Idents

Film4 On-Air Refresh 2014: Liz Arnott

05 Sep, 2014 Posted in: Behind The Scenes, Film4 Channel, Idents

We’ve been celebrating the launch of a new set of idents on Film4 throughout the week, and you can now watch five – one from each scenarios – of the new idents on YouTube or tune into the channel to see all fifteen. We’ve also been interviewing some of the key members of the creative team throughout the week, and in this final interview we speak to Liz Arnott, the producer of the idents. Watch a video below that gives you a behind the scenes look at how the new idents were made, and then read on for our interview with Liz.

Liz Arnott on her role as producer…

As a senior producer at Film4 I was responsible for the promo output for the channel and channel branding. The previous channel branding had been in place since 2006 with an update in 2008, so the Film4 marketing team and the Film4 team in 4Creative were very keen to give it an update. Towards the end of 2013 some budget was allocated for the project so together with Dan Chase, the creative director of Film4, we briefed the in-house creative teams and four external branding and graphic design specialist companies. I was responsible for all the logistical planning, the budget and scheduling for the project. This included presenting concepts and ideas to internal stakeholders, producing the shoots for the idents, UK and USA, overseeing graphic creation with ManvsMachine and Red Bee Media, and producing post production on the idents (the offline edit, post production SFX, grading, composition, audio mix etc.).

On the pitches…

We briefed external companies for the on-screen graphics (menus, end boards etc.), but most came back with extra ideas for idents too. The brief was essentially to highlight Film4 as a film channel that shows a broad range of films, and that we make films too. ManvsMachine suggested some on screen graphic designs and a concept for continuity idents that were immediately right for the channel, and so we began working on developing the concept together and refining the on-screen graphic design. The other pitches we received all had really interesting and appealing ideas, but the ManvsMachine concept with the living frames inside a film strip was arresting immediately and was the one chosen by Chris and John, the 4Creative Creative Heads.

On developing the concept…

Once we had a concept we liked, we then worked on what would happen within that idea. That involved looking at what the ‘action’ would be and what the ‘scenes’ would be. We quickly worked out that the logo should be the key action, and that we wanted the scenes to be cinematic and feel like films, without specifically referencing genres or movies. A long process of generating ideas and honing them went on, and there were approximately 15 scenes to begin. We then had to whittle them down based on a variety of factors including appeal, variation, mixture of interior and exterior etc., and we eventually whittled them down to the five that were ultimately chosen. We then looked at different options for action to take place alongside the logo build within each scene, and came up with 15 different ones, again after a long process of developing ideas.

On the main challenge shooting the idents…

During our creative development process we worked out that the camera needed to pass above the ceiling plane and below the floor plane to work. Without doing that the effect of the parallax as the shots were stacked together didn’t work. That meant that we could only film at locations where we could dig a hole, and we could only film interiors if they were built in a studio where we could build them up on decking. We were able to shoot in one location without digging a hole- the stairway ident allowed us to get around the problem because was shot looking upwards, so the floor and ceiling planes became the sides of the atrium, which had corridors we could access. The other main challenges came from shooting on location which is always more of a challenge because of crew logistics, permissions needed, and of course you can’t control the weather.

On the locations…

The UK location shoot was in The Grand Hotel in Brighton. We had decided we wanted a stairway so our location managers (Algy Sloane and Hugo Smith Bingham) began the search, looking at large private houses and hotels trying to find a square staircase. A square staircase was important because we wanted a square shape in the centre of each ident. The Grand Hotel was always our favoured location but we feared gaining permission to film would be tricky. However, they were amazingly accommodating, and let us take over a large part of the ground floor, and we were thrilled to be able to access such a beautiful location.

The US shoots took place in California. We decided we’d like to shoot in the US to represent the number of US films shown on the channel, and we wanted to find a gas station in the desert. We looked at a few options, and chose the one we shot in as it had a good shape for the canopy, the ability to dig a hole, and the background of desert and trees. We then decided to shoot in woodland in the US as it made budgetary sense and gave us a different feel to ones you would find in the UK.

