September 5, 2014

See If You Can Guess the Movies That Inspired These Amazing Film4 Promos

Film4, a TV channel in the UK as well as a production company, decided to go through a rebranding campaign recently and came up with some spectacular results. Normally the process of shooting these station IDs wouldn't be that interesting, but the concept is fascinating, and the results combine a lot of actual elements with a little bit of VFX. Here is a great BTS showing what was done on set:

This campaign was produced by ManvsMachine, who talked to Film4 about their process coming up with these:

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.

Here are the other alternate idents that they shot:

And more on how they pulled it off:

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).

Read more about the making of these idents over on the Film4 blog.

Can you guess which movies inspired these scenes?     

Your Comment

17 Comments

If you can't get these straight away, I am very jealous of you because you have some amazing movies to see and you get to see them completely fresh for the first time!

September 5, 2014 at 4:03AM

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Definitely, completely agree with that, though some are not totally obvious at first glance. I thought they were a pretty amazing blend of VFX and practicals either way!

September 5, 2014 at 4:08AM

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Joe Marine
Camera Department

I gotta admit, I haven't seen some of these. I knew the hotel, campground, and motel(?), but I wasn't sure about the staircase or gas station. Anyone want to clue me in?

September 5, 2014 at 10:29AM

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Pretty sure the staircase setting was inspired by Vertigo and the kids at the gas station ET/The Goonies, but the gas station itself... not sure!

September 5, 2014 at 11:30AM

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James Burt
Editor
166

Do you happen to know what some of the BTS alternates were? (ie the shotgun, burning tire, wolves?)

September 5, 2014 at 1:29PM

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Saying you're happy for the people who don't get the references is both a cop out and very thinly veiled bragging. Considering they claim to have crammed about a hundred conscious film references into these four spots (including the alternate endings), even the most well versed movie buffs are going to miss and/or not get some of it. Especially since a lot if it is very vague and compounded.

Here's what I can spot so far:

Hallway/hotel: The Shining, Inception, Barton Fink, The Red Balloon - not sure about the the lit up doorways?

Motel room: Psycho (and generally a Hitchcock vibe), No Country For Old Men, Lolita, maybe Drive? We've seen a very similar setting in a ton of films (Monster's Ball, Dallas Buyer's Club, Something Wild etc.), but the main reference - woman pulling up her stocking - is something I'm not placing... Also, what's with the fairly modern camera with a long lens on the glass table?

The Staircase: Apart from The Red Balloon (again) I don't get it. Some people are saying Vertigo, but this beautiful, spacious stairway is a far cry from the wooden clocktower and they're not doing a Vertigo-zoom. The chase up the stairs has a familiar, cinematic feel to it but I fail to spot any specific reference. The Grand Piano falling? Apart from a comical trope of how to slapstick kill somebody, I'm lost.

The Woods: Are the wolves something I should be strongly associating with any one film (and not just The Grey, Jungle Book, White fang etc?). The Moonrise Kingdom nod is very clear, but again the dancing light seems like a very general reference.

The Gas Station: Rubber and ET (and/or The Goonies and Stand By Me) are the clear references. Could also vaguely be No Country For Old Men (again) and it gave me a little bit of a Lone Star vibe. The squad car and seventies period evokes lots of New Hollywood associations, but once again I'm hard pressed for specific references.

Tell me all I'm missing here.

September 5, 2014 at 2:02PM

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There's a few references in there that I hadn't thought of. To me, the motel room was reminiscent of Blue Velvet. The woods immediately struck me as being A Company of Wolves (which would be very familiar to British/European audience members, maybe not so much in North America.

September 5, 2014 at 3:31PM

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Neil Every
Writer/Director/Story Consultant
191

The woman pulling up her stocking, I believe, would reference THE GRADUATE.

September 5, 2014 at 4:31PM

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Nice post. You definitely did not cop out.

The Hallway: I got a Close Encounters vibe. Doors flying open, bright lights shining through, and electrical lights flickering. I know the location doesn't match.

The Hotel Room: I thought the same thing as Shaun. The Graduate. And in regards to the modern camera I was thinking Vacancy.

The Stairs: I am kind of leaning towards The Professional. But I'm also feeling The Conformist as well.

The Woods: damn it, I see Twilight, and that's not good. The only thing I can think of for the light is Peter Pan.

The Gas Station: I'm thinking Rubber meets Spike Jones Wax video. And The Sugarland Express.

September 5, 2014 at 5:53PM, Edited September 5, 5:53PM

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Ian Ford
154

I was thinking Moonrise Kingdom but that didn't explain the girl scout.

September 6, 2014 at 4:21PM, Edited September 6, 4:21PM

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The first scene in the hallway feels a little like 'The Grand Budapest Hotel' in combination with 'Barton Fink'. The second one with the gas station reminds me of 'Drive' and the third one feels like 'Breaking Bad'. The stairs do not feel that familiar, although I saw a short film once that comes to my mind, but I can't remember the title. The last one feels like live action Bambi (lol) or the music video of 'What Does The Fox Say'.

September 5, 2014 at 5:43AM, Edited September 5, 5:43AM

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Franky Hill
Director - Writer - Producer
140

Incredible. Love the multiple references in each frame with lovely little touches (Lolita's sunglasses!) and that strange, voyeuristic Edward Hopper vibe.

September 5, 2014 at 6:40AM, Edited September 5, 6:40AM

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James Burt
Editor
166

Wonderfully constructed and executed. Bravo.

September 5, 2014 at 9:53AM, Edited September 5, 9:53AM

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Seth Evans
Editor
328

Genius.

September 5, 2014 at 10:56AM, Edited September 5, 10:56AM

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Tommy Plesky
Director / D.P / Editor
1981

I always like showing stuff like this to non-film people and then showing them the behind the scenes. They are always astounded at how many people/hours go into something like this.

September 5, 2014 at 11:44AM, Edited September 5, 11:44AM

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Alex Smith
Documentary/Cinematographer
1401

Does anyone know what movie the boy scout references?

September 5, 2014 at 4:48PM

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I get the impression that the staircase references American Psycho, the the piano being a substitute for the chainsaw and referencing something else in its own regard. What that is though, I'm not sure...

September 6, 2014 at 4:49AM, Edited September 6, 4:49AM

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Who pays for this stuff? This is well over $100k budget, and for what? really? I'm all for art and believe this is a great project and impeccably pulled off, but I am just amazed at the money people would drop on something that won't prove a great of a return. I hope more companies embrace this practice.

September 6, 2014 at 6:40AM

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Ricky
Director/DP
247

I love that so much was captured in camera. The way the film 4 logo shakes back and forth or is destroyed by the piano adds something special.

September 6, 2014 at 10:05AM

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Michael Markham
Actor/Filmmaker
982

Check out the photographs by Gregory Crewdson. Some of the scenes here reminded me strongly of his work. His large format pictures are made with high production value usually only seen in Hollywood films and usually also distill iconic Hollywood / cinema tropes into one single image that is multilayered, ambiguous and surreal at the same time.

September 7, 2014 at 8:22PM, Edited September 7, 8:22PM

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