The title sequence to ‘The World About Us’ (BBC, 1967, Bernard Lodge)

THREAD 1/25.
With the recent unveiling of a reimagined Doctor Who ‘diamond’ logo from 1973, I thought I would take the opportunity to celebrate my other favourite piece of work from its designer, Bernard Lodge.  

Lodge joined the BBC in 1960, quickly rising up the ranks, creating celebrated title sequences, exploiting not only contemporary techniques, but also cinematic theory – influenced in particular by the power of design (Saul Bass) and editing (Sergei Eisenstein).

Doctor Who (1963, 1967, 1970, 1973, 1974)  remains his most famous work, higly regarded in the design world. However, there are a number of other classic sequences of note.

His collision of image and editing is instantly familiar to viewers watching telefantasy programmes, from the fire and bombast of ‘Adam Adamant Lives’ to the mournful and unsettling ‘Out of the Unknown’.  

Lodge was responsible for celebrated examples from other genres too.  BBC2’s supernatural anthology television series ‘The Mind Beyond’ (1976) took onboard a cast list spanning Donald Pleasence, to Janet Street-Porter.  The symbolic titles are masterpiece of overlays and transitions.  

Meanwhile ‘Teletale’ and ‘Man Alive’ celebrate the power of the ‘collision’ in the spirit of Sergei Eisenstein and Lev Kuleshov.  ‘Man Alive’ in particular, uses the established technique of juxtaposing two contrasting images to create a third meaning.

However, the example I would really like to celebrate is one that heralded the ominous feeling of ‘school tomorrow’ on a Sunday evening on BBC2 – The World About Us (1967 – 86)

Commissioned by David Attenborough, then controller of BBC2, TWBU, was conceived as a vehicle for documentary and natural history, and was, according to producer Barry Paine, “a series designed to sell colour television sets”.

Bernard Lodge’s landmark titles took a symbolic representation of the world, and used optical, filmic effects, such as multiple exposures, to create a distinctive and somewhat arresting visual image.  

Lodge designed a skeleton ‘globe’ from bands of metal.  The bands intersected both vertically and diagonally. Presumably an additional horizontal band would have rendered the sequence too ‘busy’ in light of the techniques Lodge would use.  

Filming on 35mm, the globe revolved on a black background, and the camera tracked from one side of the screen to another.  This negative was later replicated with the bands rotating in the opposite direction.  The key ingredient was the duplication of the film six times, with each frame shifted by 2 or 3 frames.  The resulting dupe (negative) consisted of a swirling array of bands.

An additional negative of the globe zooming into the screen was recorded, again using the same process.  This faded out as the two tracking shots (the ‘pan from left to right, and right to left) cleared the frame.  This left the sans-serif title caption to fade in, before the sequence fades to black in time with the final flute motif.  

Lodge used a simple and effective technique, using multiple exposures to create a world rich in mystery and intrigue.  The repeated imagery fits perfectly with the swirling, echoing, multi-layered soundtrack

The final sequence can be found here.

Consisting of bass, organ, flute, percussion – the soundtrack was described by a YouTuber as pure “1970’s musical cologne”. But who was responsible for composing it?

An archival record on a Monty Python site notes Stuart Crombie and his orchestra. A Youtube comment points us in the direction of Inigo Kilborn, the man that composed the BBC Schools Diamond sequence. And IMDB suggests Johnny Scott and his orchestra.
The BBC recognises Scott as the composer.

A later title sequence introduced in the 1980’s, truncated the music, duplicated the entire globe into four corners, left a trail, and flipped a crude title caption into view. 

The keleidoscopic effects used the video technology of the era, but jarred with the original film print, and was generally unsatisfactory.  

The sequence was memorable enough to be parodied. The music is referenced in ‘The walking tree of Dahomey’ sketch in the ‘Party Political Broadcast’ episode of ‘Monty Python’s Flying Circus’.  

And to many ‘in the know’, the sequence will evoke many enchanting visits to the world of ‘Tlentifini Maarhaysu’.

In many ways, TWAU was a pre-cursor to another Lodge masterpiece, ‘Man and Music’ (Granada for Channel 4, 1987 – 89). Again, it used shape, form, and multiple overlays, to create an intricate pattern.

This time Lodge juxtaposed the classic and a contemporary; using cutting-edge computer technology of the day to create a representation of a classical score.

You can find the title sequence for ‘Man and Music’ here.

Lodge once said of his Doctor Who titles, that he wanted to give a sense of magic. as well as space and time travel. The same is true of TWAU and ‘Man and Music’. The sequence is not only memorable in sound and vision, but it’s evocative of Sunday evening, and the earnestness of documentary filmmaking of the time.  It’s marvellous.  

Aknowledgements:
A special shout out to the BBC Motion Graphics Archive for the extensive information about TWAU.
https://www.ravensbourne.ac.uk/bbc-motion-graphics-archive/world-about-us-1977
https://www.ravensbourne.ac.uk/bbc-motion-graphics-archive/world-about-us-1986
https://www.bbc.com/historyofthebbc/anniversaries/december/world-about-us/

2 Comments

  1. Acouple years ago I think Dr Who Magazine asked him to come up with an outline and rough animation for a new Dr Who opening. I think I have that issue somewhere…

    Like

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