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Perception Creates 'Countdown Campaign' for Sopranos' Fifth Season

To promote the fifth season of THE SOPRANOS, due to begin in March, HBO built on its ongoing relationship with New York's design/post boutique Perception to create a "countdown campaign." The promo campaign, which is part of the HBO's first quarter subscription drive, will air on most television networks beginning in February.

"In addition to promoting THE SOPRANOSwe've been doing their quarterly campaigns for the last year-and-a-half or so," says Brendan Werner, editorial director at Perception.

In essence, THE SOPRANOS campaign heightens the anticipation of the long-awaited new episodes, declaring the new episodes to be "dramatic," "hypnotic" and, most enticingly, "climactic." Each word appears in dramatic type, accompanied by brief images of SOPRANOS' characters Tony (James Gandolfini), Carmella (Edie Falco) and Christopher (Michael Imperioli) respectively, before promptly fading to black, leaving only the final three letters visible: Tic, Tic, Tic.

Accompanied by a dramatic red timeline to match THE SOPRANOS logo, the theme of elapsed time is punctuated with dramatic scenes from the series and the culminating voiceover's clever pun: "The clock is ticking. Don't miss the new season of THE SOPRANOS." As the spot ends, the theme is carried over to promote sister channel Cinemax, offering "fantastic" films and "gigantic" Hollywood hits, accompanied by a blue timeline to match the Cinemax logo.

"One of the most crucial aspects of this job was picking the footage to edit," says Werner. "Since this promo would be playing on regular network television, HBO wanted it to be action-packed but not too violent. There were a number of factors to be considered and we had to get a lot of elements into each scene. We pushed the Apple Final Cut Pro to its limits." Perception recently added a second Final Cut Pro suite, running uncompressed video on a new Apple G5 system.

Working from the basic design by Perception design director Jeremy Lasky, effects director Danny Gonzalez created a spotlight effect to reveal each of the SOPRANOS' characters and give the promo an intense, movie trailer-like feel.

"HBO obviously wanted something evocative and dramatic, so we deigned it to appear as if the characters were emerging out of the shadows," says Gonzalez. "The lighting pulls certain highlights from the footage, and then creates several different dissolves. The resulting effect is as if Tony, Carmella and Christopher are peeking in on the viewer. To convey the right mood, the shots needed had to be slow and shadowy so we looked for shots in the footage that weren't brightly lit. From there, we added a red, and then a blue, tint to the glow so it would subtly match the logos."

The Perception team created 45 different versions of the spot in order to highlight different cable providers, including TimeWarner, ComCast, Dish Network and others who requested a variety of different versions to pitch services such as HBO HDTV and Cinemax On-Demand, among others.

Toolkit:* Adobe After Effects, Photoshop, Illustrator* Apple G4 workstations* Final Cut Pro (with Cinewave RT Pro)

Founded in 2002 by former R/GA creatives Lasky, Werner and Gonzalez and powered by Apple computers, Perception ( specializes in high-end motion graphics and visual effects for top advertising agencies, broadcast networks and film studios. The work includes on-air design/promos, show opens, film title sequences, trailers, music video, corporate video and Web design.. Collectively, Perception has worked on more than 700 broadcast projects, garnering numerous top creative awards.