13 June 2014

Last year Spellbound won a tender to create a film for the Department of Energy & Climate Change. It was the start of what turned out to be several great projects on a subject that is compelling, controversial, scary and uncertain.

The initial brief was to produce a 3-5 minute film that

  • clearly communicated DECC’s core purpose and the key challenges and opportunities the Department face.
  • avoided information overload
  • had an urgency that reflected the relevance of energy issues to business and the public
  • emotionally engaged the viewer, encouraging them to go on and find out more.
  • could be used across a wide range of platforms, ranging from YouTube to formal ministerial presentations
  • and similarly could be used with a number of different audiences

Our approach was to create an animation. We felt that this style of film could communicate information in a clear and straightforward way and give us lots of creative options to show technology working in a way that would be impossible to film. It would also make the film timeless, allow DECC to own the assets and style and resonate with multiple audience types in multiple countries. Finally, in more than any other film genre, animation can be used as a visual
language that not only supports and reinforces the script but provides a further stream of information. This is particularly helpful in situations where complex subject matters need to be conveyed clearly and concisely.

Initially we decided that a blend of motion and infographics with a more illustrated feel would be our approach as the story we were telling was vast yet detailed. However, as we developed the script it became increasingly apparent that we needed a character to help navigate the audience through the world we were creating.

DECC Character

This character needed to be someone multiple audiences could relate to – smart but not a brainbox, uncomplicated but not emotionless, generic but with personality, credible but likeable and finally able to integrate in to various scenarios. A tall order! After much tweaking, a sort of cross between Brian Cox and Woody Allen was born! We were proud parents (and at the same time Mark, our director, also had a baby girl…a real one!)

One of the main challenges with the project was the script. The story of energy is a big one and it was necessary to provide an explanation of how we, as a nation, have come to the point where we need to invest in a new energy infrastructure. This story could easily make up an entire documentary series but we had just a few seconds to sum it up. If that were not enough, at the same time we were writing the script, DECC were writing the energy policies. So the policies that informed the script were changing and that meant our script had to continuously adapt and evolve in line with the policies.


We knew we wanted to keep the animation style fairly simple and predominantly in 2D so we used Illustrator to create the scenarios. Using Illustrator meant that all of the images were vector and therefore could be scaled and used across any media without any loss in quality. After the animation was completed this became very useful for DECC as they were able to use the character and the environments in their online and print communications. The animation itself was done in Apple Motion – an often overlooked piece of software when in the presence of Adobe’s After Effects but one we very much enjoy using.

DECC Energy Infrastructure

We were delighted to receive a call a few months after the animation was finished to say that DECC required a further two animated films about the infrastructure and the consumer. We have just finished the production of both as well as translating all 3 films into multiple languages.

Spellbound demonstrated a huge amount of creativity to translate complex policy into a compelling story about the UK energy challenge. Patience, flexibility and a determination to deliver a high quality product were apparent at every stage of the production process. We were particularly pleased with the standard of the final film, which has attracted praise from inside and outside of government.
Head of Partnerships and Campaigns | Department of Energy and Climate Change

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