Making every penny pack a punch


Everyone knows how important it is to make a good first impression, and the same
goes for title sequences – which could be considered as the initial how-do-you-do
between a TV show and its audience.

Yet more often than not titles are only allocated a sliver of a production’s budget or
are forgotten about until the final hour when turnaround time is minimal and only a
few scraps of finance are left to play with. Enter the thrifty trio at Huge Designs, a
London-based title design company which received an Emmy award for their Da
Vinci’s Demons title sequence.

Speaking at PromaxBDA Africa in November, owner and designer Hugo Moss
explained why having budget constraints can be a blessing in disguise. Together
with designers Paul McDonnell and Tamsin McGee, Moss uses the most industrious
and imaginative ways to make the impossible happen. From filming light
reflections, from a spinning award trophy to overlay in the Mr Selfridge title
sequence; to concocting home-made fake blood for the title of White Queen; there
are very few things they can’t create from inside their own office.

The title sequence for Da Vinci’s Demons was inspired by The Johnny Cash Project,
a music video created by visitors to the site who were able to take frames from the
video, add their own animation and effects and upload it again. The final product is
an interesting mish-mash of different images and styles. To implement this
technique in the title sequence Moss originally visited colleges to ask students to
draw illustrations, but proving unreliable he took another approach. “Instead we
worked with an illustrator we could trust – Leonardo da Vinci. His work is out of
copyright so we pillaged his book,’ jokes Moss. These free images were then
animated, tweaked and layered onto real footage from the show.

When compiling the title sequence for Any Human Heart, a series which tells the
story of one man’s journey through the 20th century, Moss and his team were faced
with the challenge of showing the progression of a man’s life from start to finish in
just 40 seconds. To accommodate their tight budget, they took various shots of in-
house designer Paul McDonnell on the roof of their offices completing poses and
actions which signified different life stage scenarios. These images were then
recreated for live action using an animation technique called rotoscoping.

Composer Dan Jones completed the title sequence with a complementary score.
“Music is everything for us,’ admits Moss, who relies on composers to marry his
designs with emotionally powerful and moving tracks.

Moss concludes: “Fighting against small budgets is such an amazing process.
Sometimes when you do something DIY, the results can be so much better.’ – Carly


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