Idents have a long and colourful history, almost as much as television itself. Idents were first used as a means to identify channels, hence the name, and were relatively simple in their design and execution. The first idents were aired on BBC1 and simply showed the station’s name and early logo. Today idents are used for much the same purpose, but have taken on another role as well. Idents on modern television have much more artistic merit than in the early days of broadcasting, for several reasons. One of the largest is the widespread branding of modern channels and the emergence of hundreds of independent channels creating a need for recognition beyond mere identification. For this reason, modern idents are created not merely to identify a station but to give it character and popularise it’s image.
In recent years television channels have made wide use of motion graphics and compositing in idents to capture an audience, declare their channel’s brand and identify themselves on television. Motion graphics, especially if they are animated, are mostly used to draw attention to the channel’s name or logo within the ident. The emblem is usually designed to be overly bright or otherwise contrast the rest of the scene in some way, to help identification, but in some cases blends into the ident and reacts to action within the scene itself. Occasionally idents will react to the content of the channel or television show they advertise or preface.
The ‘Paint’ ident became one of the BBC’s most famous after it’s introduction in the early nineties. It’s powerfully symbolic yet minimalist and simple approach to channel identification was revolutionary for the time and marked the beginning of idents as a form of creative expression, rather than merely a way for viewers to be reminded of which channel they were watching. The ‘Paint’ ident was widely praised for it’s simple concept and use of colour changed the identity of the channel considerably, a distinction that can still be seen today in the separation of BBC1 and BBC2. The fact that the ‘Paint’ ident was only one of many in a series created for the BBC was, while commonplace now, a new and innovative idea at the time and allowed idents to become dynamic to the programme or content they prefaced.
In 2004, Channel 4 completely redesigned their channel’s style and created a library of idents to match their channel’s variety of programming; Channel 4 work hard to maintain their image as a broadcaster of popular entertainment, and the new idents were designed to reflect this with an eclectic mix of styles and content distinguished with a simple yet effective motif: for a moment, objects and scenery come together to create the channel 4 logo when viewed from the right angle and perspective, only to dissipate into abstract shapes once more. The ‘Angles’ idents are interesting as a fundamental part of their design counteracts their role in channel identification; as the Channel 4 logo is only on screen for a split second, it is not immediately apparent which channel is being shown on the screen. The Channel 4 idents are definitely designed for visual appeal and creative and artistic merit than for functionality, yet remain some of the most widely-known and best-received idents in television history.
Colour can be used in an ident to help with immediate visual identification of a channel. If a channel has a logo or emblem of a specific colour, it is often that it’s idents will match, or in some cases contrast to make the channel more visible.Colour can also be used to reflect a channel’s content; a large variety of colours and textures can be used dynamically to interact with a programme being shown and different colours can be used at different times in the day.
Graphics are used in idents to reinforce the visual aspect of channel identification; shapes and colours associated with a channel can be incorporated into an ident for immediate clarity and can associate the ident with the channel. For example, BBC1 and 2 both use live-action and CG scenes heavily in their idents, while channels such as BBC3 and E4 prefer to use a heavily stylised and artistic look. Graphics are used in the BBC1 and 2 idents to break up the live action and tie it to the channel with familiar shapes and colours; for example BBC1’s red ribbons.
Similar to colour and graphics, movement is mostly used to reflect a channel’s content or maintain a visual style across the channel. There is a trend among more popular entertainment channels such as E4 and BBC3 to use complicated idents with many different objects and assets on screen to demonstrate the channel’s busy, fun identity, while other channels such as BBC1 and Channel 4 use movement less artistically and more functionally to visually identify themselves.
A particular slide catching your eye?
Clipping is a handy way to collect important slides you want to go back to later.