In creating the main title sequence for the new Buena Vista Pictures release THE LAST SHOT, yU + co found inspiration in an unlikely place: amid the clutter of a movie theater floor. The design studio designed and produced a magical opener for the film that takes the audience on a looping journey along theater aisles and over seats to discover the names of the films cast and crew written on candy wrappers, woven into upholstery and tattooed to the legs of a patron. The result is a visual tour de force and the perfect set up for the offbeat crime caper that follows.
The movie opens with the depiction of a gangland killing in New York. As two men are left bleeding to death on a sidewalk, a cut shifts the scene to the front of an old movie house in Houstonand thats where the fun begins. The camera suddenly zooms in on the nametag worn by the theaters aging ticket seller, which reads A Jeff Nathanson Film. Another tight close up reveals a ticket stub imprinted with the name Matthew Broderick. Alec Baldwin is written in lilting script on the side of a soda cup.
As the cup falls over and spills its contents, the camera follows the liquid into the theater itself, where it finds the movies title on a brass plate nailed to an aisle seat. Toni Collettes name is carved into the seats arm. As the camera continues its arcing journey, it spies other names on a ketchup wrapper, in the mustard spread over a hot dog, in the nutrition label torn from a box of candy. The sequence carries on in this quirky manner until at last the camera pulls back into the theaters projection booth, where a man is being beaten to a pulpand from there the movie begins.
The clever visuals are meant to do more than provide a colorful and interesting way to reveal the names of the stars of the film, according to yU + co creative director Garson Yu. It provides a context to the film, he observed. When the audience sees two people being killed, they may think they are about to see a serious crime drama, but the title sequence shifts to a whimsical tone, suggesting that something quite different is going to unfold.
After Yu came up with the concept for the main title sequence, he gathered his design team for a brainstorming session and together they concocted the numerous events that are used to reveal the various credits and drew up storyboards describing the twisting path the camera takes in moving from one item to the next.
As a design team, our work is very collaborative. We also worked closely with the director, who was very helpful in shaping the storytelling elements, Yu said. From a design standpoint, the biggest challenge was in moving quickly and smoothly from one point to the next so that it appears to be a continuous camera move.
The production of the sequence was an enormous undertaking, involving a complex shoot with motion control camera rigs and computer graphics. All of the props featured in the sequence from the popcorn bags and the candy wrappers to the theater seats and even the theater floor were custom built. The reveal of each name was filmed individually, but choreographed in such a way that, when all of the shots were combined, they appear to form a single seamless camera move. Some details, including kernels of popcorn and candy gumballs, were produced as computer graphic elements and added to the sequence after it was shot.
Because everything was shot with a narrow depth of field, the moves had to be very precise, said Yu, who directed the shoot. It took seven days to program the motion control cameras. It was a big challenge, but ultimately very successful.
Next up for yU + co is the opening title for DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES, a new ABC television series, as well as the opening sequence and vfx for Foxs FIRST DAUGHTER. The studios other recent credits include main title sequences for SUSPECT ZERO, MR. 3000, WICKER PARK and CATWOMAN, as well as a branding package for the new cable channel, The Anime Network.
Credits for yU + co go to Garson Yu, creative designer/director; Jennifer Fong, producer; Martin Surya, designer; Otto Tang, storyboard artist; Chris Vincola, 3D artist; David Fogg, vfx compositor/supervisor; Zachary Scheuren, editor.
yU + co is located at 941 N. Mansfield Ave., Hollywood, CA, 90038. For more information, call (323) 606-5050.