The bodies used for the Video Atlas dissections were those of individuals who in life had bequeathed their bodies to the University of Louisville's Body Bequeathal Program. We appreciate the selfless spirit in which our donors acted, and we respect their desire for anonymity. No individual is depicted in the Atlas in a way that reveals his or her identity.
Specimen preservation and dissection.
We did not use traditional embalming on the bodies for the Video Atlas, as it discolors and stiffens the tissues producing an unnatural appearance. Instead we used either no embalming, or a mild preservation technique that leaves the color and texture of the tissues almost exactly as they are in the living body.
To keep the specimen in good condition, the dissection and Video recording were done in a laboratory refrigerated to 8°C (46°F). The dissections were done using fine surgical instruments, magnifying eyeglasses, and our best surgical and microsurgical skills. Sometimes two individuals worked on a dissection, sometimes only one. The initial stages of a large dissection might take 6-8 hours. The dissected specimen was placed on a table that had a rotating top, and was held in place by wires that connected it to an unseen support device. The images were made using a broadcast-quality, 3-chip analog video camera mounted on a rotating arm. The images were recorded on SP-beta analog tape. Cool fluorescent studio lighting was used to create the best definition and modeling. The shots were recorded against a background of black velvet. The same material was used to cover the table and support devices so that they are not seen.
The dissection was done in planned stages. The order in which shots appear in the edited video is often the reverse of the order in which they were made. We embarked on a dissection with a script in hand that told us not only what we were going to show, but the exact words, actions, and shot sequence we would use.
Production and narration.
We are often asked what computer program we used to create the rotation effects that give the Video Atlas images their striking three-dimensional quality. We didn't use any computer program. When you see rotation about a vertical axis, it was produced by rotating the table top by hand while the shot was being recorded. Rotation around a horizontal axis was produced by rotating the camera arm, again by hand.
For each shot, we read the words of the prepared script into an audio recorder. The words gave exact timing cues for all the actions that happened in the course of the shot. When we were ready to record the shot, we played back the audio recording while the video recorder was running and the actions were being performed. The words from the audio recorder were re-recorded onto the first of the videotape's two sound tracks, giving an accurately timed "scratch" audio track. Later, the words were re-spoken onto the second sound track to create the finished narrative.
The program was edited at the University of Louisville Medical School's IT Television Service using SP-Beta analog equipment. The Atlas was originally released as a series of VHS tapes, published individually between 1995 and 2003 as Acland's Video Atlas of Human Anatomy. Because of the limitations of the VHS format, these tapes showed a distinct loss of image quality compared to the SP-Beta masters.
By the time the series was completed, the DVD format was overtaking tape as the dominant video medium. The DVD version of the Atlas was released in 2003. It displayed the video images for the first time in their full original quality.
This high-quality streaming video website brings the Video Atlas to a new level of access, navigability, and ease of use. Instead of six volumes there are now five: the two that show the Head and Neck, which were Vol. 4 and 5, now form an extended Vol. 4. The previous Vol. 6, the Internal Organs and Reproductive System, is now Vol. 5.
Each minute of the finished product took twelve hours to produce: five in creating the script, five in making the shots, and two in post-production.