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S4 Studios Creates Moments In Crime For Sleuth

Crime does indeed pay for S4 Studios. The Hollywood design and animation studio has completed a graphic live action/animation branding campaign for Sleuth, the new mystery and crime cable network imprint from Universal Studios Emerging Networks Division.

With the tagline "Get Clued in," Sleuth is simulcast in SD and HD, and features a lineup of programming like MIAMI VICE, HOMICIDE: LIFE ON THE STREET and KNIGHT RIDER.

The S4 team of Director/Designer Geoffrey Kater, Creative Director Thomas Helmintoller and Writer/Producer Larry Le Francis delivered 100 motion graphic elements and created a series of 15 ID's for the campaign, divided into three distinct styles that represented varied aspects of Sleuth's programming.

Kater said, "Sleuth is all about crime and its resolution, and after experimenting with different scenarios, we came to the idea of creating highly stylized 'moments in time,' miniature stories that resemble a gritty high-contrast graphic novel."

For example, STREET COPS, shows a suspect being arrested, a tagging, a cell door closing on an inmate and a chalk outline being drawn on the sidewalk. HIGH CRIMES features a high end drug deal, identity theft and a computer security breach; and PRIVATE INVESTIGATORS shows a stakeout, fingerprint dusting, a high tech break-in, and a furtive briefcase exchange.

Each vignette then graphically resolves into different treatments of the Sleuth logo. Since women make up the major part of Sleuth's viewing audience, several graphics were created around that demographic -- a woman's gloved hand slipping poison into a martini, a female investigator on surveillance detail.

"We also gave each set of stories a monochromatic look to further identify it," Kater said. "STREET COPS was in gritty tones of red; PRIVATE INVESTIGATORS was in shades of blue, and HIGH CRIMES was in yellow tones."

The live action portions of the campaign were shot on Hollywood's dark streets as well as an in-house blue screen, utilizing a cast of professional and some non-pro actors, including a real crime scene investigator from the Pasadena Police Department and Kater acting the part of a hooded jewelry store robber.

Each cast member was shot in HD, the footage was desaturated, separated from their live action backgrounds, and re-integrated or rotoscoped into animated and graphic backgrounds created in Adobe After Effects 7.2 and NewTek LightWave 9.0.

"We wanted to show black and white people living in a high-contrast comic book world," Helmintoller said. "The graphic nature and negative space of the designs allowed us the flexibility to texture and polish the visuals however we wanted."

"The campaign is a perfect example of the design power of this company," Le Francis said. "We are continuing to explore the graphic possibilities of combining 3D with live action elements for our branding campaigns. It's just another way to bring all our tools to bear when we implement a client's vision."

NBC Universal was represented by senior VP of emerging networks Dan Harrison and VP of on-air promotions Sarah Pierce. Additional S4 Studios production credits include 3D animator Don McCoy, 2D compositor Craig Kuehne, and Junior Compositor Sarah Keturah.

Based in Hollywood, S4 Studios is a creative design and production studio specializing in entertainment branding, content development, 3D animation, visual effects and live action production for television, feature films, commercials, trailers and home video.

To see their work on the Sleuth campaign, go to