Still image from the new Channel 4 idents showing a crowd of people on a night out. One person wearing a short dress rests their foot on another person's lap, while two other people are doing a piggyback on the pavement

Channel 4’s cascading idents reflect Britain’s multitudes

The broadcaster has revealed a new set of looping channel idents envisioned by 17 different creators, with each scene connected by the 4 logo

Channel 4 has unveiled a new set of idents made by its in-house creative division, 4creative, in collaboration with Art Practice and Love Song. The five idents consist of five unique scenes joined together into cascading sequences based on a theme: Identity, Land, System, Release, and Love.

“This allows for variety through the day as our idents play out all day, every day – so creating different start points was important not just from a creative variety point of view but also making them fit for purpose as continually repeated assets,” 4creative ECD Lynsey Atkin tells us.

The base of the 4 logo, which has been foregrounded in Channel 4’s new brand identity, acts as a cube-shaped portal into the next scene. “It means contrasting worlds sit unquestionably next to each other,” Atkin says. “Much like Channel 4 itself, you never quite know what’s around the next corner and hopefully that keeps things interesting!” The scenes are truly broad: from warehouse to woodland, schoolyard to graveyard, and even an underwater seascape.

Mike Skrgatic, creative director at Art Practice, describes it as “one long, ever-changing tapestry” that reflects modern Britain, fitting with Channel 4’s new Altogether Different brand line. Yet the smooth segue from scene to scene also appears to tie in with the broadcaster’s ambitions to blend its linear and digital presence, which includes bringing its on-demand service All 4 under the Channel 4 banner.

The scenes were created by 17 different directors and creators working across a mix of live action, animation, and computer generated imagery. Creating seamless transitions between them required extensive planning, from balancing scales, orientations, textures, tones, and palettes, to calculating the variable speed of the camera’s movement through each scene.

“The camera moves 25 times faster at the head of the move compared to when we arrive at the base of the 4 and enter into the incoming scene. The motion resets and the incoming scene takes over, travelling 25 times faster,” explains Skrgatic. “This factor alone took golden spiral, Mandelbrot-like, complex mathematical consideration to solve. I love where art meets science, this felt like a collision of those worlds.”

Still image from the new Channel 4 idents showing the 4 logo in flames at the centre of a dark street

The ambitious concept was bound to throw up challenges – and, with it being all about Britain, that obviously involved the weather. Skrgatic says the team was “riding our luck with the weather in Scotland”, where all of the live action scenes were shot across four days. Atkin recalls the Friday night scene, which appears to be suspended in time, being particularly difficult. The shoot took place on a windy night, which caused concerns as “we needed not just our cast, but their hair, props and clothing to stay absolutely, completely still in order to achieve the effect”.

The emphasis on craft is clear to see in every kind of visual, whether that’s “syncing panes of shattering glass captured in high speed”, Skrgatic says, or the extensive post and VFX work led by Time Based Arts.

To mark the launch, there will be a one-off screening of a version that uses all 25 scenes as an ad break takeover. The continuous version is linked together with the help of spoken word artist John Joseph Holt, whose affectionate narration of the “pot-holed United Kingdom” manages to encapsulate Channel 4’s critical yet warm spirit.

The visuals were near completion when Holt was brought in. “It meant the writer could personally respond to the work, rather than us be overly prescriptive,” Atkin explains.

“Like everything through the project, we wanted to feel the artist’s intention, rather than the heavy hand of an all-seeing eye. I hope this is ultimately what the work achieves – a seamless group of worlds that all work together, but showcase very different voices and styles,” she says, “an infinite looping universe where nothing stands out because everything stands out.”

Agency: 4creative
ECD: Lynsey Atkin
Creative Directors: Mike Srgatic, Daniel Wolfe, Lynsey Atkin, Bafic
Production Company: Art Practice x Love Song
DoPs: Daniel Landin, Eponine Momenceau
VFX and Post Production: Time Based Arts
Audio Post Production: String and Tins
Directors: Saman Aminzadeh, Optical Arts, Bafic, Mike Battcock, Will Dohrn, Daniel Eatock, Mike Skrgatic and James Allen, Verity May Lane, Maria Lax, Tim McCourt and Max Taylor (The Line), Louis McCourt, Justyna Obasi, Elliott Power, The Romantix, Dan Tobin Smith (Optical Arts), Daniel Wolfe
Spoken word: John Joseph Holt