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A52 Goes for Mystique & Mythology in Rome Main Titles

ROME, the new HBO/BBC co-production, which recently debuted on HBO, boasts the mystique of Rome in 52 BC via a main title sequence created by award-winning Los Angeles visual effects and design company A52. The :90 main titles, created entirely in-house at A52, will introduce each episode.

This venture, our third with A52, proves what a powerful creative force they are, said Carolyn Strauss, president of HBO Ent.

A52's Angus Wall and Scott Boyajan truly were the vision on our title sequence, added series co-producer Todd London. From design and development, through production in Rome, and finally bringing it all together in post-production and final delivery, their talent, attitude, class and execution tend to be the reasons I enjoy having a working relationship with them.

As was the case on CARNIVÀLE, Wall once again stepped into the role of creative director for the ROME project, working directly with Strauss and director of HBO Ent. Gina Balian, as well as series exec producers Bruno Heller and Anne Thomopoulos, HBO production exec Michael Hill and project co-producer Todd London. The fulfillment of Walls vision involved capturing live-action footage on location in Rome, and combining animated graffiti on the walls of the city with vibrant cinematography to convey the unique mythologies and realities of the ancient world the epic series dramatizes.

Wall first researched the series scripts and Roman mythology to identify many scenes to be depicted in the graffiti, including the Lupercal and October Horse festivals. While director Wall and A52s project producer Boyajan traveled to Romes Cinecitta Studios for their live-action shoot, A52s CG supervisor Andrew Hall and his team of animators began work on the animated sequences, which were based on original artwork created by artists Josh Bayer and Eugene Yelchin.

VFX artist Kirk Balden, who joined A52 earlier this year, served as A52s lead artist and 2D supervisor on the project, and also designed the end titles bleed-through effect. We began by conforming the rough offline edit from Rock Paper Scissors editor Brad Waskewich in HD in Inferno, using flat telecine passes, Balden explained. From the beginning, we envisioned a palette that used the richest, most vibrant colors possible, so my next step was to begin grading all the scenes to match our aesthetic, and then to begin integrating the CG graffiti into the walls. To make those elements look real while also making them stand out we used a combination of techniques, combining color correction and compositing and adding grain and details from the walls.

With nods to A52s CG team for all their artistry, not the least of which was creating a chariot race from varied-rate footage requiring extensive 3D tracking, Balden also singled out fellow Inferno artist Tim Bird for his work on the artistic sequence, where the camera travels into a dye wall.

On many projects, you start off with storyboards and everyone has a good idea of what it's going to look like when it's completed, Balden added. This project was very experimental right to the very end. The tone of it is pretty much unlike anything we've done and most of what any of us here have seen. There's a lot there that creatively sets the stage for the series.

A52's project team, overseen by exec producer and managing director Mark Tobin, also included Inferno artist Ben Looram and CG animators Christopher Janney, Chris Bowers, Denis Gauthier, Craig Halperin, Max Ulichney, Brandon Perlow and Daniel Gutierrez. Tani Canevari served as Walls director of photography.

A52s CG team used Maya for CGI animation and mental ray for project rendering. All visual effects were handled using Discreet Flame and Inferno systems from Autodesk.

Established in 1997 West Hollywood visual effects and design company A52 ( creates award-winning imagery for some of the most visually ambitious commercial and television projects. Last year, A52s team earned the Emmy for Outstanding Main Title Design, and a PROMAX Gold Award for their title sequence for HBOs original dramatic series, CARNIVÀLE. The team also created the opening titles for HBOs DEADWOOD.