Doctor Who Title Sequence Pitch
This was a collaborative project between myself and graphic designer Stuart Manning, with support from motion design company WeAreAlchemy and music by Blair Mowat.
The pitch originally started as a single image from Stuart. From there we developed the idea into a title sequence unlike anything we felt had been seen before on the show, but that also keeps its roots in the sensibilities of the series.
From there, we split the pitch into two different title sequence ideas. The first was based on a series of graphic shapes which hung in space. The second was based on a nebulous cloud which would eventually form the 13th Doctor's face.
Below is a breakdown of the two routes. Enjoy!
Route 1 - Graphic Shapes
Above: Motion design proof of concept for Route 1
Above is the motion design proof of concept of the first of our two routes.
This idea came from an initial style frame mocked up by Stuart (right).
The idea was overlapping harsh geometric shapes along with ink elements. The TARDIS would hurtle down a corridor made of several different shapes, each one decaying as it left the frame. The sequence would play with negative space, inverting images, and all washed with an acidic colour palate for a mysterious feeling.
From there I developed an animatic of how the sequence would play out in rough 3D, timed to a soundtrack provided by the talented Blair Mowat (Doctor Who, Class). During this stage, Stuart and I would spend time scaling elements, retiming and placing in rough colours until we were satisfied.
The next stage was to develop a series of style frames for each part of the sequence (below). I brought some of the elements we had arranged in 3D, including a custom model of the TARDIS (see later in the article) which Stuart and I would pass between each other, working over the designs, applying colour and elements, until they were at a stage we both agreed on.
The colours we ended up with took their roots from the acid wash of the original frames and reference, but made it into a brighter, more saturated palette. We wanted to make the sequence as bright and colourful as possible; a bright, shiny new adventure for the 13th Doctor.
Mock-ups for each section of Route 1's sequence
We knew we wanted to make at least one of these routes for real as a proof of concept. We chose this one, as we felt like it had the most to offer visually, and would be something we could polish enough to get our sequence across. We commissioned a 3D sculpt of Jodie Whittaker's head to use, which I textured with some high-resolution reference photos.
Overall I'm very happy with how this sequence turned out. I love how colourful and warm it makes the show feel.
Route 2 - Ink Cloud
The second route was the initial idea that Stuart had for a sequence. It started with an image he tweeted out about a potential title sequence he wanted to develop. We met up and discussed it, and we decided to take the idea and flesh it out into a full piece of motion design.
We talked at length about what we would love to see from a Doctor Who title sequence, what we hadn't seen before, and which sequences we felt worked and which didn't. We wanted to include a few things that we knew hadn't been used, like edit cuts and using a 3D version of the Doctor's head.
The idea behind the sequence starts with a huge murky and mysterious underwater landscape - a world covered in sand. Rising up from the dunes are giant stone cogs. Alluding to a graveyard, this represents leaving the past behind. The future awaits on the horizon.
In the distance, a huge cloud erupts from the ground, revealing a nebula of stars inside - a portal into a new universe. The TARDIS hurtles towards the cloud, circling it.
Inside the cloud, the stars and planets align to form sections of the face, such as the eye. Nebulas spark with life hinting and neurones firing in the brain, and you get a slight hint at two beating hearts either side of the cloud.
The cloud forms the head of the Doctor. The eyes illuminate and we plunge through the cloud into a swirling vortex of ink and stars, with the logo reflecting the sandy yellow background we have just left.
We really wanted to get a sense of a grand scale in this landscape, and you're never sure whether you're underwater or on an alien planet. The movement of the camera, the lenses we used, and the speed of the objects would all help give a sense of scale. Once you arrived at the cloud, we would spin the camera, and you'd never know which way was up and which was down.
For the logo reveal you would plunge into the nebula, creating a maelstrom of stars, planets, and ink clouds. The logo shapes would tilt into view, reflecting the stark landscape back, contrasting the background.
As with Route 1, I developed the 3D animatic to block out the rough scenes and how the sequence would flow, and slowly built on each section with layers of colour, applying textures and getting an idea of how the final sequence would feel. We started with a very washed out, desaturated backdrop with a purple/red cloud, but eventually added more burned out colours to the sand, and added as much colour as we could to the nebula.
Freeing the title sequence from being a single linear camera move was very liberating, and allowed for some more dramatic camera angles and compositions.
Screenshots I mocked up for each of Route 2's Sections
Below is the one of the first shots in the sequence, mocked up with rough textures and lighting, to try and give a sense of what the sequence would eventually look like. This was mainly to get an idea of the scale of the scene, and to see how the nebula-inside-a-cloud would look in motion.
We decided to only bring one of the proposed sequences to life in motion design. We chose Route 1 as we felt that it might provide a better design challenge, and was a sequence that was more in keeping with traditional vortex-style Doctor Who sequences. If we developed this further, we would have loved to have added a lot more subtle alterations which you would catch on multiple viewings, such as making the sand dunes resemble some of the classic villains, as Daleks, Cybermen and other characters had never featured in a Doctor Who title sequence before.
Hopefully one day we both get the time to revisit this idea and make the full thing as a piece of motion design.
We wanted to use this opportunity to design what we thought our perfect TARDIS would look like. As reference, Stuart sent over two images of what he wanted to draw inspiration from.
From there I modelled a design which incorporated the best parts of both references. Stuart fed back on the 3D model asking for some sections to be resized, and advised on the textures and colour of each section. We loved incorporating everything we have liked about previous TARDIS designs and having the opportunity to create our dream one was so much fun.
After the official reveal of the 13th Doctor's TARDIS design, we altered the design you see in the final motion test. Removing the St Johns Ambulance decal, changing the windows to glow, and inverting the plaque on the front to be white writing on black.
As with the TARDIS design, we wanted to create a new logo for the upcoming series. We both weren't too keen on the recent examples of a harsh metallic shiny logo designs.
The first iteration of the logo Stuart designed was thinner, and he described it as a logo that was constantly changing, one that you could only really get a full sense of when it was animated, as the parts were shifting to reveal the letters. For the final pass we decided on a thicker type design, as it would be easier to read from a distance, and be able to be rendered in a various ways to match the two different sequences we were proposing.
We were also keen to make sure that the BBC logo worked with the logo from the start. Usually the extra BBC branding is something tacked onto the logo at the very end of the design process, but we wanted to make sure that it worked with the logo we were proposing.
We opted for something simpler, and shaded in a way which reflects the sensibilities of each title sequence design. Route 1's logo shading would draw from the surface of the shapes, which had a diffused sub-surface scatter to them (like you'd find on a resin block), whereas the Route 2 sequence would be made of a thin mirrored sheet, which would reflect back the part of the sequence we had just seen, contrasting it against the ink background.
Two rendered lock-ups of the logo for each sequence.
Both me and Stuart are extremely proud of this project, and hope you enjoyed reading. If you liked how either of these title sequences looked, please feel free to share this page!
Adobe After Effects
Thanks to everyone who supported this project in varying capacities, and to the BBC for a brilliant history of Doctor Who title sequences to draw from.
- Metro: Fan-made Doctor Who title sequence will get you very excited for Jodie Whittaker’s debut.
- Blogtor Who: A Brilliant Fan-Made Doctor Who Title Sequence for Jodie Whittaker.
- Radio Times: This vibrant fan-made Doctor Who opening sequence takes the series into a new era.
- Yahoo: Doctor Who: Unused title sequence concept for Jodie Whittaker's first season emerges.
- BBC America: Doctor Who's Day Roundup: Regeneration, Fanimation