Documentary animations and visual style
Project: Inter-Continental Bunker Mission (feature documentary)
A project that required extensive use of animation to keep audiences up to speed with all the fun of living in a world perpetually under threat of nuclear annihilation, on this page you can see the wide range of animation content created for our documentary, ICBM.
From building 3D models and renders of The Doomsday Clock, to creating a cohesive and immersive look across lower thirds, titles, and interstitials – an entire visual language had to be developed for ICBM’s animation to keep audiences engaged and absorbed throughout.
Inter-Continental Bunker Mission is all about how the threat of nuclear weapons has largely stayed the same throughout the last eighty years, despite us collectively seemingly to have forgotten of their existence in our day to day. To build upon this theme, we thought it would be interesting to design incredibly dated looking graphics – borrowing inspiration from the old government archive films of the 1950s and 60s to create aged and damaged assets. As such, everything looks like it could have been taken directly out of one of these archive films, and the line between real archive and the modern day becomes blurred; reminding us that the nuclear threat is still very much the same as it always has been.
Making things look like they were made in the 50s is easier than it sounds. Aside from adding film flicker and artifacts, I spent a good chunk of time analysing motion graphic animations from the time. Motion graphics in the 50s was very much in its infancy, so even what we’d consider today to be the basics of animation (easing, motion blur etc. ) weren’t in use at the time. Instead, I had to scale things back to the most basics of tools to try and give myself the same options that the animators of the 50s had to work with. This ultimately involved relying more on hard cutting, position animations, and high contrast colour differentiations.
Inter-Continental Bunker Mission’s main title was a crucial piece to get right; acting as a sort of distillation of all the film’s themes into a single cohesive piece.
The main title animation takes us through various time periods of animation – starting with an 80s radar screen, advancing towards a modern day style indicated by the digital glitch, and being sent back to the primitive animation techniques of the 50s by an implied nuclear strike – highlighting the progress humanity has to lose should it ever engage in all out nuclear Armageddon. It ends on an incredibly simplistic screen showing the ICBM letters – almost too difficult to even read, to further highlight the distance we would be sent back should the red button ever be pressed.
The Doomsday Clock, invented by the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, is a way of showing how close the experts of the world believe we are to nuclear self-destruction; with geopolitics, global economics, and environmental factors taken into account to reach the result. Each year, they publish a new version of the clock, showing how many minutes to midnight we are. If the clock ever strikes midnight; it’s game over.
In order to create a compelling incarnation of the fiction clock, I built a 3D model of it in Cinema4D – complete with working clock hands and clock face that would all move together accurately when I animated an element.
The building blocks of a feature film, these key pieces are used throughout to tell audiences where they are and who they’re talking to. I especially had fun with the location titles, where the old dated aesthetic burns away to reveal the modern world – again tying in the ICBM’s key theme of linking nuclear present and past.
Inter-Continental Bunker Mission was completed in 2022, and since then has been screening at film festival across the globe. Have a watch of the teaser trailer below, featuring end card graphics made by yours truly.
There’s a whole page dedicated to the actual documentary film on the dark side of this website – see if you can make any sense of it.