Channel 4 idents

A hugely ambitious feat of live action, animation and CG, this project for the UK broadcaster was a winner in multiple categories in this year’s awards

Channel 4’s idents have a rich creative heritage, with acclaimed filmmakers including Jonathan Glazer, Dougal Wilson and Brett Foraker all having turned their hands to them over the years. Appearing in every ad break between programmes, they are seen by an estimated 80% of the UK population every month, making them one of Britain’s biggest canvases for public art.

Last year saw the public service broadcaster unveil a new brand identity led by 4creative and Pentagram. The rebrand was accompanied by a new set of idents that place the previously deconstructed ‘4’ symbol back at the heart of the action and build on the brand’s ‘Altogether Different’ positioning, first introduced in 2021, which celebrates the diverse, inclusive and alternative nature of the UK.

A collaborative effort by 4creative, Art Practice, Love Song and Time Based Arts, the brief was to create a visual system conceived around the 4 as a guide. The symbol acts as a cube-shaped portal, creating a moving portrait of modern Britain set within an infinite loop. Able to be employed at different times of the day, or to reflect the tonal mood of certain programming, the series of idents have a clear function yet remain a hugely ambitious visualisation of how we live now.

The series of five idents are made up of 25 unique scenes joined together into cascading sequences based on the themes of identity, land, system, release and love. To create these, the team worked with 17 different directors, photographers, makers and artists. Employing a mixture of live action, animation and full CG, the idents are visually expansive yet unified by the 4, the camera movement and the cube motif that comes from the base of the 4 logo.

The balance of different moods and tones across the idents was another key aspect, and the transitions between worlds were carefully designed to include overlapping elements, light spill and movement sympathetic to each environment, so that every scene feels surprising but not jarring.

To mark the launch of the idents, Channel 4 debuted a one-off film screening that brought together the 25 individual scenes as one ad break takeover. The continuous version is linked together with the help of a voiceover by spoken word artist John Joseph Holt, whose affectionate narration of the “pot-holed United Kingdom” manages to encapsulate the critical yet warm spirit of Channel 4.

Grant Hunter, global CCO at Iris and a judge for the Annual Awards, explains why the idents were picked as a winner:

Categories: Art Direction, Commercials, Directing, Motion Graphics & Moving Image; Post & Visual Effects
Agency: 4creative
ECD: Lynsey Atkin
Managing Director: Katie Jackson
Executive Producer: Louise Oliver
Senior Producer: Lauren Holden
Production Manager: Hope Sutherland
Junior Producer: Jazz Stradling
Production Companies: Art Practice, Love Song
Creative Directors: Mike Skrgatic (Art Practice), Daniel Wolfe (Love Song)
Directors: Saman Aminzadeh, Optical Arts, Bafic, Mike Battcock, Will Dohrn, Daniel Eatock, Mike Skrgatic, James Allen, Verity May Lane, Maria Lax, The Line, Tim McCourt, Max Taylor, Louis McCourt, Justyna Obasi, Elliott Power, The Romantix, Dan Tobin Smith, Daniel Wolfe, Matthew Watson
DOPs: Daniel Landin, Eponine Momenceau
Executive Producer: James Guy, Laura Breaden
Producer: Bonnie Anthony, Macarena Gaset
Production Manager: Julia Guignabel
Production Coordinator: Shirley Crawford
Production Assistant: Katie Reid
Production Designer: Arthur De Borman
First AD: Rob Blishen
Editor: Fouad Gaber, Trim Editing
Audio Post-Production: String and Tins
Sound Supervisor: Will Cohen
EP/Studio Director: Hannah May
VFX and Post-Production: Time Based Arts
VFX Producer: Chris Aliano
VFX Supervisors: Stephen Grasso, Leo Weston, Miguel Wratten, Mike Battcock, Sam Osborne, Nick Smalley
Colour Grading: Max Ferguson-Hook, Simone Grattarola