27/08/15 Creativity , Thoughts

Tempus Fugit: Deep Breath 12 months on

This weekend a realisation hit us here at the studio – it’s exactly a year since the media frenzy surrounding our involvement with Doctor Who was at fever pitch.  So what better time to sit back for a moment or two and revisit that month of madness in August 2014.

Image to the right is a very early concept sketch of the “infinity clock” scene from our mood board. It would later become an important aspect of the final televised version.

Billy Hanshaw Studio Motion Graphics Leeds Doctor Who

We’d been aware that we were doing the Doctor Who title sequence as early as February of 2014, when preliminary discussions with Brian Minchin had begun.  Ever since then we’d been keeping it all to ourselves.  After a good six months of secrets and codewords we were getting quite adept at our deception. That was until the script for the first episode ‘Deep Breath’ leaked online in July, with Billy’s name featured in the crew credits.  We happened to be down in Cardiff at the time, as the finishing touches were being put to the new title sequence, and observed the BBC go into lockdown for fear of any more material leaking out onto the web.   We were advised that we may get some odd emails or phone calls from dedicated Who fans impersonating members of the production team, desperate for a glimpse of what had been created.  They were right, we did.  We were also advised to maintain our silence until an official announcement was forthcoming.

The result led to a much wider range of brand properties and imagery for use across all marketing collateral, in comparison with previous New Who seasons.

Article written by
Jon Butler, Billy Hanshaw Studio

Fast forward a month, and the Cardiff premiere of Deep Breath, the first time our titles would be seen by the public.  Showrunner Steven Moffat had a word with us, and gave us a fantastic piece of advice… keep away from Doctor Who forums! The criticism will hurt you, he advised, and the praise will kill you.  It’s advice we chose to follow, and was very timely in its delivery, as later that same day a very poor quality video of the titles that had been recorded on someone’s phone was posted online.  Commonly known as the ‘Edward Clockworks’ video, the unfortunate angle, irritating voiceover commentary and tinny theme tune did little to show the sequence in its best light.  Once again, we were advised to say nothing and await the official announcement after the broadcast of Deep Breath.

This all went out of the window a week later, when Steven Moffat made the decision to namecheck Billy at the New York premiere press conference, and confirm our association with the titles.  The madness began. We were inundated with requests for quotes and interviews from all over the world, as newspapers, magazines and sci-fi websites scrambled for the gossip.  We knew it was going to create some interest, but we never realised quite how much. It even surprised our PR representative. The views on the original concept Youtube video went through the roof, with many messages of congratulation being sent our way, and Billy even ended up being interviewed on the TV news.  It was crazy, and continued unabated until about a week after the BBC1 broadcast of Deep Breath, at which point we were exhausted and glad of a bit of peace!

Steven Moffat had told us he believed the new titles would polarise opinion because they were so different to what had gone before, and to a degree he was right.  But it was this difference that had attracted him to our work in the first place.  A common misconception seems to be that we were in some kind of competition with other title sequence designers on Youtube over who would get the gig.  We had messages sent our way saying ‘so-and-so should have been chosen instead of you’, but the truth is that no one else was in the running. We didn’t have to pitch.  It was a combination of our original concept and our proven track record as conceptual designers that sealed the deal.

By removing emphasis from the TARDIS in the titles, and allowing room for a more stylised vision of space and time, we were taking the sequence in a new direction.  The result led to a much wider range of brand properties and imagery for use across all marketing collateral, in comparison with previous New Who seasons.

Perhaps the most striking thing to have emerged in the last year is the positive effect our story has had on younger, creative Doctor Who fans. The concept may have been initially divisive, however there was almost universal praise for the production team embracing unsolicited work – enabling anyone to become part of the show. We are immensely proud of our association with Doctor Who, and will always be grateful to the production team for the recognition they gave us.  Original, polished, well-conceived ideas always get noticed eventually. Having the courage to challenge the rule book is when true creativity begins.

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Tempus Fugit: Deep Breath 12 months on
30/06/15 Creativity , Thoughts

The Internet: A source of inspiration or an Achilles heal for creativity?

Billy Hanshaw Studio Motion Graphics Leeds UK

It may sound like an odd question. Indeed it’s something I’ve pondered over as Creative Head (balancing production schedules and creativity); swinging from the position of agreement to disagreement on an almost daily basis.

If access to so much stimuli and reference material online is bad for creativity – then surely this argument has to be supported by logical reasoning.  The kind you would expect to receive from a person of high standing – a Doctor perhaps.

And on that note, I offer my musings…

Let’s go back a couple of years. We created a titles concept for a well-known BBC sci-fi show.  It’s first outing was on Youtube; culminating with it being adapted for the show itself. Media hype surrounded the story of how a Youtube sensation became part of the show.  For those unaware of the story – we are talking about Doctor Who.

