When a project’s soundtrack is Purple Haze re-recorded on the lute and hurdy-gurdy, you know the visuals are going to be pretty far-out. Transistor Studios didn’t disappoint for a BBC4 trailer.
How do you compress an entire era’s way of viewing the world into 40 largely word-free seconds? This was the challenge that New York-based animation studio Transistor found itself facing when it was commissioned to create Medieval Mind Trip, a trailer for Inside the Medieval Mind, a series of documentaries screened on BBC4.
The trailer needed to illustrate the popular beliefs and superstitions of the medieval period, while being punchy, and fast-moving enough to hold the attention of fickle modern viewers.
At the heart of the commission was the need to bring the Middle Ages into 21st-Century sitting rooms.
James Price, Transistor’s creative director and director of the trailer, says that the solution was to use a number of medieval-style drawings in quick succession.
“The aesthetic came from a conversation I originally had with the agency about how to create a ‘trail’ of graphics that highlighted what was going on during the medieval period.
"We needed to strike the balance between culturally accurate representations, and graphics that felt really intriguing, unique and entertaining. I then went away and designed.”
Price says that in order to achieve just the right blend of modern and medieval, he had to think back a couple of decades.
“My motivation was really about making something that felt really cool, and a little bit odd. I have always been a huge fan of rock posters from the 1960s and 1970s, so I wanted to work some of that aesthetic into the final look – particularly when I heard the agency wanted to re-record [Jimi Hendrix’s] Purple Haze with medieval instruments.”
After talking over the brief with the agency, Price created a series of images. “I designed all the frames over about three days, with very little sleep and a lot of help from my iPod... It wasn’t so much a traditional storyboard,” he says. “It was more like frames that touched on a lot of what we talked about with the agency.”