‘BBC Knowledge Explainer DNA’ by Territory Studio

BBC Knowledge & Learning commissioned Territory Studio to create an animated explanation of the structures, processes and purposes of DNA.  The result is an exquisitely mesmeric graphic exploration of the mysterious structure.


With only three minutes to work with, and an incredibly rich topic to explore, the challenge for this film was to gage the appropriate level of information to cram in. A less well-crafted film could have resulted in the sequence becoming indecipherably dense, or worse not informative enough to have any value. The producer, Sam Hart, and creative director, David Sheldon-Hicks have overseen a project that is meticulous in its development and final outcome.


For many of us the structure of DNA inspires memories of stale classrooms, stuffy teachers and lifeless textbook graphics. However the ‘Explainer DNA’ does not suffer from such negative associations. Rather than trying desperately to modernise this documentary Will Samuel, the art and animation director, develops the aesthetics of schoolbook biological imagery, revelling in its nostalgic triggers while snapping the sequence sharply into the 21st Century. When the pre digital print texture and colour pallet is applied to pristine motion and 3D modelling a retro feel is crafted.


The attention to detail is extraordinary. When the human set of chromosomes are spread out in sequence each of them wave subtly as if held against a gentle current.  Details like this when combined with Room 24’s down played sound design make for a sumptuous audio-visual experience.


Andrew S Walsh’s script, created in collaboration with the molecular biologist Dr. Matthew Adams, is impressive. When covering aspects of the topic that are common knowledge the subject still feels fresh. I feel this may be due to the authority with which the information is imparted. It was pleasing to see the gaps in our knowledge concerning Junk DNA and genetic modification being explored diligently. I must say however the ending is slightly abrupt.


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