For some strange reason (probably only known to the Doctor himself) Doctor Who inspires an incredible degree of creativity from the written word to music to animation. And what better platform for publication than the world-wide-web – where everyone has the capacity to be an author in their own right.

Shortly after the official titles were revealed at the cinema and broadcast throughout the world, there followed a deluge of copies; re-creations online by amateur animators, students and professionals all striving to reproduce the official titles in all it’s cogs, clocks and planets glory down to the tiniest wood-grain detail on the TARDIS’ exterior. In fact you only have to browse the popular video sharing sites to see titles recreations for each and every Doctor incarnation.  It goes with the territory: the world of Fandom.

The Doctor Who title sequence and its many online versions is, ironically, a fitting example to illustrate my point.

I say ironically because at the studio, when we embarked upon this journey, we too attempted to make our own version of the ubiquitous time tunnel (or vortex, as it’s come to be known); a stalwart of Who intros.  In doing so we had one of those ‘light-bulb’ moments. A revelation of sorts, the key to originality that helped us shape what went on to become the official titles and also our approach to future work: the importance of an overall narrative.  A visual story that would hold true to the nature of the show; combining metaphor with literal depiction.

It’s a philosophy employed by the best in titles design.  Narrative is always paramount.

So what does this have to do with the internet disabling creativity?  OK, let’s get back on track.

We all know that access to the internet is like having the world’s biggest library, indexed and ready to peruse at any 24:7 moment.  The availability of sites curated with the coolest, on-trend, and most appreciated content enables us to feast our eyes and ears on the most popularist and therefore most fashionable creative output.  These are the kind of works that get emulated due to popularity and the perception of (a term I like to use) ’coolism’.

It can be, and truly is inspirational, seeing the work of talented individuals on sites like Adobe’s behance and collections on Pinterest assembled by specific search criteria. So why could there be a negative effect to this?

If we are all looking to the same websites for creative stimuli – clicking away for the cool stuff, what happens to innovative ideas?  Do we just end up with ‘me too’ creations – like the fan-made Doctor Who sequences that are brilliantly executed, but have nothing new (in visual terms) to say?

We’ve never before had so much information at our fingertips.  It’s what we do with it as creative practitioners that’s important.  Being truly innovative is one of the hardest pursuits any artist can successfully achieve.  It is said, that for the most part, any idea that appears to be new will have already been imagined by somebody else. While probably true, the perception that the idea is original is what counts: application and audience awareness.

Truth-be-known; creative styles fall in and out of fashion. Its cyclical nature giving birth to the occasional pastiche or an original take on a previous idea.

Just imagine, however, a carousel of images turning – a good analogy for our fashion cycles – the faster it gets the less likely we are to discern the differences between one image and the next; a homogenised blur.  The faster we are expected to deliver ideas, the more likely we are to plagiarise. Innovation gets sidelined.  Everything has the same look or sounds the same.

Budgetary constraints are usually the key factor that forces the hand. Time has always equated to costs and fees. When the clock ticks the dinero increases,  so an expedited delivery is always favourable. The true cost being originality.

And here’s another problem: Stimuli, reference and training material that used to be available to the creative industries only, are now available to all. So enthusiasts with indefinite deadlines can produce extremely polished, professional pieces of work, which clients are privy to as well.  Call it pixel envy if you like, but the perception of how long a piece of work took to create (by an enthusiast) is often lost on the client, and that leaves us professionals desperate, but unable to deliver to the same or better standard. It’s one of the reasons why here at Billy Hanshaw Studio we decided to apply fixed fees to projects.  Expectations are managed throughout the project on both client side and studio.

Our Who sequence brought us a level of exposure that we hadn’t experienced before, that we’ll be eternally grateful for.  To some in the industry there is the perception that we are a couple of enthusiastic hobbyists that had a lucky break. Our clients know differently. Alongside our Technical and Legal work, the explainers, corporate presentations and illustration work – we are still trying to break the regional/capital divide, determined to overcome the obstacle of being ‘up north’.

London – Soho specifically –  used to be the hotbed of the creative industry – and that perception still holds true to a great extent.  Ideas are not tied to any geographical location however; that is the greatest benefit of the internet from a creative viewpoint –  collaboration and shared ideas are possible on a global scale, at the click of a button.  Innovation is always possible. It’s the notion of “making it your own’;  ensuring that evolution wins out over plagiarism every time in the pursuit of originality.

Billy Hanshaw

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The Internet: A source of inspiration or an Achilles heal for creativity?
15/06/15 Uncategorized # , , ,

Simple blog post

something about…

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John Doe
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Simple blog post
15/06/15 Uncategorized


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15/06/15 Uncategorized

Soundcloud music

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