The woodlands were found after a location manager searching and looking at various locations within reach of the gas station location. The location near Big Bear Lake was chosen due to the feel of a corridor between the trees that we were looking for, the accessibility, the friendliness of the park ranger, and again the ability to dig a hole. This was especially important in this case as some parts of the forest cannot be disturbed in case they are an ancient Native American site without an archaeological survey. I enjoy all of my roles as a producer, but the shoots are my favourite. There’s a lot to do, it’s exciting, and seeing the crew you have put together working well and creating something beautiful is enormously rewarding.

On what was added in post-production…

Some of the idents shot mostly in camera, but others had a lot more added in post. The flaming tyre at the gas station, for example, had the fire added in post. Conversely, the fire in the corridor was shot for real, but we were only able to shoot one section of fire at a time, as otherwise it would have got too hot and been dangerous, so in post-production the shots had to be layered to give the impression the fire was moving along the corridor. The corridor gravity ident was all created in post-production, with just a few elements shot for real – the light moving and the door opening – but even the trolley was entirely recreated as a 3D animation. The trolley is real, however, when seen in the other two corridor idents.

The ball of light in the woods was filmed with a puppeteer holding a light, however she was painted out of the shot, as was the light she was holding, so just the light spill on the trees was kept and then the ball of light itself was then added in post and sped up and slowed to give the effect of an inquisitive life form. In another one of the woods idents, the wolves were supposed to be as shot, but we ultimately discovered that we could layer a shot to make it look like there were four wolves, when we only really had three. The balloons are all real, though, except for at one point when they turn into 3d balloons so they can hit the 3d logo. And then there’s the gravity chase in the stairwell ident which may look like a 3D effect at the end, but is actually all shot in camera.

Read more interviews with the creative team behind the Film4 idents.

Film4 On-Air Refresh 2014: Alex Barber

05 Sep, 2014 Posted in: Behind The Scenes, Film4 Channel, Idents

In our penultimate interview taking you behind the scenes on the new set of idents that launched earlier this week on the Film4 channel, we talk to Alex Barber who served as the Director of Photography on the project. You can watch one of the idents that he shot below, this time from the ‘Woods’ scenario, and then read on for our interview with Alex.

Alex Barber on joining the project…

I was approached by [producer] Liz Arnott at Channel 4 with a treatment of an upcoming project she had going on for Film4. I’ve worked a few times Channel 4 and have always loved both the process and the result, and in an age when it can sometimes be difficult to find good, inspiring creative work this sounded great. I made myself available for a meeting with her and the directors from ManvsMachine. The meeting went really well and I immediately loved the project. Although it took a little while to work out shoot dates we stuck with it, and finally worked it out.

On working with ManvsMachine…

I hadn’t worked with ManvsMachine before but I was aware of their work, particularly for More4 and Nike, which I very much admired. The relationship from the very first meeting was great. Once we started chatting it was hard to stop. Our preliminary conversations were mostly about the method of what we were aiming for, then it was on to the films and what aspects of them we wanted to portray. When we got on set we collaborated very well and it was one of the more fun projects I have been involved in. We all took great delight in adding a little detail here or there, however subtle it may have been.

On lighting the different scenarios…

I think the cinematography was always going to be pivotal in the project. It was absolutely necessary to understand the different genres we were aiming to portray and take a little of each one to put in each scenario. Without that approach I don’t think that the idents would have the same impact. The approach I took was to light the individual scenes and sets as a static piece in the way one would normally light a set; to tell the story which has brought you there. I then treated the film reel technique that ManvsMachine were implementing as incidental, although there was a lot of checking the extremes of the move to make sure it wasn’t revealing anything it shouldn’t have. For the scenarios shot on sets, I left the basic lighting the same but tweaked different aspects of the lighting to highlight each of the different play-outs. With the exteriors we obviously used a slightly different technique, shooting at different times of day for the different endings, again highlighting the film styles.

