How Now, Wowow Framestore!

When a client decides to completely rethink the look of their branding, the design team are often the first thing out of the window. Not so for Wowow, Japan’s largest satellite TV channel, who returned to Framestore Design for the third year in a row for another year’s worth of station and genre idents, notwithstanding that they wanted a completely new look.

“I think that they were a little nervous about coming back to us,” says Producer Simon Whalley, “The looks we’d developed for the first two years were strikingly elaborate and ornate, and what they were looking for now was much cleaner and more straightforward. Fortunately, they loved our pitch – and they trusted us.”

The genre idents are 5 second visual devices intended to indicate one of eight different genres of programming, to wit: Animation, Drama, Movie, Music, Special, Sports, Stage and Extra. Each device is a different colour. In addition, five station idents were also commissioned (the four seasons plus Christmas) – again 5-second visuals, with the channel’s name as the visual focus.

The results are quite lovely to look at. The word for each genre appears in characters from the Japanese alphabet, with the letters forming themselves as three dimensional liquid brushstrokes – a sort of digital calligraphy. Senior Designer Adam Parry collaborated with Commercials 3D Technical Director David Mellor to achieve the effect he was after. Mellor used RealFlow and Houdini to create an adjustable liquid system that splashes into invisible containers, dynamically forming the letters. “With the ‘containers’ for the liquid being invisible,” says Mellor, “I could play around with the interior surfaces to obtain different sorts of reaction within the liquid – waves that could either crash upwards abruptly, for example, or roll gently around.”

Determined to honour the calligrapher’s art – much prized in Japan – Parry tried to replicate the order in which such brushstrokes would occur on paper, though the constraints of the spots meant that this wasn’t always possible. Says Parry, “Though unfamiliar with the language, I picked what felt to me an appropriate font for each genre. The funny thing is that the clients have told me that the fonts alone are enough to tell a Japanese audience that the idents were designed by a Westerner!”

The five station idents gave Parry a chance to return to the first work he did for this client. “Back in 2003 we created some corporate idents for Wowow, and I’ve always felt that there was more playing around I wanted to do with their name and its peculiar symmetries,” he says, “This brief was the perfect opportunity.” Parry has created five spots in which the word ‘Wowow’ revolves, explodes and interlaces with itself, each in a manner sympathetic to, and suggestive of, its designated season.

All of the spots were accompanied by specially commissioned music – delicate variations on a 4 note melody – created for them by composer Sam Hooper, with whom they’d also collaborated on Wowow’s 2006 idents.

With the client in Japan, good communication and feedback were essential. The work was delivered for approval via front, Framestore CFC’s proprietary online suite of production tools. This allowed the Design team to create and upload full-res NTSC Quicktimes of drafts and finished work onto front at the end of the UK working day. The time difference in Tokyo made it possible for the Wowow clients to view the work-in-progress and comment on it, using front’s ‘Comment’ area, in time for the start of the next working day. This made for an exceptionally smooth and efficient work-flow.

Wowow Idents
Production Company Wakyo Productions

For Framestore Design
Direction & Design Adam Parry
CG Artist David Mellor
Producer Simon Whalley

Music Sam Hooper

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