Antenna (1988)

Concept and creative process

A generic title sequence for the ‘Antenna’ strand alluded obliquely to the many fields of human sciences through the exploration of a surreal landscape. Designer Pete Wane recalls working on this brief. “If I had any strength at all to bring to the BBC Graphic Design Department, it was as an illustrator and my approach never altered. I always answered the brief with an illustrator’s eye, trying to make simple the complicated. I once went to a lecture by Milton Glaser (an American Graphic Designer of great renown). He concluded the lecture with a piece of advice ‘only work for people you like’. Which seemed a bizarre ‘Blue Sky’ statement at the time - as if one could ever choose? However at its heart that is precisely what made my ‘Antenna’ title sequence possible! The ‘Antenna’ Series Producer, Caroline van den Brul had faith that I could make good on my ambitious storyboard that would set the viewer on a journey into her programme strand. In short she liked me enough to trust me! But who could build this surrealistic landscape I envisioned? And how? Modelling structures with enough detail, scientific diversity and emerging through a ‘fractal’ scale change to find the ‘Antenna’ title? The answer was never in doubt to me. Alan Kemp was a modelmaker I admired and liked. We shared a core belief that Science and Art were the two poles of a greater whole. Alan had worked with the lighting cameraman previously and ‘liked‘ him and his work. So the stage was set... The sequence would be a journey inspired by Leonardo and Dali. The music came first and punctuated the path and dynamics of the motion control camera rig. The sculpted head was approximately 30 centimetres high and was built first, and all the other elements were built or matched to that scale. The head would represent humanity and belonging to the natural world. The ‘Antenna’ title would finally emerge as a scale change - the method ‘fractals’ where atoms and particles within are likened to the galaxies and universe around us. In between these two poles would be a series of models representing the wide field of science, mathematics, medicine, technology, all scaled to the landscape. Although, because we were in a surreal environment, conventional scale did not exist – in fact the very opposite, which added mystery to the journey.” Pete Wane worked with Caroline van den Brul again in 1995, when he designed the opening titles for ‘The Royal Institution Christmas Lectures’ for which she had become the executive producer. Milton Glaser’s advice proved to be sound yet again!

Antenna logo and rough sketch