On shooting on set vs location…

Each of the five scenarios were exciting to shoot, and each in a very different way. It is always good to shoot in a studio, as you have complete control. When you turn a light on it stays on, and it also stays in the same place until you make a decision to either move it or turn it off! But shooting on location also gives you a scale that you can’t otherwise achieve. Of course you have the elements which can play a big part in the process, but on this project we were very lucky that they behaved and only helped us. The wolves ident was really good fun, and it’s a good example of shooting on location. What really went in to it was a lot of smoke and luckily not too much wind to blow it away, the sun being in the right position (which we planned), and again luckily no cloud cover. All we needed then was a few well-trained wolves and a big hole to drop the motion control arm into, and it proved remarkably simple.

On the film references…

The films we referenced were many and varied. There are too many to list. I think if you watch the idents a few times over you will start seeing all of the references; a pool of light here, a prop carefully placed there. Sometimes they’re right in foreground so you move quickly through them, and sometimes they’re deep background so you have to look a little harder. The idea of paying homage to all the different movies was fun to execute. There were lots of good reference points, and was a great creative, collaborative process.

On the cameras used…

We shot all the idents on an Arri Alexa, which is a stable, reliable, and technically superb camera. The lenses changed throughout. We always shot on zooms so we had the ability to change size by the millimetre which enabled us to enhance the effect of the move in whichever location we were in or set we were on. When we shot in the staircase location I used a newer Angenieux zoom as I thought it was important to be able to hold detail in the skylight, without lens flare, which would cause the image to milk out. Obviously we had no control of the light above so we had to be able to work with whatever conditions we had. On the sets and other locations I used an older Cooke zoom which is slightly softer and warmer, and more likely to allow some light to bounce around in the optics, but which gave a lovely filmic feel.

Read more interviews with the creative team behind the Film4 idents.

Film4 On-Air Refresh 2014: Liam Paton

04 Sep, 2014 Posted in: Behind The Scenes, Film4 Channel, Idents

We’ve been celebrating the launch of fifteen new idents on the rebranded Film4 channel every day this week by bringing you behind the scenes interviews with members of the creative team responsible for them, and today is no different. Liam Paton served as the composer and sound designer on the project, and he spoke to us about crafting the audio on each of the idents. You can watch one of the new idents below – this one is from the ‘Staircase’ scenario – and then read on for our interview with Liam.

Liam Paton on joining the project…

I’m the music director and main composer at Resonate, working out of a studio facility based over in east London. We write music and sound design for the broadcast, gaming and fashion industries. I was brought onto the Film4 ident project as the composer/sound designer responsible for all music and sound design elements, but there’s a small team of us here at Resonate that have worked on this project. We’ve worked with ManvsMachine (who directed the idents) quite a bit in the past, so there was a relationship and trust there from the off. I think that really helps with the creative process as you can trust your instincts and be slightly braver with what you suggest, compared to working with people for the first time. We always seem to go on a bit of a journey during the creative process and we like to work very closely with the directors as ultimately we are helping to realise their vision and how they want the viewer to feel.

On collaboration…

Quite a lot of the idents had been shot or worked on by the time we came on board, so we had visuals to work to straight away. There are projects where we get involved very early on in the production process, but sometimes this isn’t beneficial as you start to second guess what the visuals will look like and you never fully know how the music will feel until you start to lay it down to a rough edit. The initial stage was a collaborative process with the directors to lock down the musical references for each ident and the style we were after. We always like to agree on the overall approach and direction before we start to write anything ourselves.

On composition…

The second stage was then about composition and writing as much as possible. We had a lot of music to get through, because there were five different scenarios that all had the same intro within the set, but then lead into different musical play outs for each ending. There’s always a bit of back and forth with the directors and creatives as you start to work out together the overall sound of the idents and how they will work as a set. Initially we tried to keep the endings quite similar but we eventually decided that the world and tone is set for the first half and the second halves could feel very different while still feeling like they all came from the same place.

