Circle Health

3D ‘MTV’ Dance Animation for the TikTok Era

Bring the energy!
The lovely folks over at TMP worldwide came to us with an amazing brief, to create a bold and exciting promo video to help recruit experienced theatre staff into Circle Health’s hospitals.


To get a rep
Specifically, Circle wanted the campaign to stand out in a very ambitious way from the standard healthcare fare, which lacked the pizazz they were looking for. They wanted to build a reputation for high standards and a dynamic, modern culture.

“Don’t try and make me cry.

I’m sick of that John Lewis Christmas film tone that seems to have infected every film in this industry.

I want this to be cool.”

David Cooper
Chief People Officer
Circle Health Group

The Strategy

Bring the fun!
The idea was to use movement, colour and character design to embody Circle’s brand values into a dance animation that would to energise and inspire potential recruits.

Get your freak on!
Al Wotton, head of creative at TMPW, had the genius idea of styling these videos like the classic 90’s MTV hiphop videos by Hype Williams – that was all he had to say, we were ON IT!

The cinematographers party
We knew to do this successfully, the elements we would need would be…

> Some nice character design

> Dance choreography with the energy of a TikTok / MTV dance video.

> Great costumes

> Cool lighting

> Funky camera moves/angles and the obligatory VX1000 Mk1 fish eye lens of the era

To integrate all of these elements together in a holistic manner, we’d need everything from a traditional cinematographer’s toolkit and a few extra more digital tricks too…

Contemporary 3D character creation

We spent a lot of time making a leggy set of characters who would be perfect for busting a groove. We put so much into the character design that they warrant their own blog post!

Costume design


Crazy, Sexy, Cool…Professional!
Getting the right tone for our costumes was a balancing act between being fun and entertaining, whilst also giving off a professional feel and adhering to PPE guidelines in the operating theatre etc. We referenced both professional clinical wear and 90’s/2000’s hiphop fashion.

Fashion faux-pas no more!
As we were working on this project during the pandemic, Crocs shoes were trending as a fashion item, but they are also very popular with healthcare practitioners – this was an opportunity not to miss! We defo needed some bling gold ones like Questlove wore at the Oscars.

Story telling with light

Start lighting early
Since we first saw how Pixar do this many years ago, we now always try to bring the light and colour design into the storyboarding phase whilst we still have a chance to change the environments and layouts to best tell the story through light.

Go to the light
We designed the flow of the animation to start off dark with a dramatic reveal of the characters, then we moved into a high energy feel by using the highest range of contrast between light and dark that we could. As we get into the operating theatre and the animation starts to crescendo, we up the lighting brighter and brighter, to end on a bright, positive note for the call to action at the end.

Gimme the light!


Practical lighting
Early on, having spent the best day of ‘research‘ watching classic MTV videos, we knew we’d want to use practical lighting (i.e. lights that you actually see on camera, not hidden away off camera) as much as possible. We needed bold, graphic, bright strokes of light to get the right look.


Bright, powerful and flexible lighting is essential in the theatre environment, so here we found another great moment of serendipity as we used another opportunity to mix dance culture with the hospital theme. We hit on the idea of building a modular theatre disco light! One that we could accessorise with different shapes for every shot

Environment design

In the mix
The environment design followed along the same pattern as the other elements, looking for places where the hygienic, austere, easy to clean hospital environments could fuse with a minimalistic, all white set built for aesthetics inspired by classic Dieter Rams Braun products.

Back to the future
We ended up with a retro-futurist, kind of 60’s space age, dance video /sci-fi movie set. References included Apple park in Cupertino and 2001 a space odyssey. We worked in more practical lighting by turning the omnipresent polystyrene ceiling tiles into a gridded kaleidoscope of harmonious colours.

White on white
The main reason for the ‘white only’ look was so that we could go absolutely anywhere with the colours of the lighting and costumes, and the environment would go along for the ride, we built in some subtle richness with a mixture of rough and glossy surfaces.

Colour keys


One step at a time
We started our choreography by researching our favourite music / dance videos, mainly on Youtube. We didn’t limit ourselves to particular genres and we took influences from a very wide range of eras and styles. We were particularly impressed by videos where the camera and dance moves work together as a single integrated unit, and we were determined to design some impressive set pieces with a wow factor.

You’re twisting my melon man
After our youtube music video binge down memory lane, we were left with some quite ambitious ideas, now the tricky part, how to plan all that out!! We had some favourite music videos, some storyboards, some environment designs and some costume ideas, but we were still struggling a little to imagine how it would all look together.

Blocking out across departments

The director’s vision
Because we had so many people working in parallel, each on a different aspect of the production, having a daily edit which everyone could see was essential for effective communication.

We managed to boil down the majority of our work in progress across multiple departments into single video which got produced every day and went out to the whole team, the agency and the client

Pre-visualise THIS!
One thing which has been growing in popularity over the last few years is pre-vis, i.e. a super crappy, but 3D animation which explores our ideas in the storyboard, but in a much more spacial manner. We’ve been just getting more and more value out of this as we bring it earlier and earlier into our process…

Let’s get ready to rumble
As soon as the storyboard was nearing completion, we took work-in-progress versions of the characters that the 3D modellers were still working on, and we started to bulk out the shapes of the environments, and we also started putting really rough camera animation in there.

Integrating all our departments
Good animation is produced with a sure but steady iterative process.

A small, off-the-cuff creative tweak such as a change of the camera angle might need the environment to change shape, which then affects which 3D models we will need in the background, and may also need the lighting artist to change their lighting design completely!

Why pre-vis?
Finding these kind of problems as early as possible saves a lot of time and money on the production, despite the extra costs of doing the pre-vis as an extra step.

Complex choreography
If you watch the above video, you’ll see just how we approached some of the more ambitious shots like shot G where there are things happening all of the place, the pre-vis really helped bulk out everything, our lighting guys were able to start lighting the pre-vis scenes really on in the process and explore how light could help tell the story too. Sadly, we were not able to show the choreography references we used here.

The final animation

Award winning animation
We had such a blast making this project and we think the results speak for themselves, but the video won a The Firm award in 2022 for the Best use of video!

Teamwork… makes the dream work!
We think this success stands as a testament to the building of great collaborative relationships… from our tight-knit team, our close work with the agency, and all the way to the end client who was delighted.

Ideas followed freely and were built upon in a very positive manner, always in service of the end goal that we clearly defined at the very start of the project.

The results

“Nobody’s done a film like this in healthcare.
We wanted a head-turner and we got it.”

David Cooper
Chief People Officer
Circle Health Group

Year-on-year increase in applications

Clicks through to website

Increase in page views

“Healthcare recruitment
comms are vanilla. This is
cayenne pepper.”

David Cooper
Head of Talent Acquisition
Circle Health Group

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