The BBC's operatic, embroidered World Cup 2018 film: how it was made

The BBC’s World Cup trailer is an operatic montage of historic and memorable events from football’s biggest tournament, all of which were painstakingly embroidered frame by frame and photographed into a 60-second trailer. The BBC Creative duo behind the spot explained how their idea came to life in The Drum’s latest Anatomy of an Ad.

Xander Hart and Edward Usher brainstormed ‘History Will Be Made’ off the back of a brief calling for a trailer to capture the global, cultural significance of the World Cup – rather than focusing too heavily on football itself.

Inspired by how history was once recorded, the partners set about drafting two tapestry projects: a seven-foot wall-hanging that will go on public display, and a series of more than 600 embroideries that when stitched together form the BBC’s hero World Cup film.

‘The Tapestry’, directed by Nicos Livesey, is a montage of iconic moments from the tournament: from Bobby Moore’s 1966 trophy life to Iceland’s Viking Clap. It also features the faces of this year’s footballing talent; Lionel Messi, Harry Kane and Cristiano Ronaldo all appear in fabric form.

The film was first animated by Blinkink before each image was sent to an embroiderery studio in London to be stitched into a physical frame. In total More than 227,000 metres of thread was used to create the spot, which was directed be Nicos Livesey.

The soundtrack – the Russian folk song Ochi Chernye – was specially rearranged for the trailer by Alex Baranowski. It was recorded at Abbey Road Studios and features the voice of Sir John Tomlinson.

Usher explained the huge amount of work that went into painstakingly embroidering each frame – as well as creating a separate, public tapestry – was all part of the ethos and remit BBC Creative, the broadcaster’s in-house agency.

We thought it would be amazing to create something that would last and something we could put into a museum. We decided we weren’t going to cheat on anything as it were.

"What we wanted to do at the BBC is make stuff that no-one’s really done before," said User. “If we’d just gone, ‘let’s CGI it’ it would have felt like a cop out.

"There’s a lot of backing of the BBC Creative project and this is the second big project that we’ve had the opportunity to work on after last year’s Christmas campaign. There’s a lot of people that trust the creative and the creative directors here to create something that’s completely unique and new that will put us on the map."

The visual style inspired by Russian graphics and art will feature in all of BBC’s World Cup coverage. The film first aired today (19 May) during the FA Cup Final.