Set to the raucous country tune, “Longnecks and Rednecks,” Country Music Television’s (CMT) hit reality show Redneck Island boasts an opening title sequence that is infectious, fun and original. The 30-second open, which was created in Cinema 4D by the award-winning design agency, The Ether, contains snippets of the show, including shots of bikini-clad women applying bright pink nail polish to a chicken’s talons. Introductions of the cast culminate in an animated Tiki likeness of actor and former WWE superstar Steve Austin, the show’s host and self-proclaimed “redneck.”
CMT contacted Greg Kupiec, The Ether’s founder and creative director, on a Friday night asking if his team could create the opening titles, as well as a show package for the new reality series. The only catch was, they needed style frames by Monday. After brainstorming all weekend, Kupiec and the project’s design team delivered 15 concepts on Monday morning.
“It was one of the fastest turnarounds we’ve ever had,” said Kupiec, adding that the team delivered some hand-drawn concepts and some that were created in Illustrator and Photoshop. “But having worked with CMT in the past on Texas Women, Redneck Wedding and 12 Days of Redneck Christmas, we felt comfortable showing them our process, and they gave us carte blanche to come up with something exciting.” (Watch the opener here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IoKN6W3E_pk&list=UU44sUZUHGghCeAVTXF6og_A&index=1&feature=plcp.)
Once approvals were in place, The Ether had one month to deliver the opening titles, bumps, promo elements and lower thirds. CMT particularly liked The Ether’s idea of using an animated Tiki statue resembling Steve Austin, but making a statue that actually looked like the host proved challenging. “At first the statue kind of looked like a plush toy,” recalls 3D designer and animator Matt Mojica. “We had never modeled anything that organic-looking before.”
The remedy turned out to be adding more definition to the Tiki’s face and adding indentations that made the mouth look more gnarled. Working with fellow designer Andy Austin, Mojica sculpted points until The Ether team had something they were happy with. “Everything was done with object symmetry, so we only needed to focus on one side of the head,” Mojica says. They knew they had it right when Austin tweeted a photo of the Tiki to the show’s host to get his reaction. His reply was simply, “Word.” And “It validated everything,” Austin recalls.
Every couple of days CMT sent additional footage from the show to The Ether for editing and refining. Final compositing was done in After Effects. “There’s always very clear direction from CMT,” says Kupiec. “They don’t want this show to be Survivor, they want to own the Redneck brand and the shots they chose were based in part on that creative philosophy.”
The role of type
Typography always plays an important role in every project The Ether does, and the Redneck Island logo and title treatment were no exception. Believing that typography is an incredibly important, but often overlooked, aspect of design, Kupiec and his team searched for “Tiki-style” fonts and used them as inspiration when developing their own original tiki-esque font. Using Cinema 4D, they spent hours experimenting overlapping letters in different ways and trying out horizontal and vertical possibilities. “With Cinema it’s really simple to get a good looking result, especially with type,” says Kupiec. (Check out The Ether’s reel here: http://www.theetherdesign.com/#/site.)
Austin supported the idea of using a Tiki-style font, so the main hurdles to overcome were ensuring that the font was legible and that the show’s editors could easily type it in for lower thirds.“The font had to have style to it, but it also had to be able to be used all throughout the show for consistency,” Kupiec points out.
For the elements of the show package that use 3D type, The Ether’s designers beta tested a new plug-in called Kern-it (http://c4dtools.net), and were happy with the results. “Kern-it worked out really well for this project because Redneck Island does have a few show package elements like the Coming Up bump that swing into place and that was all done in 3D,” says Kupiec, noting that the plug-in was especially helpful because it allowed them to kern letters “on the fly” within C4D.
Modeling the elements
The Ether team used C4D to model most of the elements in the opener and the show package from scratch, including the island that’s visible in the background of the opening titles. To flesh out scenes, they also used a few stock models of things like trees and foliage that are included with Cinema 4D, as well as models they purchased online.
The subtle movement of trees and foliage was created using deformers in C4D. “It took a little bit of time because of how massive they are and how much geometry is moving around,” says Mojica. “But they’re basically being animated by a wind deformer.” To give the sandy landscapes a more realistic, gritty look, The Ether used the Landscape Shading Kit for C4D (http://www.ericsmit.com/Landscape-Shading-Kit/index.html), which offers several different pre-built landscape materials.
For the titles, The Ether created the wooden frame around the characters’ IDs by first designing the shape in Illustrator before bringing those vectors into Cinema 4D and extruding them. Next, using an image of weathered wood, they gave the frame a driftwood look. After Effects was used for compositing. “We didn’t have to lay out UV’s or anything like that,” says Mojica. “It was pretty straightforward as far as materials went. Just finding the right materials was something that we spent a little bit of time on, especially with color and texture.”
Putting it all together
The opening title sequence builds to the reveal of the Tiki statue of Austin and the show’s titles. To get there, The Ether team developed an ambitious flowing camera move through the island’s foliage. “One of the unique things we did on this project was to create the camera move with simple 2D elements and After Effects, Andy Austin explains. “And then we sent that camera move to Cinema 4D.”
Using the camera from After Effects, Mojica then created all the 3D elements seen in the final shot. Once they got all of the shots established in Cinema 4D, they rendered everything before bringing it back into After Effects to add motion blur, camera shake and sound effects. They also used Video Copilot’s Action Essentials (https://www.videocopilot.net/products/action2) to create the smoke rising from the metal barrels and the flying dirt effects.
“It was really great to be able to go back and forth because while I was modeling, Andy was able to get all the motion tests timed out and approved,” Mojica recalls. “So by the time I was done with all the modeling, all I had to do was set up the scene within the camera that he used in After Effects.The Ether created a day and a night version of the final animation, as well as a sunset version of the opening. CMT uses each of them, depending on the time of day. Recently, Kupiec and his team learned that Redneck Island has been renewed for a second season and CMT would like them to start work in October. The first goal will be to re-cut the opening title sequence to incorporate a new set of cast members and footage from the new season. “We may also be doing some new game play graphics specific to the new season’s challenges,” says Kupiec. “We’re all looking forward to getting started and finding out what the next season has to offer. And of course will have our office pool to pick the winner of season 2.”
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Article by Scott Strohmaier
Scott Strohmaier is a writer living in Los Angeles living with his wife and son.
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