May 1, 2010
By Nazir Keshvani
Many trends have emerged recently in the field of broadcast design work. Among them is the p ooling of creativity using new ways to redefine broadcast design. There is increasing collaboration between various design disciplines; designers, visual artists and illustrators coming together to create a 30-second spot is now the norm. There are also cutting edge works that have 2D rendered to look 3D, stop motion and claymation visual styles. Studios are increasingly being asked to partner with networks on branding campaigns, resulting in them wearing more hats. More and more, motion graphics companies are acting as agencies, getting involved from the absolute beginning with work that also extends to the Web, mobile and print media. Some studios are being called upon to create tips and tricks for type interstitials and programming blocks that are cosponsored by the network and its advertisers. One of the core identities of broadcast design in the Asia Pacific is its evolution from being a follower of trends to gradually developing its own aesthetics and sensibilities. Although starting out mostly imitating western techniques, broadcast design in the region has evolved its own language, both technically and conceptually, to engage local viewers and at the same time relate to a global audience. As a result, there is an expansion of the vocabulary of design and enrichment of the graphics commutation in Asia. While there is variation from country to country, the territory shows designs which have improved to match world standards. The emphasis is on stylistic designs that connect with minds, emotions and cultures. A case in point is the official opening sequence for the Beijing Olympic Games, developed and produced by Bruce Dunlop & Associates (BDA) Singapore. The spot encompassed 14 Olympic sports categories with an underlying concept to integrate the five elements of metal, wood, water, earth and fire – which according to Chinese philosophy – are the universal and essential elements of nature. BDA broke new ground shooting in full HD format and Dolby Digital 5.1 surround with sound design, composited graphics and live action footage. The opener proved to be a triumphant sequence depicting struggle and victory, which captured the epic spirit of the Olympic Games in 30 heart-pounding seconds. “Broadcast design in Asia is a good illustration of how designers think globally and act locally. Broadcast designers are moving forward using globally accepted design techniques to express local and vernacular thoughts, emotions and messages across to their audience,” said Lilian Chow, business director, Bruce Dunlop & Associates. In terms of channel brand packaging there is a big focus on 3D and visual effects and less 2D illustrative graphics. One reason for this is 3D software is more accessible and designers are more skilled in this area. With so many new channels emerging there is a need to simplify visual communication. Uncluttered and clean is still the look du jour. Each design choice is a deliberate attempt to stand out from other channels. An example of how a branding exercise can be customised to suit the Asia-Pacific region can be seen in the refreshed on-air brand campaign which Discovery Networks Asia-Pacific (DNAP) initiated for its flagship network Discovery Channel. The spot used an old children’s song called ‘I Love the Mountains’, which carries an infectious melody. While the song’s lyrics were rewritten to reflect Discovery’s personalities and passions, there was no doubt that the music was the ‘star’. An Asia-Pacific image spot was created using the catchy “boom de ah da” tune with Asian musical instruments. The brand spot gave viewers a personal connection with Discovery by offering a humorous but sincere side to the brand. The Discovery Channel logo was refined by giving it dimension and finessing the typography. The revitalised brand mark leveraged on the equity of the network’s signature globe icon and fused the world and brand by linking the globe into the ‘D’ of Discovery. The stylised globe, contemporary colour palette and fresh typography all combine to bring the mark more in line with Discovery as the global communications company. A fresh reworking can bring a new aura to the broadcast design exercise. This is seen in the A&E Television Networks rebrand of its Crime & Investigation Network with five idents carrying the themes biography, mystery, crime, investigation and forensic. In each of the five idents, three icons were chosen to connect to the five themes. The Crime Ident sees a red phone swinging ominously suggesting a call for help; followed by rolling dice which suggests the idea of gambling with luck; and finally a pair of stilettos which hints at a temptress woman and crimes of passion. The camera angles and compositions for the CI Refresh ident were deliberately shot in extreme close-ups to highlight the fine details and