Spin and Yuri Suzuki collaborate on Mubi’s atmospheric new ident inspired by 60s cinema

The ident uses an experimental mix of visual and sonic techniques, influenced by a “film about a film”, Henri-George Clouzot’s L’ Enfer.

Date
18 August 2021
Reading Time
3 minutes

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Film streaming platform and production company Mubi has worked with Spin studio and Pentagram partner Yuri Suzuki on its new ident, taking visual and sonic inspiration from 60s era cinema techniques. The atmospheric ident takes cues from Henri-George Clouzot’s L’ Enfer (The Inferno, 1964), which itself was influenced by 60s op-artists Victor Vasarely and Jean-Pierre Yvaral, known for using shapes, colours and patterns to create images that look as if they are moving or blurring.

This gave Spin’s Tony Brook and his team a graphic device through which to tell a story of cinema’s evolution. “We loved the idea of making an atmospheric journey that gives a sense of travelling through time, from the beginnings of film in black and white, evolving into glorious colour, from complexity to clarity that ends on Mubi's identity,” says Brook. He adds that the colour palette drew from Wong Kar-wai’s films: “deep, rich, evocative and very beautiful”. The ident experiments with a blend of digital animation, projections and high-end digital cinema cameras.

The soundtrack by Yuri Suzuki similarly uses a mix of techniques, particularly analogue ones such as reel-to-reel tape recorders, musique concrete, string instruments and pen point percussion – literally sound created by drawing dots on a film machine. Suzuki tells It’s Nice That that he aimed to create a sound logo that was “not easy to digest but something intriguing” because he sees Mubi as “adventurous and radical” and supportive of independent film. Mubi creative director Pablo Martin sent Suzuki and his team an image from an early film experiment of L’ Enfer, which Suzuki says reminded him of early musique concrete tape collage artists such as Pierre Henry, and the British Radiophonic workshop’s Delia Derbyshire’s approach to the fabrication of sound with tapes. “The brief became how to create sounds primarily without a computer,” he explains, “organically sampling sound and making melody.”

Spin and Yuri Suzuki: Mubi ident, 4s (Copyright © Mubi, 2021)

This approach influenced the use of pen point percussion, inspired by Norman McLaren, who essentially drew sound manually on to a film soundtrack. So Suzuki and his team bought an old 16mm optical sound reader and began to record their own sound, adding excitement and energy to the track. They also used reel-to-reel tape recorders to “exploit the tonal qualities of tape” which typically adds warmth and grittiness to sound. Tape was cut up and spliced to create a collaged sound, which blends with the melodic string recordings, recorded with some of the best string players in the UK and bringing an emotive and cinematic drama to the soundtrack.

Suzuki explains the melody also reflects Mubi’s logo itself, which comprises seven dots apparently because film is known as the seventh art. “We were inspired by this concept and made a melody based on 7th chords and a 3-3-1 main melody which links to animation well.” As the ident needs to work at various durations, the sonic DNA is designed to “retain one overall mood” at shorter and longer lengths. “This approach is something we call modular sound branding, and through the use of creative arrangements, we are able to tailor the identity to any length.”

Mubi’s previous idents have been made in collaboration with Nicolas Winging Refn (2017), Lucy Raven (2018) and Peter Tscherkassky (2019); in those cases Mubi’s founder and CEO Efe Cakarel says they gave “complete creative freedom”. This time, however, it was Cakarel himself that led the concept to be inspired by L’ Enfer. “The idea of an ident for Mubi inspired by a film about a film is just perfection; it still makes me smile.” From there, he handed the baton to longtime partner Spin and Suzuki “the best sound designer in the world… and the whole thing came together. This is our ‘Leo the Lion’.”

The new ident will be premiered to a public audience at Edinburgh International Film Festival on 21 August.

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Spin and Yuri Suzuki: Mubi ident, 30s (Copyright © Mubi, 2021)

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About the Author

Jenny Brewer

After five years as It’s Nice That’s news editor, Jenny became online editor in June 2021, now overseeing the website’s daily editorial output. Contact her with stories, pitches and tips relating to the creative industries on jb@itsnicethat.com.

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