“A really great title sequence isn’t just an obligatory parade of names. It’s a short-form story that sets the tone and framework for a show,” says Ken Carlson, Creative Director, Big Machine.
He should know. The Burbank-based production company, which has been using Cinema 4D as its central 3D application since 2003, was among this years nominees for a 2019 Daytime Emmy Award for “Outstanding Main Title & Design for a Live Action Program” in the Netflix series, Prince of Peoria. In 2014, the studio’s groundbreaking animated approach using Cinema 4D won an Emmy for “Outstanding Graphic Design & Art Direction” for the “Future Cats” docu-special on the Nat Geo WILD TV network.
Maxon spoke to Ken about the inspiration for the uplifting 30-second sequence about a teen prince from a far-away land that travels anonymously to live in a small Midwest bowling alley and the unlikely friendships he makes.
Maxon: Tell us about the Prince of Peoria creative brief?
Ken: The show’s creators Devin Bunje and Nick Stanton were looking for a quick and fun way to introduce the main characters on the show while making sure the personalities of the individual characters popped in the design of their credits.
Maxon: How did the project come to Big Machine?
Ken: This was a case of repeat business, which always thrills us. We had worked with the production team on their previous show, Gamer’s Guide to Just About Everything, and they invited us to pitch on their new Netflix show, Prince of Peoria. There are some clients you always enjoy collaborating with, and that was certainly the case with this show. The producers were awesome to work with and went out of their way to give us everything we needed to make this sequence successful.
Maxon: How long was production on the sequence?
Ken: We worked on post-production for about 2-3 weeks. This was after about a week of editorial time, which Big Machine handled as well.
Maxon: What approach did the creative team use in the title sequence to punctuate the personality of the main characters?
Ken: We met with the producers to develop a list of personality traits for each character and purposefully developed our concepts with those in mind.
Our winning concept drew design inspiration from vintage Americana roadside bowling alley neon signage. This motif was the guiding look we used throughout the process to create colorful neon signs that seem to float impossibly next to each cast member. As beautiful as real neon signs are, it was too cost prohibitive to build them. Our Prince of Peoria neon signs were completely custom designed and 100% CGI.
Advanced 3D Production Techniques
Maxon: How did Cinema 4D fit into the production workflow on the Prince of Peoria title project?
Ken: Cinema 4D has been integrated into our pipeline since the studio’s inception. It started as our go-to 3D design and animation app, but has really evolved to be more of a production hub for most of our work, helping to integrate live-action with design and visual effects.
For the Prince of Peoria titles, we used the software to create all of the neon sign elements used throughout the package. Using unbiased 3D rendering, camera tracking and advanced compositing techniques produces a result that would have been impossible for a small team just a few short years ago.
Maxon: Can you outline the main toolsets the team used in Cinema 4D to meet the 3D challenges of the project?
Ken: The biggest 3D related challenge we faced was finding the right combination of lighting, materials and placement to make sure the signs augmented the scenes but didn’t detract from the cast members. This is where GPU rendering really makes the workflow much more productive because we could test different variations and see the results in real time.
We used the hard-surface modeling tools, Illustrator vector import, and MoGraph in Cinema 4D to create the bulk of the 3D elements used in this package. Live-action footage was tracked using a combination of SynthEyes and the built-in tracker in Cinema 4D. Final renders were completed using Octane Render through Cinema 4D and final composites were created using Adobe After Effects.
Maxon: You mentioned music played a role in the 3D content creation on this project.
Ken: Yes, music is a huge influence in how we approach projects. In the case of Prince of Peoria it dictated the pacing of the edit, which in turn informed the timing needs of our 3D scenes. The neon light animation, for example, had to be a quick read, but still feel like it could be an actual neon sign.
Creative Director: Ken Carlson
Executive Producer: Sean Owolo
Producer: Crystal Deones
Designer: Ana Lossada
Animator: Dennis Shen
Storyboards: Barry Chesser
Interns: Christopher Yoon, Kate Park & Ha Eun Chang.
About Big Machine
Big Machine is an Emmy Award winning full service production company that develops multi-platform content for the Entertainment Industry and Business. “We are Storytelling Evolved.”