Remington Markham

Smoketown (2017)

tv title sequence

 

My Role:

Creative Director

Visual Effects Artist

Turn Around Time:

2 months

 
 

A Message that Matters

It’s always exciting when you get to work on a project that communicates a pure message. Smoketown is a TV series airing on TBN that aims to tackle the topic of racism in America today. It’s exciting to have the chance to develop a sequence for a show with such a prevalent issue as the focus of the show.

Storyboards I illustrated to help communicate my needs on set.

Storyboards I illustrated to help communicate my needs on set.

In every meeting for this sequence, the same word kept appearing. “Divide.” People say “We are a divided nation.” That terminology stuck with me as I began working on my concepts for a pitch. One way pitched to convey a divide in the nation visually was to display a divide in the composition throughout the sequence. The director loved the idea and the show producer scheduled days for me to be on set to direct the sequence footage.

Comparison of storyboard and the final composition.

Comparison of storyboard and the final composition.

Challenging Tradition

When dealing with animations and videos you typically rely on screen left and screen right transitions. Smoketown’s title sequence handles screen direction differently. The goal was to divide the composition horizontally and vertically having it rotate back and forth as the scene changed. This helped direct attention towards the division present in the composition. As the sequence goes on, the dived compositions begin to bleed into one another. The division disappears towards the end as we conclude on the city sequence to signify a unity which is conveyed in the shows themes.

Still frame from the sequence.

Still frame from the sequence.

This project was a challenge because the composition was so unconventional. To flip the composition back and forth, from vertical to horizontal, it needed to have enough room for shots to fill the composition as it rotated. We recorded a lot of the live footage at high resolution with wide framing to compensate. CG elements were used to fill out the composition when necessary. It was a difficult but rewarding experience. Using such unique transitions required better preparation for compositions and designs in the pre-production process.

You never finish a project, you only quit working on it. Smoketown is definitely one of those projects, but I’m happy with where we quit and how much I learned before stopping.