We were approached by the BBC in August 2021 with the exciting opportunity to design and create a title sequence for “Scouting for Toys” a new commission for UKTV channel, Yesterday. This was the first time the BBC Studios documentary unit were commissioned to create a show for an external network and we jumped at the chance to put our stamp on the show.
From the initial tender process to the completed product, this project really had a perfect blend of nostalgia, creativity, collaboration and fun.
Read on to discover more...
The Brief Encounter
Series Producer Kirk Barber, a long time collaborator of ours, was the first to make contact and gave us the full background on the show. The premise was to follow the internationally renowned Vectis Toys Auctions in County Durham, where buyers and sellers from all over the world come to trade every toy imaginable, from Star Wars figures to vintage dolls. Kirk was keen to create a title sequence which would help to set the tone for the show along with a customisable kit of parts to add detail and value.
Kirk also kindly shared an early cut of the first episode with us, this really helped with the initial idea development for our pitch as we were able to get a great feel for the tone and aesthetic of the show.
During this initial briefing stage we also took the chance to ask as many questions as possible, gathering all the information we needed to create the best possible results for our client. It was clear from these early conversations that the sense of nostalgia was a key selling point and something the BBC were keen to tap in to. They were also keen to showcase the breadth of toys that Vectis handle and to help bring the auction bidding wars to life as many were still held primarily online. It was at this stage that we also ascertained that we were required to pitch for the work.
The BBC team and executives at Yesterday were keen to get a feel for how we envisaged the graphics coming together ahead of making a commitment to work with us.
Peel back the layers
Our first step was to analyse and absorb the feedback gathered during the briefing stage and feed this in to our approach for the title sequence. Focussing heavily on the toy nostalgia angle, we took inspiration from the packaging for Matchbox cars, Hornby trainsets, vintage action figures, toy adverts from 1950s-1970s magazines and old toy catalogues.
Jake tapped into the childhood nostalgia of toys through the ages by collecting these references and creating a number of mood-boards to act as a jumping off point for our design concepts, inspiring typography choices, colour palettes and to showcase to the client our visual thought process.
Connecting the Dots
Another key element that elevated our offering was the creation of a series of logo lockups to show our tenacity to explore and create lots of different ideas at this early stage. We weren’t asking our client to choose one at this stage, rather giving them options and avenues to follow. More often than not we work together with our client to land on a combination of different designs. Fortunately on this occasion there was one that stuck out both for us and ultimately the client.
On projects like this, rather than sending over a sketch or a description of our idea, we like to win the hearts and minds of our clients by creating imagery that showcases our concept as close to final production quality as possible but in a time efficient way. To that end we mocked up an initial 3D concept focussed on the idea that the title could appear on a physical vintage toy box.
On the right track?
After presenting the concept to our team internally and receiving the thumbs up all round we were confident we had a winning formula. The BBC team and executives at Yesterday also loved it and thanks to this initial ground work from the team our pitch was successful, we couldn't wait to get started...
Before every project kicks off proper, it's important we source the right people for the job. On this occasion we were able to rely on our internal team and really leverage each individuals skillset to achieve the best possible end result.
Our dream team this time consisted of:
Mike Pettyt – Art Director
Jake Cawthray – Initial Design Work
Greg Norton - Additional 3D animation
Tom Majerski – 3D Lighting, Texturing & Rendering
Megan Ascroft – Project Management
We also took this time to plot out the schedule with the team, agree milestones with our client and on-boarded Kirk with our review and approval platform Frame.io - an invaluable collaboration tool for all our clients to feedback on content that we create.
Now that we were in to full production the next step was to develop the initial static toybox concept into a complete title sequence. After discussion with Kirk we settled on the idea of a journey through an old attic in search of the "Scouting for Toys" toy box. We felt this journey really encapsulated the nostalgia of discovering an old childhood toy and perhaps taking it to auction to cash in on it's growing value or to hold on to it as a prized possession.
Rather than creating storyboards for this sequence Mike found creating a 3D animatic in Cinema4D to be a much more efficient and flexible approach. It allowed him to very quickly block out the movement of the camera, composition and placement of objects all timed to a guide music track provided by Kirk. The earliest example of this simply used cubes to represent the toys and the toybox but was quickly iterated on with the addition of 3D models and more refined animation and camera movement.
The first blocked animatic vs the sequence prior to handover for texturing & lighting
Once Kirk and the rest of the BBC and Yesterday team were happy with the title animatic Mike handed over the sequence to Tom for texturing, lighting and rendering while Greg handled the final box drop animation - a lovely finishing touch! Mike worked alongside Greg and Tom to create the final box artwork inside Photoshop from a UV map exported from Cinema4D, this allowed for the texture to be mapped seamlessly to the final object and even included worn edges and a subtle reflective areas as an additional texture layer.
Tom focussed on capturing the feeling of a dusty, atmospheric attic filled with light from the roof, To achieve this he combined HDRI lighting with a subtle volumetric atmosphere. He also leveraged the power of an ACES colour pipeline for the rendering and final colour work on the sequence. This approach allowed him the maximum amount of flexibility when completing the composites for the title sequence and other 3D assets for the graphics package.
A selection of frames taken from Tom's render of the title sequence
Another key component of this project was the creation of complete kit of parts that echoed the style of the opening titles and one that our client could leverage in their edit to add value throughout the show. This included pop up graphics showing the estimate value of toys at auction and a retro tube TV that was used for archive footage explaining the history of particular toys and toy crazes through the years. We also created frames for still archive images and a toy profile template, all of which helped to explain the individual toys in more detail throughout each episode.
A couple of the elements created for the graphics package
Layers of Feedback
On top of the feedback we received throughout the project and at key milestones we also captured thoughts from our team and client at the end of the process to measure the successes and failures. This really helps us to constantly adapt, grow and improve as a studio and team of creative individuals.
Making sure our client felt confident and excited throughout the project was vital to us. So, when the executive producer from Yesterday said of our work “The title sequence for Scouting for Toys was head and shoulders above what they could have ever imagined”, we we’re beyond delighted.
“The title sequence for Scouting for Toys was head and shoulders above what they could have ever imagined”
The finished title sequence
What made this project special was the established trust between both parties and the power of leveraging the individual strengths within our team. It also helped massively that our client understood and trusted our creative process because of our pre-existing connection. We all benefited greatly from embracing a collaborative process throughout by sharing our work in progress at key stages as we worked towards the finished product.
Do you need help developing your new shows visual identity? Or perhaps you want to bring your series to life with animation. We’d love to hear from you. Get in contact with us at firstname.lastname@example.org.