Fifa World Cup 2018 trail: how to create an opening title sequence for 3.2 billion people

The brief for the official Fifa World Cup TV opener is by no means an easy one: create a film that will resonate with almost half of the planet, complement Fifa’s brand guidelines in an inventive manner and present the host nation of Russia in all its glory – without propaganda. It was the vision of a Fabergé egg that cracked the code for the association’s chosen agency.

Fifa handed the brief to Noah Media Group, a small production agency nestled in London’s Clerkenwell. Its size wasn’t a problem for the footballing body – the agency flexes up when needed – and its past successes with sequences for the likes of ITV and BBC sealed the deal back in January 2017.

The idea to pin the trailer’s creative on the famed imperialist eggs by Peter Carl Fabergé came at the early pitch stages when Noah’s art director, Kim Teddy, was searching for a cultural article that was “beautiful and emblematic of Russia without being too clichéd”.

“We mocked up this Fabergé football very early on and we knew from those [renderings] that this could look amazing by using the intricacies and patterns and textures of the brand within this world,” he told The Drum.

The thoroughly multidimensional appeal of these priceless orbs meant the animated world that Noah built around them had to be three dimensional too – a difficult task given that all of Fifa’s official brand guidelines are stubbornly flat, but one the agency believed would be necessary to create a “more televisual and more cinematic” film.

The hero 45-second spot is televisual in a very literal sense; there’s no denying the similarities between the trail and the opening titles of Game of Thrones. The camera pans through a gilded, shining fantasy geography of Russia, lingering on manifold city landmarks in a bid to demonstrate there is more to Russia 2018 than Moscow. There’s even a dragon, although – Teddy explained – the creature is actually the cultural icon to one of the host cities.

“When you’re locked in this world you try not to make it too much like Game of Thrones,” said Teddy. “But it’s difficult to do something like this without getting those sorts of comparisons. And if people are comparing it in a favourable way, I’m not too disheartened.”

The trail’s composition is also similar to the 2014 film’s, which was another animated fly through the host country and its various cities, environments and idiosyncrasies. But aesthetically the two are “chalk and cheese” largely due to the differing cultural aesthetics of both countries.

Brazil is known for bright colours, tropical sun, carnival and music. Russia, with its checkered modern history and cold climate appears almost monochrome in comparison. And so while most brands celebrated the heat and palette of Brazil in 2014, this year creatives have tended to tread one of two routes for World Cup campaigns: explore constructivist, Soviet design (like the BBC’s Tapestry has) or ignore the fact the tournament is happening in Russia altogether (an approach ITV has taken).

In this sense, Noah’s focus on Russia’s pre-1917 architecture and heritage makes the title sequence unique among World Cup creative. Teddy is particularly proud of how it also appeals to the both the “touchpoints that people would recognise as Russian, and those they wouldn’t recognise too”.

The film and all its 1,400 iterations will be screened around the globe via Fifa World Cup rights holders and broadcasters when the tournament launches next week (14 June). And if the pubs have their sound turned on before the games begin, fans will be able to hear the title’s soundtrack – composed by none other than Hans Zimmer.

How does it feel to have your work scored by one of the greatest cinematic composers of all time?

“Fantastic – it’s great for the show reel,” quipped Teddy.

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