BTS: The making of TEDxSydney opening titles HumanKind video

Scott Geersen

The TEDx Sydney 2018 opening video titles explore this year’s topic of Humankind by taking us through the TEDxSydney Museum, where our present and potential future collide with the past. Modern subjects are mixed with classical forms, and the suspended animation of sculpture kindles poignant evaluation of our place within humanity’s short timeline.

Creating a film that could comment on our society and culture was something we had wanted to do for a long time, and something that our other work in films and TV commercials often doesn’t allow for. The invitation from TEDxSydney to design titles for the 2018 event was the perfect opportunity to produce something that would not only satisfy a creative brief but also speak on a much more personal level, to tell a story with more universal resonance.


Having a one-word brief of “Humankind” (an incredibly large topic!) made for a challenging start, in deciding where the focus should be and what would be left out, while doing justice to the values of TED. We looked at many other examples, from pieces that blended a million years of science and evolution into a whirlwind montage, to pieces that focused on a single specific issue as a microcosm of humanity.

For us, the response to “Humankind” turned out to be a two-part approach.

Part one was to link to the educational aspect of TEDxSydney. In 2017 at TEDxSydney we had explored this playfully for “Unconventional” with bright colours and lively geometric shapes to illustrate the abstract concept.

For TEDxSydney 2018, we left childhood behind and took a more serious view. We imagined a TEDxSydney branded museum or gallery as a repository of history and learning, containing sculptures and installations that functioned as small windows into the much wider subject of Humankind, as TED talks do.

Part two of our approach was to decide exactly what sculptures to house within the blank rooms and empty halls. Here we could have shown HumanKind’s impact on the planet, our technological achievements, or the traits that distinguish the human species. In galleries and museums worldwide though, there is one strong motif that stands out, in both art and history alike. As we described in our treatment of TEDxSydney:

“The human figure is one of the most fascinating and enduring subjects in visual culture. From the earliest of times, sculptural contemplations, imitations, and interpretations of the human image have been at the centre of our representation, exploration, and understanding of ourselves, as individuals and as a collective.

For this reason, we put forward a direction for the TEDxSydney opening video 2018 titles that would cinematically explore the past, present, and future of HumanKind through renditions of the human form, constructed to illustrate the best and worst of ourselves.

We narrowed this down further still by listing ideas of importance to our species and concepts worth exploring, then mixed them up, jamming them together, looking for juxtapositions and ideas that would resonate with topics commonly addressed by TED talks word-wide.

This was how we end up with scenes like the school girls learning about robotics – with references to tech, education, religion, feminism and equality. With limited screen time, we aimed to touch on a variety of topics with sensitivity and respect, all presented without overt commentary so that the audience could interpret this for themselves.

It was important to us and TEDxSydney that in addition to celebrating humankind, we should not shy away from difficult or ugly topics. It was in this spirit we approached scene selection, where school shootings appear alongside themes of equality and feminism and the destruction of war alongside the ingenuity of a child. We aimed for a balance that reflected the reality we live in.

In designing the museum itself, we drew inspiration from a variety of architectural sources. The contemplation courtyard that contains the school shooting is based loosely on the work of Japanese Architect Tadao Ando, who favours a brutalist style we find appealing. Other influences came from museums in London, Berlin, New York, and the inspiring designs of the pavilions of the Venice Biennale.

We approached the titles for TEDx Sydney with seriousness, honesty, and authenticity, with the aim that people not present at the TEDxSydney event could watch this piece and be left with the same feeling of hope for a better HumanKind, after an honest look at our current position.

We hope you may feel the same.


The team is a group of skilled digital artists, designers, editors, and musicians from around the world, coordinated through Substance, based in Sydney.

Direction: Scott Geersen

Layout, Cinematography: Substance

Edit: Joe Morris

Look Dev / Shading / Lighting: Rich Nosworthy, Rory McLean, Jeff Briant, Ezequiel Grand, Scott Geersen

Additional Sculpts: Ezequiel Grand, Rich Nosworthy

Original Music & Sound Design: CypherAudio / John Black & Tobias Norberg

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