Volume 31 / July 15, 2020

Volume 31

Client

Netflix, New York Times

A look into BGSTR's work on Netflix's Unsolved Mysteries and Home Game and NYT's The Weekly with long-term partners at Left/Right.

Volume 31

into the dark

Unsolved Mysteries

Unsolved Mysteries has been a pop culture staple since its debut in 1987 and we were thrilled to work on the 2020 Netflix reboot with partners Cosgrove/Meurer Productions. ⁠

Our series graphics covered a wide range of deliverables, including the title sequence, maps, documents and timelines that were essential in helping viewers track bits of evidence and important time markers. Keeping these elements clean and easy to understand was crucial in maintaining a consistent through-line to the show.

We spoke with Creative Director, John Leamy, about the challenges and successes of creating the show's title sequence.

Unsolved Mysteries

BGSTR: How much inspiration did you draw from the original, 1987 Unsolved Mysteries title sequence? What did it feel like to help reinvent such an iconic show?

JL: “I drew some inspiration from the original. We went back and looked at all of them throughout the history of the show. What ended up in the final that we did, didn’t resemble very closely what they had done in the past, but it was certainly inspired by the tone that the show originally had. Keeping the theme music largely the same was a big ingredient in tying back into the feeling of the original series. I definitely wanted to stay within the spirit and really have the update be an homage to the tone of the original series.”

BGSTR: What emotions and themes did you feel were most important to evoke in these 30 seconds?

JL: "There’s a certain unsettling, spooky quality to the music and generally to the tone of the show, certainly to Robert Stack. We wanted to evoke that feeling of eeriness and uneasiness combined with real life, or situations that are relatable, as the show has always done. Using material sourced from the episodes themselves helped us a great deal in that regard”

BGSTR: Describe your general creative process for this project. How was it different than your approach to other projects? How was it similar?

JL: “My creative approach for this project begins the same as every project, which is started by doing a lot of research and understanding the past as well as the intentions for the future. Surveying the landscape of what’s been done. Because this is such a recognizable property, and one that so many people have such great affection and memories for, that played a lot in how we went about constructing this. We worked really closely with the directors to arrive at just the right combination of imagery, tone, and movement. My process began the same, and then as most projects do, it changed over time as we worked more and more closely with the directors to find the balance that worked best for them, and the show.”

BGSTR: What were some of the biggest challenges in creating this title sequence? What do you think your greatest successes were?

JL: “The challenges lay mostly in creating a series of tableaus that didn’t answer questions, but asked them, in fairly short order. It’s different than what the show has done before. We wanted to bring a very cinematic feeling to the way we created the titles. The recreation sequences that they created are gorgeous, so we wanted to up the production value. That’s not so much a challenge as it is a great problem to solve and it was certainly fun for us to do. The thing that I liked the most about it is the thing that remained unchanged for the whole creative process, which is using the image of Robert Stack at the very end of the sequence as the title is revealed. That was my favorite thing to do - I thought it was important to pay homage to him, however briefly, so that we had that final anchor back to the way the show resonated with people. Most of the comments I’ve seen in particular have been about that. I knew I wanted to to do that no matter what, so it was the easiest part of the whole sequence.”

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Photo treatments, archival and newspapers all played off of our main title and series look, tying together the moody but familiar feeling that Unsolved Mysteries has established with viewers over the decades.

Thanks to our partners and collaborators at Cosgrove/Meurer and Netflix - we loved being a part of this iconic series!

Batter up

Home Game

The original Netflix docu-series, Home Game, explores the excitement and cultural significance around unique competitive sports all across the globe. The good folks at Boardwalk Pictures came to BigStar looking for a fun, unique graphic look - specifically centered around explaining the complex rules of each game.

Home Game
Reference Imagery 1
Reference Imagery 2

Pulling inspiration from old 70’s instructional manuals, we wanted to strike a balance between communicating the rules clearly and efficiently while keeping them stylish and entertaining. Starting with a dip into Voodoo Wrestling or “Catch Fetiche”, our initial styleframes really hit the mark for the tone of the show, and the structure and intention of those designs were carried through across all 8 episodes.

Pehiwani Rules of the Game:

Our animation language for each “rules of the game” sequence continued to play off of our practical, instruction-manual graphic feel. By making punchy, energetic camera moves from figure to figure, we create a sense that we’re zooming around a physical manual with real directions and illustrations.

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While the “rules of the game” graphics were the through-line for the show, we built various other graphic elements in the same textural, illustrative style - from a map of Kyrgyzstan to custom lower thirds and location IDs.

Although we explored various ways of incorporating our game illustrations into the title reveal, we ultimately felt that a more simplistic logo reveal over footage was the best and most organic route. Still, we tie off our signature “rules of the game” elements into the famous quotes at the top of each episode.

We had a blast collaborating with the Boardwalk team, showcasing these sports and the cultures they come from as well. Catch Home Game, streaming on Netflix!

learn a thing or two

NYT The Weekly

When approached by our long-standing partners at Left/Right to help create in-show graphics for the New York Times' docu-series, The Weekly, we jumped at the opportunity. Each episode dives into relevant stories that are pulled straight from NYT headlines. Translating these important pieces of journalism into a visually concise world was our ultimate mission.

NYT The Weekly

The episodes cover a wide array of different topics, and it was important that the graphics we created reflected each of those issues appropriately. From the Hong Kong protests to political scandals - we wanted to create a visual language that was cohesive yet unique for each episode.

Our deliverables ranged from maps, documents, and animated tweets to annotated photos and graphs/charts. It was important for us to strike a balance between originality and keeping within the familiar visual language of the New York Times' styleguide. We wanted to make the look feel fresh, and contribute to the already invigorating stories that were being told!

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In a news and media landscape that's constantly evolving, we were proud to collaborate with theLeft/Right and New York Times teams to help bring these important stories to the forefront. The Weekly can be streamed on Hulu and FX now!

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