job.
"Unlike most commercials assignments, where models are used sparingly, these models form over twenty minutes of screen time and have to bear very close scrutiny by the camera. Pioneer supplied us with reference material, which we complemented by carrying out extensive research ourselves - it’s amazing what you can discover on the web!"
Tayler continued: "This was a fascinating project that required us to use our initiative and resulted in the development of several novel techniques to enhance the finish such as; reverse painting blood vessels into the mould and using transparent flock to create the tiny swirls of hairs on the skin.
"We made the wombs themselves in a series of large blow-formed acrylic domes layered with hand painted silicon rubber. The colouring was carefully controlled so that the material would remain translucent for back lighting.”
Director Toby MacDonald said: “What a wonderful job Artem have all done on our babies. The models are amazing, and everyone says so. The footage that David has shot is extraordinary. I have a great time, when showing people the film, in lying to them about what is real and what is physical models. I have yet to meet anyone, even seasoned pros, who can tell me what is what. There will be letters in the Radio Times complaining at the way we invaded so many wombs just for a bit of telly.”

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