Design and production company thenewBlank created the title sequence for the feature film Big in Japan, a semi-fictionalized comedy featuring the Seattle rock band Tennis Pro. It’s currently making the rounds at film festivals across the country.
ThenewBlank creative team joined forces with director John Jeffcoat, a longtime friend, to produce the titles, which blend performance footage of the band Tennis Pro and highly stylized motion graphics. In Big in Japan, things are looking bleak for the members of Tennis Pro. They’ve been struggling to connect to an audience in the Seattle music scene and are saddled with uninspiring day jobs. So when an offer to take their act on the road to Japan comes up, they jump on it, ready for a new start.
“The opening title sequence was developed to make the band appear like larger-than-life rock gods, but when we pull wide the humor of the movie is augmented by the reveal of a small, empty venue,” says thenewBlank executive creative director Bobby Hougham. “That rock god sequence was inspired by laser and high-end light displays as well as the colors found in some of the film’s Tokyo montages. Bringing aspects of the whole film into the opening sequence makes it feel like a true introduction.”
Director Jeffcoat is also a frequent collaborator with thenewBlank, having shot and edited a number of projects for the company. “Working with Bobby and the team at thenewBlank was an absolute pleasure,” comments Jeffcoat. “I was very impressed with the thoughtfulness that went into the concepts they pitched us for the title credits, taking my initial idea and expanding it beyond what I could have imagined yet staying completely true to the film and its story. It’s an amazing sequence that I’m very proud of it and really sets the tone for the film.”
“The project was interesting not only from a conceptual point of view but also considering workflow for a long form project. The edit was still in progress while we were working on building the concepts and treatments, we worked hand in hand with John Jeffcoat to come up with ways to augment his story for the opening sequence as well as solutions to help brand the film,” explains Hougham. “It was a comedy, and we knew the basic gag for the open but we didn’t necessarily have all the scenes, John was really great in taking our concepts and treatment and finding shots for the edit that would make our efforts the most successful.
“This film was shot on a DSLR and our scene was in a dark club without any additional lighting so resolution and color space was definitely a concern,” he continues. “There are a lot of tricks we employed to hide any artifacting that may occur due to retouching and color correcting that made this scene look as fantastic as it did. Ultimately though, I feel that 90% of the success was due directly to the great eye and sense of humor of the director — we just put some polish on an already great movie.”
Thenewblank called on new Mac Pros all running the Adobe CC suite and Maya 2015. The majority of the work was actually done in After Effects with type set using Illustrator for font customization. “We used Boujou 5 to 3D track all the shots and Maya to build our 3D lighting streaks,” reports Hougham. “After Effects CC was used to build out some scenes and augment camera moves as well as compositing all the 3D and 2.5 D assets. Color correction was with Magic Bullet in After Effects.”