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Page last updated at 10:40 GMT, Friday, 12 September 2008 11:40 UK

Giving Daily Politics a facelift

New Daily Politics titles

by Jonathan Spencer
Designer, Daily Politics

It's always an exciting moment to be offered a title sequence to design.

The brief was to update the look of the programme and bring it closer the BBC brand.

Robbie Gibb the programme's editor and director Claire Bellis wanted a look that was colourful, modern and clean.

Origami option

Daily Politics is a difficult programme to categorise, stepping through light and shade, from the amusing to the profound, without formality or deference, all shades of political opinion are represented in a half hour at lunchtime.

I pulled together some rough ideas during the half-term recess. Robbie, Claire and other members of the production team favoured the 'origami option' that I'd presented (sounds formal, but is really a question of sitting in Robbie's office and chatting about ideas).

Graphics of the Welsh Assembly
Jonathan modelled the Welsh Assembly from photographs
At this stage it was becoming obvious that I would need some help to get everything done in time so I called it my long-term friend and colleague from BBC News graphics design Louise Smith to collaborate on the project.

Lou was to look after the logo and on screen architecture (captions etc.) and I was to look after the title sequence, however we consulted each other closely on all aspects of the project.

Virtual paper

The initial idea was to make a paper model of the Palace of Westminster in computer graphics and animate the model assembling it's self. It was decided that we should also create models of the Scottish Parliament, Welsh Assembly and Northern Irish Assembly.

I started with the Welsh Assembly to get an idea of how long the project would take. Working from photos of the building, including aerial views (photographers don't shoot with the virtual paper modeller in mind) I drew out a simplified building in Adobe Illustrator.

Graphics of Scottish Assembly interior
The Scottish Assembly's roof would have been very hard to model
At this stage the models were going to have cut lines and glue tabs, both were dropped in the course of building the Welsh model. We were also thinking about putting National flags on the buildings but the difficultly of finding an acceptable flag for Northern Ireland squashed that idea!

Westminster was the largest part of the project. We were keen to use St Stephens Tower as a strong visual element in the titles; you'll know it as Big Ben (the bell that chimes).

Fortunately there is a lot of visual reference for the building and our office is a short walk away so I could pop out and have a look (thanks to Bill for all the detailed photography, now there's a photographer who knows what the virtual paper modeller needs).

Bump mapping

We took the view that the extensive surface detail that the building had would be better represented as embossed surfaces rather than slavishly modelled. At this stage we showed initial animations to all of the interested parties and as a result of this we dropped any natural colour from the building and added people to humanise the sequence.

Graphics of the Northern Ireland Assembly
The Northern Ireland Assembly - can you see the bump mapping?
Scotland, like Wales is a new building, but unlike Wales it's hard to get a handle on as a designer. I have to admit I have yet to visit it, but from the photos I could see it has a fantastic boat shaped roof that would be very hard to make in paper, even virtual paper. So it was decided to build the interior and a simple exterior.

Stormont was a breeze to model; we only needed one shot of the building so I only had to model it from one elevation. The neo-classical style of the building was straightforward; again we decided not to model all the surface detail but to imply it with 'bump mapping' (Google it if you're interested).

Finishing touches

Once all the models and animations were designed we printed out stills to get an idea of the order of shots, the rough line tests we given to Mark Himsley a very talented editor at Millbank who cut them to the remixed music.

At this stage we all got together to finalise the colours. Whilst this had been going on Lou had been finalising the logo and on screen captions designs (Astons).

House of Commons
It was decided to remove natural colour from the graphics
As we share an office it was possible for all the work to go on in parallel.

At this stage Fedele Rinaldi joined the team to add finishing touches and start work on developing the content graphics for the programme.

Technical workflow

The workflow for the titles was as follows: the buildings were drawn up in Illustrator; the separate elements were then exported as vectors into Cinema 4D.

We used 'Cinema 4D' as the main 3D tool as it is easy to create simple hierarchy-based animations, these animations were then rendered out in low resolution and dropped into our working 'animatic' for approval by Robbie and Claire. Once approved we set up final renders to work over the weekends, so even if we weren't working the machines were.

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