On contributing to a cinematic tone…

This was a really interesting project to be involved with as we wanted to keep the overall tone cinematic and, where possible, only use music to orchestrate and soundtrack all the idents rather than relying on heavy sound design. The idents have a number of visual references subtly woven into them so we tried to do a little of this musically, but I think we tried to keep the influences quite subtle so the tracks didn’t become sound-a-likes or feel like specific film genres e.g. horror, action, etc. I felt it was also important that we embraced a slightly smaller cinematic sound, with fewer instruments as this just seemed to fit much better with the visuals. There was a fair amount of development time that went into the film bar visual device that starts all the idents. We tried both music and sound design options, and eventually settled on the musical option as it felt like a real emotive moment rather than feeling too literal.

On other considerations…

We always listen to what has been done before to help get a sense of where the channel has been and whether we need to take cues from this, or look to do something new and fresh that is completely different. So yes, it was important to refer back to the channel’s previous idents to an extent. We also definitely had to think about the continuity announcements that would accompany the idents when they ultimately played on the channel, as that’s the context in which the music will be played out and you can’t have something overly busy that is just going to clash or get in the way. There were a couple of idents that featured guitars that we’ve mixed with this in mind to make sure they were not going to fight with the announcements happening over the music.

On recording the music…

We’re quite a small team. I was the main composer on the project working with another senior composer here called Andy Theakstone and our studio assistant Josh Shires. We brought in a lot of musicians to record violins, horns, piano, guitar, cello etc. to help realise that cinematic sound we were after. I wanted to make sure the overall sound was authentic and credible and wanted to rely as little as possible on sample libraries. You can’t beat the tone of a real instrument, as well as all the feel and character that the players bring to the parts we had written. We’re lucky to work with some of the best session players in the business so the music really comes alive once they get involved with the project.

On the finishing touches…

Once the recording begins we’re able to start developing the mixes and have a sense of how everything is coming together, and then when the picture starts to be locked down and finessed we’re able to start really crafting the mixes so they feel super tight to the picture. Towards the end of the project we then make final tweaks to the mix and any final adjustments to the composition; by this time we’re listening to the full set and checking they all work and feel like a family of tracks. All of the idents had their own unique challenges but overall it was a really enjoyable project to be involved with. The idents looked visually stunning, which always helps when you start writing the music to them.

Read more interviews with the creative team behind the Film4 idents.

Film4 On-Air Refresh 2014: Simon Davis

03 Sep, 2014 Posted in: Behind The Scenes, Film4 Channel, Idents

To celebrate the launch of fifteen new indents on the Film4 channel, so far this week we’ve already spoken with the Creative Director and Directors of the project to find out more about how they were made. Today we’re taking you behind the scenes again as we speak to Simon Davis, the production designer responsible for designing and building the sets on the ‘Doorway’ and ‘Corridor’ idents. You can watch one of the ‘Doorway’ indents below, and then read on for our interview with Simon Davis.

Simon Davis on boarding the project…

I’ve worked on many projects over the last few years with 4Creative and have a good relationship with a number of directors and producers there including Liz Arnott who was the producer on this project, and the Creative Director, Dan Chase. When I came on board as the Production Designer for the Film4 idents I had to design the sets based on a briefing from Mike Alderson and Curtis Baigent at ManvsMachine. It was a very clear and great looking brief, full of cool and detailed references, and that meant that the design process and getting things approved by the guys was relatively quick as I had all the right information to start with. We did tweak the colours a little on the corridor set and added some finer details here and there as the project progressed, but generally they stayed close to my original drawings.