textures of each icon. These icons were shot in full HD to maximize the effectiveness of close-up shots. The sequence of the icons in the idents from extreme close-up to mid or wide shots also creates more suspense, as the viewer is left guessing what the icon is in the beginning before the camera pulls out to a wider shot of the same icon. The shattering effect from icon to icon was also updated, with more thought put into the background ‘swoosh’ effect, which creates a sense that the shattered triangles are moving more dynamically through 3D space. The icons in the Refresh idents do not shatter completely, as in the previous package, and within the shattered pieces is also a red triangle, to tie back to the CI logo. Through the new ‘shatter effect’, the Refresh idents feel smoother and appear to have more depth. Also, as the icons are positioned in more extreme close-ups, the shattering of the icons can really be felt when there is a transition from one icon to the next. For CI Refresh, the solution has been more of a creative than a technical one. A lot of thought was put into choosing the icons that work best to tell the story about crime and investigation. As it was not a complete rebrand of CI, there could only be subtle visual differences. Through the CI Refresh idents, viewers are tempted with fresh icons to ‘investigate’ whilst maintaining the familiar CI look. With the creative solution purposefully kept simple and effective, the visual language of CI is not compromised but pushed a step further to communicate the CI identity effectively. A successful attempt at connecting with Asian audiences can be seen in the Deutsche Welle produced spots to correspond with key programming titles on DW-TV Asia. To provide a bridge to its audience in Asia, DW-TV Asia created a unique marketing icon, which it dubbed the Velo Taxi. Ostensibly, the Velo Taxi is a hybrid form of a rickshaw recognized as a mode of transport used across Asia in different forms and types, which is personal, comfortable, environmentally-friendly and enjoyable. Each spot features a talent riding the Velo Taxi across a surreal, black and white, hand drawn, European landscape, which signifi es the journey viewers would go through with DW-TV Asia. To deliver HD 16:9, DW-TV Asia shot on 4K resolution with Red Camera with a complete digital path for finer control in post for keying and tracking. This was essential since the entire promo was shot against green matte. Special attention was given in the early planning stages to ensure that the illustrations were crafted from specifi c photography references of the actual buildings which would be used in the final composite. The team had to find a transition style that could be applied successfully for all the four versions of the commercial. This resulted in the decision to use high-speed footage of ink smearing on paper as a transition effect to reveal the hyper-realistic scene from its illustrated version. The spots took around a month of post, using Autodesk Flint 2009, Shake, Final Cut Pro, Adobe After Effects and other propriety software to produce. The result of team effort pushed the benchmarks in both production and post-production in terms of style and technique, creating something different from the ordinary chromakey shoots. “The affordability of desktop software has made broadcast design more accessible for designers in the last few years,” said Michael Constantine, director, global marketing, Prime Focus. “We are seeing very polished end product executed by desktop software whereas traditionally it was only possible with high-end post machines.” Giving his view of the industry, Constantine points out that with the convergence of film and TV entertainment with gaming, broadcast design trends take a lot of from game art. There is a lot more use of icons, moving type and HUD (heads-up-display) graphics to convey messages to the captive audience. “3D elements, multi-layered compositing, animated type, and organic shapes have been used to express a show’s branding and the emotion the creators want to associate with it. Broadcast design in the region focuses more on the emotional analogy of the graphics.” Constantine added. Yet others feel that broadcast design in the Asia Pacific shows progress as it tries to catch up with the trends but with a firm foothold in Asian sensibilities. “We have come a long way and the future looks bright with more students schooled in animation and graphics design. There is definitely localization for each market. Familiar cultural visual elements decorate a promo to resonate with and engage the viewers especially for many general entertainment local channels,” said Chow of BDA. “The sector is seeing good work from various designers and design agencies. We don’t always have the big budgets of the West but we can come up with something that looks good and that’s a sign of our determination and capabilities,” Chow summarised.