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In Conversation with UNIT Studios

UNIT creatively collaborated with The British Arrows for the first time on a very special project.

9 April 2021

Those of you who joined the British Arrows 2020 would’ve seen the stunning animations that UNIT Studios created for our virtual show. We chatted to them about the inspiration behind the visuals and the process of creating them.

Tom Wansbrough-Jones, who heads up the design team at UNIT comments, “Both the design team and the Studio as a whole strive for creative excellence and with it comes a commitment to provide solutions that make stories as visually entertaining and stimulating as can be.” Their primary drive is creative excellence, and the team are strongly committed to the craft of their work. They know that craft is about telling the story in the best possible way and they use a variety of creative methods to do so.

Building excellent relationships with the clients is paramount to UNIT. They enjoy working with clients who get them involved in a project as early as possible so they are able to work together from the start for the best creative outcome. One such client was British Arrows who UNIT creatively collaborated with for the first time on a very special project. We spoke to the design team responsible for creating and delivering the collection of stunning visuals those who attended the British Arrows 2020 would have seen.

Q: What was your brief for the British Arrows and where did you find inspiration for the design?

UNIT Design: We were approached by The British Arrows in November 2019. British Arrows created a visual brief and some test films which they shared with us. The theme of the motion graphics brief for the British Arrows 2020 show was ‘Eclectic Beauty’.

We were to create a series of ethereal cascading sequences that would loop seamlessly on the three large screens behind the stage. These were to include black objects inspired by those used in the pre-campaign such as Dahlias, Arrowheads, Onyx and Mica, and be complimented with gold, silver, bronze and white counterparts to create a rich and stylised visual aesthetic.

The main inspiration was the shape of the arrowhead, but we were also inspired by photography of dark organic textures with high-contrasting light as well as positive and negative flips of dark and light. We looked at a combination of natural organic surfaces and clean cut beautifully finished surfaces and how they could compliment and contrast one another.

We approached this idea by creating a 3D world that displayed striking contrast in scale and continued the motif of the arrowhead shape appearing in different forms throughout, from the rippling soft dahlia petals to the immense arrow-shaped onyx rock forms that were cliff-like with glimpses of worn, shiny rock-faces and delicate gold cracks. The idea was to have the groups of gold, silver or bronze arrowheads rising up through this magical dark atmosphere elegantly and seamlessly. We wanted the audience to be mesmerised and to be able to discover new levels of details and interest as they continued to watch the repeating loops.

Q: How did the move to a virtual event change the graphics?

UNIT Design: Originally, the films were due to playout on 3 large screens on stage at Grosvenor House. With COVID-19 and the first lockdown, the event was postponed and a virtual awards ceremony was scheduled with a new format on a live stream which fortunately the graphics really lent themselves to. As well as the live virtual streaming event, they also worked well on the wide screen at the studio where the filming took place on the night.

The graphics were used on screen for opening sequence, the nominations and the winners as well as for stings and swipe transitions. The graphics were also gradually introduced and teased in on marketing materials including the Book of the Night cover, email communications and social media posts.

Q: What are you most happy with and most proud of with the outcome of the films?

We were extremely happy that we got them looping as it was a bit of a tricky feat. Also, we were very pleased with the overall striking aesthetic that we created.

What we are most proud of is the way we worked as a team and we loved how much creative freedom we were given. It was a project that required attention to detail and intricate creation and adjustment of elements such as textures and lighting.

Q: How did you feel when you saw the films on the night of the virtual ceremony

UNIT Design: It was great to see them being used, albeit a year later! Overall, we are most proud of our dedicated and talented team of artists who accomplished something in between other projects that were going on at the time. They overcame a lot of render headaches and grew technically throughout the process.

It was a happy moment indeed to see them being used at all, as we are still working our way through this pandemic. It was a great honour to be a part of the British Arrows and celebrate our industry’s finest creatives.

To find out more about UNIT Studios please click here.

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