On building the sets…

Once the designs were approved we then built the two sets in Stage 5 at Black Island Studios in Central London. It took about a week of pre-build before the lighting and camera guys came in to set up. We probably had a construction team of between eight to ten carpenters and painters, plus a rigger for a couple of days. I also had my art department team of three or four at the studio throughout the build as we were still searching out materials and props as the sets were being built. It was a large scale set build and don’t think that it could have been done any quicker than a week. It allowed us the opportunity to consider colours, finishes and the finer details in the sets, which quite often, when the studio build time is less, we don’t have the time for. The Doorway set was generally constructed from standard timber flats, and the Corridor set was constructed from a heavyweight fireproof plywood.

On incorporating film references…

It was important that both the corridor and doorway sets had a very filmic look to begin with, before necessarily being film specific, but the idea was to incorporate a number of film references into each set. Some are more obvious than others, and we also added in some very subtle, but pretty accurate props to reference particular scenes or sets from a wide range of films. Curtis and Mike had a lot of input for the film references from the start and we all developed more ideas as the project went on.The main inspiration for the corridor set came from Barton Fink and The Grand Budapest Hotel, and then we had a few props in the hotel set such as the room service trolley from Ghostbusters. In the Doorway idents the bath we used in the bathroom was almost a perfect match to the one used in the original Psycho. It took considerable time looking at various film clips and stills, picking out things like the bath, and then trying to find them. Our very heavy cast iron bath was finally found at an architectural salvage yard.

On the biggest challenges…

The actual set build went relatively smoothly, so sourcing the props and fittings that we wanted became the most challenging part due to the time that it took. The three different setups within each set generally didn’t cause that many problems as a lot of the changes could be achieved with a few tweaks to the prop dressing. The were a couple of exceptions; that tilting of the pendant lights in one of the Corridor idents was achieved by using a cleverly constructed rig that allowed them to be puppeteered individually. Then there was the burning of the Corridor set…

On setting fire to the Corridor set…

It was something had to be considered early on in the design and build process. The columns along the side walls, for instance, are there to incorporate and hide some of the flame bars. It was also important to have the construction team liaising with the SFX company for other specific requirements, such as using the correct fire resistant materials and fire retardants where necessary. It was great to see the set finally finished after a long design and build process, but I was fine with seeing it all burn on the day. It was quite exciting and it looked amazing.

On building a physical Film4 logo…

Originally we decided to just build a timber version of the Film4 logo that would be used as a point of reference for the flames to move around in the version of the Corridor ident which sets on fire, and then the post production team would make the final logo to be used in the film. Once we got to the shoot though, we painted up the logo and positioned it on the set and let it burn. It worked pretty well as it was, so I think it may be our logo in the final shot, rather than a VFX version.

On the finished idents…

I haven’t actually seen the final indents yet but I’m really looking forward to seeing them. I enjoyed the process of making both sets, so it would be difficult to choose a favourite. The Corridor set was impressive in its sheer size and the fact that we set fire to it, but stylistically I like the Doorway set.

Read more interviews with the creative team behind the Film4 idents.

Film4 On-Air Refresh 2014: Mike Alderson & Curtis Baigent, ManvsMachine

02 Sep, 2014 Posted in: Behind The Scenes, Directors, Idents

To celebrate the launch of a new set of idents on the Film4 channel today (!), we’re featuring a new ident online each day this week alongside interviews with some of the creative talent behind them. Today we have an interview with Mike Alderson and Curtis Baigent from the Design & Motion Studio ManvsMachine, the company responsible for directing the 15 new idents. You can watch one of the new idents below, and then read on for our interview with Mike and Curtis.

On becoming involved in the project…

Our relationship with Channel 4 goes back to when ManvsMachine was founded in 2007, and in recent years we’ve picked up a couple of Cannes Gold Lions and a D&AD Yellow Pencil working together on More4, 4seven and E4 identities. We became involved in the Film4 project after a successful creative pitch, which covered all on-air aspects of the brand from idents to OSP and beyond. The initial brief from Dan Chase was pretty open, even throwing up the possibility to look at the logo mark itself. However, we strongly felt the current logo is synonymous with Film4′s considerable reputation, so should not be changed just for the sake of it, but potentially refreshed.

