An exploration of the nature of reality, as seen through the hopes and fears of a mother-to-be. Dreaming of a more colourful world for her child.

For TEDxSydney 2020, a group of the world’s best motion and sound studios were united in a global collaboration to illustrate the theme of “REAL”. After all, TEDx is about “ideas worth spreading”, and with reality so open to interpretation. A curated collaboration was perfectly suited to capturing the kaleidoscopic nature of the theme. Scott Geersen and Substance have been gifting us with TEDx intros for a couple of years now, just watch ‘Legacy‘ and ‘Humankind‘. But the ambitions got much bigger and global in 2020.

Each studio contributed their unique vision of reality, with the resulting diversity of concept and style supporting reality’s elastic nature. Together they illustrate the complexity of the real more completely than any could achieve alone. Woven together with the poetic glue of the dream narrative, the TEDx titles tell a story of hope, passed down from mother to child, in which we seek to reconcile a black and white reality with the dream of a more colourful life.

The collaborative approach supports a definition of reality as a sum of all things

Substance has provided the opening titles and event graphics package for TEDx Sydney for a few years now. And the idea of switching this up in 2020 to become a global project came about partly through the theme itself, and partly as a strategy to position the TEDx Sydney event as one with global impact.

Without getting too granular, the collaborative approach supports a definition of reality as a sum of all things – an aggregate. And this is emphasised through the unique stylistic approach of each interpretation. When all of the ideas are linked together, the audience understands that reality is both complex and multifaceted.

What we didn’t know when the collab began, and as we started to approach other studios, was that COVID19 was going to play such a large part in 2020. In a way though, the project gave us all something positive to focus on. Knowing that the message of hope we were creating would reach the world eventually.

Even though the pandemic continued to grow, the spirit of enthusiasm for the project remained high from all studios. Getting to know each other better through this work, seeing animations develop from concept deck to boards to animatic and beyond, was a tremendous shared experience for us all.

The tools to create REAL

We have a fascination for design-led storytelling, and the ways CGI, VFX and animation can augment or even fully represent experiences in moving image. And so of course no cameras were used in the making of these films – this is all 3D CGI, or 2D drawn and coloured digitally. That said, we bring the sensibilities of a film shoot to our CGI work. While digital can allow us to do anything at all, we do like to stick to a suite of prime-lens-style focal lengths, with real-world values for T- or F-stops. Our favourites are a 50 and 70mm.

All studios used use a variety of tools: PCs and Macs both, and various GPU-based render packages from Redshift to Arnold to Octane, as well as more traditional techniques of pencil and paint.

The project was initiated from Sydney, Australia, but sound and motion partners came from every continent.
Taiwain, Mumbai, Turin, Hamburg, Los Angeles, Portland, San Francisco, Michigan, Denver, New York, Philadelphia.


Bemo / Bullpen / Mighty Nice / Mixcode / Nerdo / Oddfellows / Post Office / Spillt / State / Substance

Original Music & Sound Design

Ambrose Yu

See the incredible full lineup of work on Behance