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June 2014

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Page 34 of 51 Post • June 2014 33 New York's Mechanism Digital creates promos and IDs for networks, and show opens and packages for production companies and content cre- ators, like Elder Skelter (inset) for Discovery ID. Design-based production company BRKLY created this live-action promo for HGTV's Brother vs. Brother. If "broadcast design" still conjures up images of shiny, monumental logos and busy clip montages, take a look at the show opens, promos and network IDs on the air today. Clean graphics, customized live-action footage and even fun character animation speak more of "design for broadcast" than the "broadcast design" of yesteryear. After all, it's "good design and great storytelling that continue to define the networks," says Bigstar's Josh Norton. MECHANISM DIGITAL New York City-based design, VFX and animation studio Mechanism Digital ( creates pro- mos and IDs for networks directly and show opens and packages for production companies and content creators. Execu- tive producer Lucien Harriot sees a recent trend to more of a "flat, illustrated-type look" inspired by Apple's new OS icons. And with so much reality programming on the air, live-action elements are very much in the forefront. "Reality shows are so people driven that a show open often features a sequence of people for 20 seconds then a title resolve at the end," he notes. Mechanism Digital doesn't do live-action people shoots so for that type of broadcast design it edits together selects provided by the production company and crafts a poster-style resolve. The studio likes to use CGI elements whenever possible as in the show open for National Geographic's American Fringe, which features a 3D blowing flag with text burned into it and A&E's World Food Championships with 3D pedestals of food in a marble Coliseum-like space. Although Discovery ID's cleverly-named new reality series, Elder Skelter looks at old people who kill, the show open and broadcast design package created by Mechanism Digital doesn't include any people. Instead, the very graphic approach sets the scene for stories hosted by three New York City socialites of a certain age and an audi- ence demographic of women who enjoy whodunnits. In the show open, the camera pans a vintage living room interior and skims along a tabletop replete with blood spatters. It comes to rest on the stem of a martini glass and pulls back to reveal the bowl of the glass, which houses a pair of dentures — the killer's or the victim's? Bold, chipped upper case typography spells out "Elder Skelter" in the background. Mechanism Digital had a creative brief and brainstorming session with Mark Marabella, executive producer for Hot Snakes Media, which produces Elder Skelter for Discovery ID. "We decided on a high-contrast, saturated, dark humor, retro feel but nothing too campy or graphic heavy," Harriot recalls. "We liked how the Helter Skelter cover design used a 1950s font in 1974 [for the true crime book on the Charles Manson murders]. We like using dafont. com for fonts; they have a nice search option and preview and many are free." Stock images of a pedestal ashtray and a big comfy armchair were found for the background and color corrected to look old. But Mechanism Digital opted to shoot elements for the blood spatter and glass. "We don't have a studio but we set up lights, foam core and a Canon 5D camera on a tripod" to shoot the tabletop sequence and an office curtain for the background," Harriot explains. "We thinned chocolate syrup to the right consistency for the blood drops and shot a martini glass we got from a bar down the street. For the dentures we used two stock stills animated on top of each other. We wanted bubbles in the glass so we blew some with a drinking straw, but they were too big and fast. We tried a coffee stirrer, but the bubbles were too small. So we finally settled on a ballpoint pen with its guts removed and blew bubbles with it into a glass of water." A look at the latest trends in show opens, promos and network IDs. By Christine Bunish

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