Films

9/11: Four Flights & Rise and Fall: The World Trade Center

Client

Left/Right & History

For the 20th anniversary of 9/11, we partnered with our friends at Left/Right to design a graphic package for two of the four films in HISTORY’s 4-film block focused on the anniversary of the attacks. Both 9/11: Four Flights and Rise and Fall: The World Trade Center provide a sweeping recollection of the historical event with Four Flights focusing on the people on the planes and Rise and Fall taking viewers through the construction and subsequent fall of the towers themselves.

9/11: Four Flights & Rise and Fall: The World Trade Center

Remembrance

Four Flights

With any project centered around 9/11, you want to take an approach that prioritizes sensitivity to the subject. Because of this, we did a lot of our initial thinking and design using the lidar technique - a dark, pointellated world where pictures are created via a constellation of dots. The semi-transparency of this technique in design allows for gravitas in the graphics while the subject matter is still visible. This technique became a throughline for both films in this collaboration.

Four Flights

For Four Flights, we took the look we’d established with the lidar technique and sought to apply it to the specific scenes selected for recreation. The recreated scenes ranged from the planes sitting at the airport through to some more sensitive scenes of the interior of the cockpit as it was stormed during United Flight 93. We developed a map language to trace the flights’ individual journeys throughout the day and maintained a connected design to visually tell that story.

BigStar artist Nick Donatelli utilized Houdini to design the lidar plane scenes for the flights and then BigStar Creative Director John Leamy set up all the previous scenes in Cinema4D.

We took extra care to be deferential to the sensitive subject within this particular documentary because it featured so many actual people and their travels on the four fateful flights that day. In this case, the lidar design really enhanced our ability to add some abstractness to the scenes of the people so as not to infringe on anyone’s memory and maintain respect for those victims. The end result was a graphic package that is sophisticated and effective in its storytelling, but doesn’t necessarily feel too much like a memorial.

Remembrance

Rise and Fall: World Trade Center

The second film we focused on for HISTORY’s block of 9/11 programming was Rise and Fall: The World Trade Center, which provides a more in-depth look at the history of the development of the towers and their subsequent fall through a unique architectural and engineering lens. To design for the chronological telling of the conception, construction and destruction of the World Trade Center towers, we utilized the same lidar technique as in Four Flights.

Rise and Fall: World Trade Center

To recreate the towers in 3D, we wanted to be as accurate in our depiction as possible, so we bought a physical 3D model of the World Trade Center. From there, we were able to use our lidar look and explain the different aspects of how the towers were built.

To emphasize the architectural feats of the towers, we created a slurry wall and tube system to get as granular as possible in the graphic visualizations of the construction process and details. Another aspect of the buildings we explained in 3D was the Hudson River powered HVAC system that cooled the buildings in lieu of traditional units. It was rewarding to identify the components that made the towers so unique and give them visuals in order for viewers to grasp the monumental undertaking that building and maintaining these towers consisted of.

The 3D graphics were layered in with illustration and typography and then animated to create a beautiful homage to the buildings in the film’s title sequence.

Frequently, our work on 9/11 pieces is understandably emotionally charged, so delving into the architecture on this film was a welcome respite, and even humorous at times such as the moments the film recounts the city’s negative reception to the towers’ impact on the skyline during construction.

Contributing to 9/11 focused work is something we are honored to do on an annual basis. This twentieth anniversary is particularly momentous because it is a reminder how resilient our country and especially New York City can be in the face of adversity. Special thanks to our longtime partners at Left/Right who continue to collaborate with us year over year on telling these meaningful stories about September 11, 2001 and how far we’ve come in the twenty years since.

Props where props are due

Credits

Four Flights
  • Executive Creative Director
    Josh Norton
  • Creative Director
    John Leamy
  • Design Director
    Ross Henderson
  • Executive Producer
    Carson Hood
  • Producer
    Kristen Pritchett
  • Main Title Design
    Josh Norton
  • Main Title Animation
    Brian Landisman
  • 3D Flight Previs & Design
    John Leamy, Alec Iselin, Nicolas Donatelli
  • 2D/3D Animation
    Brian Landisman, Liu Chia-Lung, Nicolas Donatelli
Rise & Fall
  • Executive Creative Director
    Josh Norton
  • Creative Director
    John Leamy
  • Design Director
    Ross Henderson
  • Executive Producer
    Carson Hood
  • Producer
    Kristen Pritchett
  • Main Title Design
    Jane Wu, Ross Henderson
  • Main Title Animation
    Brian Landisman
  • Film Design
    Ross Henderson, Ivan Viaranchyk
  • 2D/3D Animation
    Brian Landisman, Liu Chia-Lung, Nicolas Donatelli

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