August 11, 2017.  By Charlie Pomykal:

I recently got a chance to talk to the BIG MACHINE team behind the main title sequence for the new Netflix show "Atypical."  Here's an edited version of my conversation with my colleagues, Executive Producer Sean Owolo, Creative Director Ken Carlson, Producer Crystal Deones and Lead Designer Ana Lossada.


CHARLIE:  How did you get involved with this project?

SEAN:  Seth Gordon, the director and Academy Award Winning Producer, called us in for a meeting about a new Netflix comedy that he was excited about.  We've worked with him several times before, doing titles for his movie "Identity Thief" and graphics for "Print The Legend", a documentary film that he produced.

KEN:  Yes, we've known Seth for years.  We worked together on a TV pilot for USA back in the early 2000s before he became a well-known director.  He's one of the good guys out here in Hollywood, truly smart, always brainstorming cool ideas and loyal.

CHARLIE:  What was the initial creative direction?

SEAN: It was cool, he drew a picture and slid it over to Ken.

Imaged based on the original sketch by Seth Gordon.

Imaged based on the original sketch by Seth Gordon.

KEN:  I still have the picture in my notepad.  He drew a smiley face, but with a line for a mouth, so it just had this neutral emotional expression.  It was that idea of drawing something in a notebook that really was the catalyst for the entire look of the title sequence.

SEAN: The show is about a teenager that's on the autism spectrum and having to deal with everything teens have to deal with, including a family that's not exactly all together.  So the direction was to give us a look into his mind in an abstract way.

CHARLIE:  How did you develop the look and feel of the spot?

KEN:  Riffing off the idea of seeing the main character Sam's drawings in his notepad, we did all sorts of explorations of different styles of drawing to see what would set the right tone.  It had to be sophisticated enough that you could tell that these were the drawings of someone that really paid attention to detail but had a completely unique set of priorities when it came to what to draw. 

ANA:  Truth be told, the first time I read the synopsis I felt inspired. This show tells a story that hasn't been told in entertainment very often of how people with Autism struggle to adapt to every day "normal" life. For the main title, the viewer gets a chance to see what is in Sam’s [The main character] head and learn about his fascination with penguins and wildlife in Antarctica.  I utilized these character traits as the main keys/ingredients to represent and carry on a story of how he sees the world through his eyes and how he associates things and real events.

Final Render (top) and the page being animated in Cinema 4D (below)

Final Render (top) and the page being animated in Cinema 4D (below)

CHARLIE:  What challenges did you have producing the spot?

ANA:  In the beginning, I struggled with finding the right tone and mood for the sequence.  I was trying to find a good balance between the both by keeping it light and comical but intriguing at the same time. By utilizing 3D light sources I was able to achieve nice shadows on the pencil in addition to giving a strong visual contrast as it touched the paper. My own personal comedic touch was adding a few silly hand-drawing illustrations to Sam’s journal.

On the technical side, I am fairly new to render pipeline we used for the job (Octane Render). In fact I only began using it a couple months ago and there were some significant challenges along the way dealing with the software. There were some scenes that took hundreds of attempts and variations yet could not align to my vision. Ihad to work around it these limitations and try to make it match as close as possible. For some scenes, I had to re-do the whole Cinema 4D project and that way it would work.

Pencil being animated in Cinema 4D.

Pencil being animated in Cinema 4D.

CRYSTAL:  As with many jobs, late breaking changes can occur. We had a few last minute changes to the credit order and how many cards were to be included. The delivery date didn’t change, so this took careful communication and planning with the production company, to see how we could tackle these changes, while still being able to deliver our 4k files on time.

CHARLIE:  What's it like working on a Netflix project?

CRYSTAL:  It was great! Like many of the people who worked on this project, much of my TV viewing is on Netflix, and I love their original shows.  So the excitement of our team and the freelancers who had a chance to work on this title, made my job a lot easier and in the end resulted in creative that we are all really proud of. 

ANA:  I am so stoked! It’s an amazing accomplishment really. I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to work with Big Machine and many other people who also worked for this project.  Streaming entertainment is clearly the future of the industry and I am both humbled and grateful to see my work on one of the leaders in streaming entertainment in the world.  I love the whole concept of the show, I love how our sequence turned out and I can't wait to binge watch the entire first season!

KEN:  We've worked on titles for the Netflix movie "Spectral" and the Netflix documentary "Print The Legend" and now "Atypical."  Netflix is a great platform for pushing design and we'd love to work on more Netflix projects!

SEAN: Yes.  Netflix are you listening?  Send us more work!

Title for Netflix Documentary "Print The Legend" about 3D printing.

Title for Netflix Documentary "Print The Legend" about 3D printing.