Volume 40 / September 10th, 2021

Volume 40

Client

The Documentary Project, Pfizer, Nat Geo | Left/Right & History

A closer look at our work on some incredibly important projects. Pfizer's development of the vaccine in Mission Possible and two films concerning the attacks on 9/11 - Four Flights and Rise and Fall: World Trade Center.

Volume 40

Visualizing the virus

Mission Possible

When our friends at The Documentary Group approached us with an opportunity to collaborate on the film they were creating in partnership with Pfizer and National Geographic, we were all ears. The film was created to document the research and development of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine, which was brought to market in record time.

Mission Possible

As Pfizer and National Geographic had the foresight to film their process, we had a great amount of information and footage to inform our graphic contribution. Our role involved visualizing portions of the film’s narrative that were focused on delivering the audience scientific information, ranging timelines to actual models of the viruses and how they operate. Designing for a topic that has been so relevant culturally for the past year was an exciting challenge that we tackled head on.

From the outset, we knew there would be a massive 3D lift when it came to explaining the coronavirus and the effects it had on the body, which would transition to the vaccine science as well. BigStar 3D artists Connor O’Brien and Brian Landisman developed a variety of initial explorations around making the actual COVID-19 virus. Our clients latched on to one specific style and from there we pushed all in on executing the scientific explanations graphically for the film.

01/03

Getting the details of the science right required a crash course for our team that was provided to us by The Documentary Group and Pfizer. We learned everything from how the Coronavirus attacks cells in the body to how vaccines work to what differentiates an mRNA vaccine.

Having the bones of that scientific skeleton enabled us to build in 3D with an informed perspective. Pfizer was even so kind as to provide us with some 3D models they had on hand, so it was a collaborative process to get that science precise.

Check out some of the microscopic imagery we received from Pfizer below:

While we established the look and feel of the 3D imagery quickly, we focused and dedicated a fair percentage of our time on the project to finessing the detailed 3D renders and giving them the heaviness and weight we felt the visuals necessitated. Adding these layers and focusing on details brought the 3D design to the next level and showcased the science in an informed and entertaining way.

Influenza v. COVID-19

In addition to our 3D lift, we did a fair portion of work in 2D to illustrate the timelines and history of the mRNA vaccine as well as the passage of the vaccine from trials to market. Taking a mixed approach of 2 & 3D allowed us to be super clear in the messaging.

01/02

Thank you to to our partners at The Documentary Group, Pfizer and Nat Geo for bringing us on board to create a momentous and informative piece.

Remembrance

9/11: Four Flights

For the 20th anniversary of 9/11, we partnered with our friends at Left/Right to design a graphic package for two of the four films in HISTORY’s 4-film block focused on the anniversary of the attacks. Both 9/11: Four Flights and Rise and Fall: The World Trade Center provide a sweeping recollection of the historical event with Four Flights focusing on the people on the planes and Rise and Fall taking viewers through the construction and subsequent fall of the towers themselves.

9/11: Four Flights

With any project centered around 9/11, you want to take an approach that prioritizes sensitivity to the subject. Because of this, we did a lot of our initial thinking and design using the lidar technique - a dark, pointellated world where pictures are created via a constellation of dots. The semi-transparency of this technique in design allows for gravitas in the graphics while the subject matter is still visible. This technique became a throughline for both films in this collaboration.

For Four Flights, we took the look we’d established with the lidar technique and sought to apply it to the specific scenes selected for recreation. The recreated scenes ranged from the planes sitting at the airport through to some more sensitive scenes of the interior of the cockpit as it was stormed during United Flight 93. We developed a map language to trace the flights’ individual journeys throughout the day and maintained a connected design to visually tell that story.

BigStar artist Nick Donatelli utilized Houdini to design the lidar plane scenes for the flights and then BigStar Creative Director John Leamy set up all the previous scenes in Cinema4D.

Contributing to 9/11 focused work is something we are honored to do on an annual basis. This twentieth anniversary is particularly momentous because it is a reminder how resilient our country and especially New York City can be in the face of adversity. Special thanks to our longtime partners at Left/Right who continue to collaborate with us year over year on telling these meaningful stories about September 11, 2001 and how far we’ve come in the twenty years since.

Remembrance

Rise and Fall: The World Trade Center

The second film we focused on for HISTORY’s block of 9/11 programming was Rise and Fall: The World Trade Center which provides a more in-depth look at the history of the development of the towers and their subsequent fall through a unique architectural and engineering lens. To design for the chronological telling of the conception, construction and destruction of the World Trade Center towers, we utilized the same lidar technique as in Four Flights.

Rise and Fall: The World Trade Center

The 3D graphics were layered in with illustration and typography and then animated to create a beautiful homage to the buildings in the film’s title sequence.

Frequently, our work on 9/11 pieces is understandably emotionally charged, so delving into the architecture on this film was a welcome respite, and even humorous at times such as the moments the film recounts the city’s negative reception to the towers’ impact on the skyline during construction.

Contributing to 9/11 focused work is something we are honored to do on an annual basis. This twentieth anniversary is particularly momentous because it is a reminder how resilient our country and especially New York City can be in the face of adversity. Special thanks to our longtime partners at Left/Right who continue to collaborate with us year over year on telling these meaningful stories about September 11, 2001 and how far we’ve come in the twenty years since.

Props where props are due

Credits

Four Flights
  • Executive Creative Director
    Josh Norton
  • Creative Director
    John Leamy
  • Design Director
    Ross Henderson
  • Executive Producer
    Carson Hood
  • Producer
    Kristen Pritchett
  • Main Title Design
    Josh Norton
  • Main Title Animation
    Brian Landisman
  • 3D Flight Previs & Design
    John Leamy, Alec Iselin, Nicolas Donatelli
  • 2D/3D Animation
    Brian Landisman, Liu Chia-Lung, Nicolas Donatelli
Rise & Fall
  • Executive Creative Director
    Josh Norton
  • Creative Director
    John Leamy
  • Design Director
    Ross Henderson
  • Executive Producer
    Carson Hood
  • Producer
    Kristen Pritchett
  • Main Title Design
    Jane Wu, Ross Henderson
  • Main Title Animation
    Brian Landisman
  • Film Design
    Ross Henderson, Ivan Viaranchyk
  • 2D/3D Animation
    Brian Landisman, Liu Chia-Lung, Nicolas Donatelli
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