Tatarstan. Along the Roads of Discovery

Series of graphic episodes for the documentary film about Tatarstan

Once again, we set ourselves a task of not just formally illustrating the presenter's story, but to do it artistically, in an extraordinary and interesting way. This time, we chose ancient wooden Chinese miniatures as the basis for our inspiration, so we built the entire visual story in this style.

AwardsBehance – Featured in 3D Motion (2023)


The Tatars, like their ancestors, have always worshipped the water element: evaporating, the water enters the sky, and it returns down to the earth as rain. The ancient Bulgars, the people who lived on the territory of modern Tatarstan, had a proverb: do good and let it float on the water, and even if the fish does not know about it, Tengri (heavenly spirit; the supreme deity of the sky of the Turkic and Mongolian peoples.)


The main task for us was to figure out how to convey this intricate cycle with the help of a single camera. We needed to show in one action the movement of the river and rain, the supremacy of Tengri, and the worship of the people through shamans in order to unite both worlds — material and spiritual.

Storyboards for "Water" episode
Storyboards for "Water" episode
Storyboards for "Water" episode

Ivan the Terrible

The great Russian tsar, Ivan the Terrible, took Kazan by cunning. During one of the unsuccessful campaigns, he spotted an island not far from Kazan. Ivan the Terrible decided to build a fortress city here — with the aim of capturing the Kazan capital named Khanate. But to prevent the enemy from suspicions, it was decided to chop down the fortress in a completely different place — in the forests of Uglich, then to dismantle it and move it down the Volga river by ships to the right place almost a thousand kilometers away during spring.


The main task for us, as in the previous episode, was to work out the complex and intricate choreography of a single camera, leading the viewer through the narrative. The constant intraframe change of size and scale is our main tool to help in solving this problem.

Concept for "Ivan The Terrible" episode
Camera movement scheme

Leo Tolstoy

The plot of Leo Tolstoy's story "After the Ball" was based on a real incident, which the future great writer witnessed in Kazan. The objects appearing in the work can be easily recognized even today: the “girls’ institute” is the Rodionov Institute for Noble Maidens, where Lev Nikolayevich’s sister studied, and the place where the fugitive soldier was beaten with gauntlets is called Tolstoy Street now.


The basis for this episode was inspired by the famous Goya painting "The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters". In one simple movement of the camera, we had to put together several different scenes.

Mood concepts for "Leo Tolstoy" episode
Mood concepts for "Leo Tolstoy" episode


Firewalls, that is, brick partitions, were erected between adjacent wooden houses, so that in case of fire they would stop it. We also decided to make this infographic episode in the style of a wooden miniature.


Conventions are not allowed in documentaries, so for this episode we modelled miniatures of real Kazan houses of that time, and set fire to one of them.

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Another infographic episode done in miniature style, this time it's a map. The episode illustrates the place where its largest tributary, the Kama River, flows into the Volga. Interestingly, the average annual consumption of the Kama at the confluence is greater than that of the Volga. And if it were not for the historical tradition, it would be the Volga that should be considered a tributary of the Kama River.

Styleframes for "River" episode


Tatars are the second largest people in Russia. More than two million people live here in the republic. Another one and a half million people are Russians. Next in number are the Chuvash, Udmurts, Mordovians, Mari, Ukrainians, Bashkirs and many others. There are more than 170 nations in total, which makes Tatarstan one of the most multinational republics in the country.

This is the only episode where we couldn't get by with wood textures alone. In order to make the differences as clear as possible, we created national costumes for couples of each of the nationalities with the CGI.

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Creative directorAlexey Dimkov

Executive ProducerTimofey Penkov

Chief Technical OfficerDmitrii Dolgikh

Creative producerNatasha Sorokina

ProducerIra Vorobyova

Dobro teamMarina Pustovaya, George Mamatov, Anton Verevkin, Elena Rasokhina, Anna Pozdeeva, Alexander Guryev, Kirill Vygranenko, Arthur Terletsky, Sergey Sverdlik

IT supportVadim Dobrazhan

Special thanks toIndar Dzhendubaev

And alsoDasha Petukhova, Lubov Lobanova, Yury Vinogradov, Svetlana Shamray, Anna Kostina, Nadezhda Lossenko, Yury Snitko-Butenko, Svetlana Mamchur, Arthur Gadzhiev, Kirill Tiufyakov, Anton Eremin, Oleg Sadovnichiy

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