On the pitch…

It was our intention to create a film channel, not a TV channel. This became our mantra. The brief clearly stated a need to cater to ultimate film buffs and occasional action movie fans alike. We developed a custom motion technique that would span graphic and live-action elements to give the package a visual signature beyond the logo. The original idea behind the technique was a contemporary take on a classic film strip/projector effect, but instead of being static, every ‘frame’ has its own life, depth and time. Our solution anchored around a visual device/technique that could run through all elements of the branding, from idents to simple logo animations, and typography. We tested this technique by mocking up a logo in a black corridor in 3D and passing our camera through, and the ‘living frames’ device was born. This simple test became the basis of everything we did from that day until delivery.

On selecting the five scenarios…

We wanted to create cinematic idents that supported the films on the channel, that was something we strived for from the get go. It was a pressure we put on ourselves. At the very beginning we had a huge number of potential scenarios. We narrowed it down to five that best represented an even cross-section of the film world, but, of course, there are a handful of those other scenarios we’d still love to make. The scenes had to be flexible enough to contain multiple play-out scenarios but ambiguous enough not to fall solely into genres. We carefully crafted a range of scenes to elicit a variety of different moods: the Gas Station and the Woods scenarios were shot in California on location, the Corridor and Motel idents were shot on specially-built sets shot in London, and the Stairwell was shot in a beautiful Victorian seaside hotel in Brighton.

Each ident begins ambiguously before seamlessly branching off into one of three possible endings, making minimal adjustments to shift the mood dramatically. Each scene is constructed of a vast array of film references; from the iconic to the obscure. We took every opportunity we could find to pepper the indents with references. We didn’t set out to pick specific films or filmmakers to reference – it needed to be a broad range. The challenge was instead to find references that felt natural in the scene.

On stop-motion…

The idents evolved quite a lot, organically, over the process but in essence they are very much in line with what we set out to make conceptually, presenting the Film4 logo in various locations. We wanted to embrace and champion the Film4 logo and brand, as its associations and reputation are second to none. Stop motion was used in the animation of the logos and was driven by the technique itself. In each frame of the filmstrip technique the logo is actually sitting still in the space and it’s not until you see the frames moving past the screen in quick succession that it appears to be animated.

The technique involves a camera moving down through the ceiling plane and then through the floor plane. We shot this part and then stitched together a sequence of these to create the technique. Due to the camera having to pass through the ceiling and floor planes of the shots we couldn’t shoot in existing locations like a motel or hotel corridor. We had to build sets that were raised up off the ground, dig huge holes in car parks and forests & at times create our own canopies/ceiling planes.

On blending live-action footage and visual effects…

The amount of VFX varies from ident to ident, but we would say it has come out well balanced; an even blend of film craft. We tried to keep as much as we could in-camera, practically augmenting locations with things like additional trees, manually puppeting elements such as ceiling lights and a rolling tyre (the art department scored a perfect 10 with that skilled manoeuvre), as well as using practical effects like pyrotechnics (it’s a strange feeling burning something down that you’ve painstakingly created). Then in post-production we pulled the filmstrip technique together, built the logos, and created a staggering array of additional effects and elements ranging from the very subtle (a single light short circuiting) to the very prominent (smoke and fire simulation on the rolling tyre and a grand piano tumbling towards camera).

On the finished idents…

We hope viewers will simply just watch and enjoy them. We want these to be for anyone and everyone, not just the most knowledgeable of film enthusiasts. If viewers watch it and think “hey, I really liked that one,” then that’s a job well done. At the same time we would love it if certain people also enjoyed the repeat viewing, spotting different references, nods to different directors, subtleties in the ways we branch off into different moods in the sets etc. We enjoyed making all of them, but the Californian Gas Station and Woodland locations were probably most fun to shoot.

Read more interviews with the creative team behind the Film4 idents.