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Big Film Design Creates 3D Titles for Hugo

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Randy Balsmeyer, creative director, Big Film Design.
New York’s Big Film Design created the title sequences for the new 3D motion picture, Hugo, directed by Martin Scorsese. Hugo opens nationwide in theaters, Nov. 23, released by Paramount Pictures and GK Films. The film stars Sir Ben Kingsley and Sacha Baron Cohen, and is based on the Caldecott Medal-winning book, The Invention of Hugo Cabret, by Brian Selznick. The film follows a boy living in Paris in the 1930s, whose adventures lead him to a discovery of the films of George Méliès, the pioneering filmmaker best known for his A Trip to the Moon (1902).

Drawing inspiration from the blocky credits Méliès used for his silent films over a century ago, Randy Balsmeyer, owner and creative director of Big Film Design, worked with Martin Scorsese (Shutter Island, Kundun) to design the credits for Hugo. Balsmeyer and his team at BFD updated the design into brushed metal lettering to evoke the clockworks in the film, and pushed some elements of the titles into deep 3D space, and floated golden stars in front of the screen.

“Marty told me that he had watched all the 3D films that came out when he was a boy, and had always wanted to explore the medium,” explained Balsmeyer. “He and Bob Richardson (the cinematographer) had really pushed the 3D to make it a dramatic part of the storytelling and encouraged me to do likewise with the titles. We ended up with the main title flying from behind the audience into the screen; something that all the rules of 3D say you can’t do.” Balsmeyer worked closely with both Scorsese and editor Thelma Schoonmaker, screening a variety of tests at the director’s Manhattan 3D screening room to arrive at the final design.

The left- and right-eye pairs of three-dimensional lettering were created using Maxon Cinema 4D, then brought into Adobe After Effects for final convergence and compositing with 2D elements. Working closely with Balsmeyer were Eddie Porter and Jonathan Skabla, who shared both the 3D and 2D aspects of the project.

Big Film Design is noted not only for its title design work (recent projects include True Grit, Letters to Juliet and the upcoming Rampart), but also for visual effects, recently contributing over 80 visual effects shots to Tower Heist.

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