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The Human Body Wednesday, 24 June, 1998, 16:38 GMT 17:38 UK
Shooting the human story
Opening sequence
Making The Human Body took over two years
The BBC's fantastic voyage around the human body took over two years to film and used a vast array of scientific techniques to depict the complexity of just being alive.

But the most complicated bit of filming in The Human Body series was getting over 100 people to go to a forest and take their clothes off.

The line of age, which opens the series, was filmed in a Surrey forest. Each member of the line-up is separated from his or her neighbour by just one year. The line goes from 0 to over 100.

Series producer Richard Dale said people's barriers were broken down very quickly and there was a sense of camaraderie once the camera starting panning across the line.

Baby in water
Water babies: one of the series' most memorable sequences
One of the series' most memorable sequences showed presenter Robert Winston swimming with babies to demonstrate their natural buoyancy.

The filming took 12 hours and 30 people. In the end, the babies were filmed separately from Professor Winston and then superimposed over him.

Technicians blotted out the babies' mothers who were in the water with them and made the swimming pool look larger.


During the series, presenter Robert Winston was subjected to various indignities in the name of science.

Robert Winston
Robert Winston's head in 3-D
He was filmed drinking his way through various bottles of wine to demonstrate the effect of alcohol on the brain and being tossed around on the sea to show the nausea experienced by expectant mothers.

To show the way hearing is affected by the passage of time, the programme makers had to construct a 3-D version of Professor Winston's head.

He was painted with cornflour and cyberscanned like a supermarket item on a checkout counter.


Scanning electron microscopy (SEM) was used to show the inside of the body in minute detail. The tongue, skin and sperm on an egg were all submitted to a powerful microscope and electron beam.

In some cases, the SEM was used to film a sequence, such as the egg going down the fallopian tube. The camera strung the different still shots together, like a cartoon, to give the illusion of movement.

Sword swallowing

Embryologist Dr Kate Hardy spent a week filming the initial stages of the growth of a human embryo. And sword swallower Amy Sanders had a mini telescope called an endoscope put down her throat to film her vocal chords in action.

Vocal chords
Seeing the vocal chords of a sword swallower
Endoscopes were used for many of the internal body shots, but, where this was not possible, the film makers resorted to graphic representations of body parts.

Other techniques used by the flagship BBC programme included heat-seeking cameras and magnetic scanning machines or MRIs.

The MRI pictures were 'cleaned up' and given the look of computer games to make them more vivid and exciting.

Time lapse photography brought graphic images of hair and nails growing and sweat developing.


Babies played a starring role in many of the most complicated sequences.

Teething baby
Fiona Ibbetson gets her teeth videoed
Fiona Ibbetson was hooked up to a special camera to film her first teeth coming through.

Over six months, Fiona was subjected to bright lights and a machine to hold her head still.

Her parents - both dentists - said she did not appear to be in any pain.

And 10 babies were covered in infra-red markers and subjected to a crawling fest to film the way the infant skeleton moves.

The Human Body is accompanied by a 19.99 book and a CD Rom, priced 29.99.

BBC News
The Human Body on baby buoyancy
Links to more The Human Body stories are at the foot of the page.

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