Chicago-based conceptual design company Leviathan recently created a mesmerizing :90 main title sequence for Starz’ new original series Power.
From executive producer Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson and show creator Courtney Kemp Agboh (The Good Wife), Power is a crime drama set in two different worlds – the glamorous New York club scene and the brutal drug trade.
To set the stage and establish the tone for the show’s hard-hitting drama, the show’s creators encouraged Leviathan to hold nothing back. “Big Rich Town,” the show’s main title theme which was created by 50 Cent, accompanies the lush, black-and-white visuals of the main titles, which leverage a split-screen mirror effect to hint at the story’s duality. High-contrast cinematography captured by co-directors Matt Daly and Stephen Fuller with director of photography Adam Santelli draws viewers into New York City, symbols of wealth and crime and close-up visions of boldness and beauty.
“There were certain boundaries we had to work within, but we were essentially given free rein to convey the themes of power and the dangers that surround it using symbols, icons with hidden meanings and metaphors,” said Leviathan’s executive creative director Jason White. “We began by getting into the scripts and coming up with several varied treatments to tell the story in contrasting ways before finalizing one idea. Concepts of luxury and danger were visualized through visuals of money, seductive women, cocaine, guns and expensive trappings of the lust for more power.”
Under the direction of Daly and Fuller, Leviathan’s team spent two days shooting on stage at Chicago’s Essanay Studio and Lighting, using the Red Epic digital cinema camera to capture principal footage at rates as high as 240 fps and resolutions up to 4K. Tabletop turntable objects were captured on day one, and talent on day two. To preview their desired mirror-effect on set, the crew rigged an actual mirror that split the video playback. An elaborate rig was also constructed to produce the sequence’s iconic shot of cocaine.
“We shot objects and people to represent the show’s main themes, and used the mirror-effect to reflect them in the frame,” explained Leviathan’s creative director Bradon Webb. “In the editorial process, our editor Mike LaHood creatively matched objects in frame to create relationships between different worlds. At times we chose to break the mirroring within the frame and play with perceptions, where reflected objects weren’t exactly the same.”
According to Webb, there were only a few FX shots, such as the exploding skull where a plate for the glass skull was shot in-camera. “In post we added shattering glass and particle matter that was simulated using 3D software,” he said. Webb explained that his team used DaVinci Resolve to perfect the sequence’s final look. “Individual color channels were adjusted, allowing for a greater range of control through the highlights, mid-tones and shadows,” he said. “Our reference was to look at traditional black-and-white photography and create a full spectrum of tonal values. We went for a stylistic look that we hoped would set this apart from anything that’s ever been done in the past.”
“As a conceptual design company, we take a lot of pride in this collaboration with the talents behind this series,” said Chad Hutson, Leviathan’s executive producer. “With their support, we honed-in on the right concept and creative direction, then carried it all through to shoot and postproduction, even ‘coloring’ the final master in-house. Working with a project like this is a dream-come-true for each of us.”
Along with White, Daly, Fuller, Webb, and LaHood, Leviathan’s credits also include EP Chad Hutson, producer Ellen Schopler, line producer Michelle Breger, art director Larry Lundy and animation/VFX artists Chris Beers, David Brodeur and Gareth Fewel.