Sarofsky Crafts Main Titles for YouTube Series
November 1, 2017 by Screenmag
The new YouTube Red original series "Ryan Hansen Solves Crimes on Television" had its global premiere on Oct. 25..and that asterisk in the title is packed with meaning: When it appears, viewers can look for some extended explanation along the lines of, "even though you're probably watching this on your phone and that's cool too."
Breaking new ground in the hallowed realm of TV crime programming, this Hollywood-based action-comedy series teams actors with LAPD homicide detectives to solve crimes. It stars Ryan Hansen, Emmy nominee Samira Wiley, and a who's who of stars playing bizarro versions of themselves, including Joel McHale, Donald Faison, Eric Christian Olsen, Jon Cryer and Kristen Bell.
When show creator Rawson Marshall Thurber (director of CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE, WE'RE THE MILLERS and DODGEBALL: A TRUE UNDERDOG STORY) and his colleagues set out to find the perfect company to create their new show's main titles, design-driven production company Sarofsky made their short list. Well known for its work on title sequences for blockbuster films, TV dramas and comedies, the company's creative team in Chicago was thrilled to land the opportunity.
According to Sarofsky's lead designer Duarte Elvas, the show's executive producers Beau Bauman and Krysia Plonka started by providing a lot of insights about Ryan, the show's premise, and their goals for the opening. "They really wanted to introduce Ryan's quirky and goofy personality and his relationship with Samira's character, while conveying the show's self-aware nature," he began.
Duarte also pointed out the importance of social media to the show, and the network's vision of it being consumed on devices like smartphones and tablets. Knowing they wanted their solution to be funny, they were free to play with ideas about a star creating his own show. After mocking-up ideas like a temp title and navigating a fake IMDB page, they also presented a more traditional title sequence with a surprise ending. That version – using a familiar split-screen editing style and fun, iconic moments from the show... as Ryan himself watches the footage on computers, a tablet, a smartphone, a VR headset and an Apple Watch – was the producers' hands-down favorite.
"This treatment allowed us to introduce Ryan and Samira while also setting up the show-within-a-show idea, and the different viewing platforms," Duarte explained. "Secondary design elements such as crime scene tape and the split screens also helped establish the crime-show vibe."
Something special to look for in each new episode is how the asterisk in the show's title is used. According to Duarte, it will always be something different.
Among other insights, Duarte also explained that they used soundtracks from several classic crime-solving shows to establish the style and the pace of the main title sequence, which was later given a custom track.
The live-action footage was provided by the show's producers in 8K resolution, giving Sarofsky's team its first opportunity to develop a post-production workflow with such high-resolution material. Associate producer Justin Pittman worked closely with Sarofsky's technical leads, including executive producer Steven Anderson, producer James Babiarz, VFX supervisor Matt Crnich, CG director David Hyatt, and creative finishing/VFX artist Cory Davis to tackle the complexities.
The high number of screens-within-screens in a 4K deliverable required the team to use lower-resolution proxies during development, which would later be replaced by conformed and color-corrected high-resolution clips. While Adobe After Effects was used for animation and compositing, the 3D crime scene tape and credits were developed and rendered in Autodesk Maya, in a way to elegantly resolve the "pull-back" effect. Autodesk Smoke was used for 4K project finishing and delivery.
Naturally, company principal Erin Sarofsky was also onboard as executive creative director. Along with concepting and brainstorming with the show team, she guided and oversaw all aspects of the title sequence's development. Sarofsky's deliverables also included an animated end title card that graphically wraps up each episode. That imagery using palm trees and warm hues is their loving homage to Hollywood celebrity culture.
"It's always very gratifying to work on shows that make us all laugh out loud," she said. "This entire process was extremely collaborative, and everyone was excited to contribute. It's a dream come true when going to work is a place where everyone is having fun."