Ways to make effective television mocks, in static or animated forms.
According to one YouTube video, the internet is supposedly made of cats. If like myself you tend to have a penchant for old television programmes and graphics, you will find that old TV idents or programmes tend to feature highly in cyberspace. As well as being a portal for forgotten sitcoms and continuity, this has inspired many users to create mocks. Often they are reconstructions of old TV station mocks, if for example, ATV continued to be the West Midlands’ ITV franchise (rather than as the reconstituted ATV a.k.a Central Independent Television). Sometimes they may be for fictitious channels.
Thanks to software packages like Sony Vegas and Bluff Titler, it is possible to make title sequences equal to contemporary broadcasters’ efforts. Adobe Photoshop and free equivalents like The GIMP allows for effortless creation of professional still graphics, cheaper than and more widely available than Quantel Paintbox ever was. Even so, some mock makers insist on using Microsoft Paint and the different in graphic quality shows.
The 12 Planks of TV Mock Making:
- If you need to set your television mock in a certain year or decade, look at the graphics used in that period: the excellent TV Ark website is a worthy resource;
- Respect the aspect ratios used in your desired decade, year or month: please note that most modern day productions are film using the 16:9 Widescreen ratio;
- When designing a mock for widescreen usage, please ensure that it also works well in the 4:3 ratio to placate views with such television receivers;
- If you are doing continuity graphics, research (and I stress this most importantly) the programmes of your desired era. For example: Open University programming has only been seen on the BBC;
- Type is everything! If your mock follows a ‘what might have been’ theme (i.e. if ABC still had the North of England’s weekend contract), look at the typefaces used. Do this by checking your Fonts folder on Windows or Font Book on Mac OS X operating systems;
- Plan your prospective mock as a rough sketch or succession of thumbnail sketches;
- For moving image mocks, create a storyboard;
- If you’re stuck for typefaces, as to which font is which, visit the excellent What The Font website;
- Choose your colours carefully: if you’re designing captions, opt for some contrast between typeface and background colours;
- Keep to a maximum of two typefaces. Or better still, stick to just one;
- Choose your typefaces carefully: avoid Comic Sans like the plague; use serif faces sparingly. For captions and programme listings, a sans-serif font of some description works best;
- Keep your mock simple: choose your images carefully, so as to avoid clashing or engulfing textual content.
For the sake of quality, I recommend opting for resolutions consistent with contemporary broadcasting standards.
For non-HD standard definition, and publishing on YouTube, 360p is a good measure for widescreen and 4:3 productions. For still images (Adobe Photoshop), 1080 x 721 is a good size for 16:9 widescreen mocks, with 1024 x 768 a good bet for glorious 4:3.
As stated elsewhere, please allow for (albeit fictitious) 4:3 ratio viewers. On your 1080 x 721 widescreen image, using Adobe Photoshop or The GIMP, add two guides to your images, 28px from the left and the right of your image.
If your still mock uses a limited palette, save your work using the PNG or the GIF file format. If your image is likely to use far more colours, JPEG or TIF are your best bets.
If you are doing a continuity or start-up mock where programme listings are part and parcel of your project, visit your nearest Local Studies Library (often in main town centres or the administrative capital of each local authority). By doing so, make use of the library’s microfilm readers (advance booking may be required) by scanning the local newspapers’ TV listings of that period.
I also recommend borrowing a suitable book on typefaces, or visiting websites on the subject. Some contemporary typefaces may not have been around in your preferred decade, year, month or time-space dimension. For example, Arial wasn’t around till 1982 which rules out the use of that font on mocks set before then.
Here is a list of typefaces used by some broadcasters past and present, which may be useful for your future mock:
- Franklin Gothic: used by London Weekend Television, 1968 – 1986;
- Stymie Black Italic: used by Granada Television, 1956 – 1968. Also seen on its Quay Street studios till 2010;
- Clarendon Bold: used by Granada Television, 1968 – 1990;
- Gill Sans: widely used by the BBC since 1997;
- ITC Kabel: popularly used in the mid to late 1970s by ITV for trailers and credits (for example, 3-2-1 used it from 1978 to 1983);
- Prisma: another popular decorative font, again used for trailers and credits (for example: New Faces, 1973 – 1978; Name That Tune, 1983 – 1987);
- Helvetica: popular across all ITV franchises and the BBC for programme listings, trailers and credits.
Depending on specification and any programs you may have installed, your computer may include the above fonts or offer equivalents. The 1001 Free Fonts website is worth a gander if you’re on a budget and able to find suitable alternatives. All of the above fonts are also available from Monotype’s website, albeit at a price.
Graphical Types: ident and title designers
You may have come across these names if you’ve seen the credits on your favourite programmes or read substantial amounts of television websites or publications like myself:
- Red Bee Media: BBC’s de facto in-house design team. Also works with the ‘other side’ on some programmes;
- Jump: often famed for their animated intros and outros. For a good 15 years, they have designed the intro and outro for You’ve Been Framed, having gone through four presenters (Jeremy Beadle, Lisa Riley, Jonathan Wilkes and Harry Hill);
- John Tribe: one time graphic designer for LWT and illustrator by trade. His works include the titles for Agatha Christie’s The Seven Dials Mystery and Partners In Crime TV adaptations, End of Part One and A Little Princess;
- Peter Phillips: a designer who has worked for both BBC and ITV with news programming and continuity his forte. Credits also include titles for Look North West/Northwest Tonight and Cheggers Plays Pop.
Before you create your first mock, make sure you have any of the following:
- A graphics program like Adobe Photoshop or The GIMP. The latter can be downloaded for free and is available for Windows, Linux and Mac OS X PCs;
- A Flickr or Photobucket account for sharing your creations;
- A YouTube account: available to register separately or as part of your Google Account to share your live action clips with;
- A copy of Sony Vegas or Bluff Titler. Or, you could use your operating system’s video editing program if you wish;
- A suitable sketch pad and art materials for your rough sketches or – if you prefer – hand drawn graphics for your mocks;
- A scanner for transferring your hand drawn images into digital form.
Happy mock making!
S.V., 05 May 2012.