Volume 33 / October 08, 2020

Volume 33


Jaywalker Pictures, E!

A further look into our work on era-defining documentary The Way I See It and E! at the Emmy's. We also sit down with our own Virgil Conklin, Head of Production at BGSTR.

Volume 33

Telling Pete's story

The Way I See It

The Way I See It is one of the most era-defining documentaries of the year. When our friends at Ace Content approached us to build a graphics package for the film, we teamed up with them & Jaywalker Pictures to help tell the story of Pete Souza-- the iconic White House photographer for both Ronald Reagan & Barack Obama.

The Way I See It

We needed to preserve the integrity and intention of the photos Pete has captured over the years. Our design director, Ross Henderson, was brought on the case to carefully consider a graphic treatment for the film while complimenting the visually arresting nature of Pete’s art and storytelling.

To do this, we explored many avenues that all had a similar feeling but obvious tonal differences. With the working title “SHADE” in hand (the title of Pete’s book), we wanted a bold, sophisticated and “in-your-face” typesetting to reflect Pete’s social presence, while also upholding the professionalism and artistry of Pete’s job.

While Pete’s pictures tell a thousand words, it was our job to thread the needle with a cohesive look for the title sequence, social media layouts, photo mortises & film package typography.

Logo Exploration with working title "SHADE"

This could be expressed in large CAPS or italicized type, mixes of tracking and kerning, size and scale interplay and so on. We considered it all, and presented a robust exploration of the title, locators, l3rds, social media treatments, and photo mortises.

After the first round, we were locked.

With our look & materials in place, we began to envision the animation through Pete’s lens. Using a clean, poignant approach, our social animations stayed true to the interface, but brought emphasis to key words and phrases to act as snapshots of Pete’s personality.

As a bonus, Jaywalker wanted to bring their logo design to life for the premiere. We explored a few different animation & color techniques, but it was Lung that rendered the winning style, and brought the animated film leader into completion.

The way we see it, it was a story we loved to help develop with such an amazing team at Ace & Jaywalker.

coming to you live

E! at the Emmy's

When it comes to project timelines - BGSTR has done it all, from jobs that last over a year, to jobs that are only a week long. When E! approached us in need of an Emmy's promo with an extremely quick turnaround, we were excited to take on the challenge head-on. If anything, the short timeline paired with the general impending excitement for the Emmy's, energized and motivated us to put out something great!

E! at the Emmy's

We were tasked with taking the footage that E! had provided us with and turning it into several unique, exciting spots that could capture all the excitement and glamour the Emmy's are famous for.

Using punchy animation and a fast-paced edit to match the energy and excitement of the ceremony itself, we featured many of the same celebrities in our spot that would go on to (virtually) attend the Emmy's this year. We had the unique challenge of showing red carpet footage, without showing the red carpet itself. Not to mention this was the first time the Emmy's had to be promoted as a socially distanced event!

Early design concepts

In just about one week's time, we delivered a variety of spots at 15, 20, and 30 seconds. We wanted each of these spots to highlight something different and engage the audience in its own way. We leaned into the rotoscoping technique to create an engaging look with lots of star-power, attention-grabbing text, and upbeat music!


All in all, we were thrilled to take on this lightning fast project, and we were proud to partner with E! to get people excited for one of the biggest nights of the year in television. We hope you all had a wonderful night at the Emmy's!

production wizard

BGSTR Spotlight: Virgil Conklin

A Q&A with BGSTR's Head of Production.

BGSTR Spotlight: Virgil Conklin

BGSTR: You started at BGSTR back in June of 2014. What was the company like back then?

Virgil: Well, it was a very different company than it is now, that's for sure. It was much smaller - it's grown a lot in the past 6 years, in all good ways really. We've brought on a really excellent team that's with us now. I've been working with some of the same faces for all of those six years - so that's always a nice thing. I think I really liked the vibe of it. It's a very creative place to be, which is where I always wanted to be. My interview went really well and I was very excited to get in there and make some creative stuff with creative people, which is exactly what happened. It was mainly about the creativity, the company and the people.

Projects produced by Virgil

BGSTR: Have you always been attracted to the arts or to the creative industry?

Virgil: I think so. At the early stages of figuring things out as a young adult and as a professional, there are always some swings and misses, but that's kind of par for the course. As early as high school, I was into being behind the camera and A/V Club. Then in college I took a couple of courses where I was actually working in Photoshop, and it was really interesting to me. I just loved the idea of being able to make things for a living, and that slowly progressed and kept advancing, and I was lucky enough to be someone who always found opportunities in the creative field throughout internships and early jobs. I grew up in the Catskills, a couple hours north of the city. Even though you are relatively close to the city, there's that shadow of the city that is cast over those mountains. I always saw these successful people and knew that, as much as I love where I'm from, I wanted to get out and see what it was like to be there. But I never wanted to be too far away either. So to me, moving to New York City and being able to work in this industry and being close to home still was really ideal for me.

BGSTR: When you finally got to BigStar, what was your title? Had you laid out specific goals for yourself when you walked into the role?

Virgil: My title when I first started at BigStar was actually Junior Producer. I don't know that I necessarily set goals for myself, but I always wanted to make sure that I was progressing and moving forward. That was something that was key to me and I think it's really important for young people in the industry to realize that sometimes you have to take a chance. For me, BigStar was that chance and it worked out, but you have to be willing to invest in yourself and bet on yourself. You just have to go for it sometimes and take a swing, sometimes you'll miss, but hey, sometimes you'll hit and it feels great when you do.

Ad Council: Forest Service (produced by Virgil)

BGSTR: Over the course of going from Junior Producer to Head of Production, what are some of the key traits that you feel like allowed you to be successful as a producer and that you would suggest to other producers?

Virgil: Attention to detail is obviously something that I think is very important, but also being able to interact with people at a very basic level. Whether it's your clients or your co-workers, being able to talk to everyone in the way that they need to be spoken to, is critical for a producer. The ability to get the point across to not only your client, but to your artists, and make sure you act as a liaison between all of these different people in different aspects of production. To be a well-rounded producer, I also think you need to have a certain technical know-how to make it really work. Being well versed in specs and codecs is fundamental. You might not come in until the very end of the project and sometimes that's the most important thing, because if the littlest thing goes wrong with those specs it could be detrimental to your delivery and to your relationship. I edit, I have worked in After Effects a little bit in my last job, Photoshop- just kind of having the basic knowledge of all this different software. You work with artists who are in this every day, so as a Producer and as a Head of Production, having some of that knowledge so you can actually talk to your artists in a way that they can relate is important.

BGSTR: Is there a project that stands out to you as being a moment where it all clicked?

Virgil: Where it all clicked? I could definitely think of some of my favorite ones. There were a couple of times at the beginning working with BigStar that I really saw everything click. But I think my favorite project that I've ever worked on was the Face Face project and Angelville with Preacher. It was such a blast and there were so many different people and so many different techniques involved. We got to work on the script writing, got to work on storyboarding, we got to work on shooting, we got to do traditional animation along with compositing- it was just so much, and was such a seamless process on that project.

Virgil: The final product was really something to be proud of. I know it's something that freelancers and people at BigStar still talk about. It's actually a project that we worked on and pitched on, which was great. One of the things that was especially interesting with this project is that Face Face was a traditional animation project, but we actually had the opportunity to shoot each of the characters, which is a really unique thing for this type of project and was super helpful for us. Basically what we did was shoot each of the characters facing the camera and doing the motions or facial expressions that we were going to eventually animate. We then took that footage and edited it together to create kind of a radio cut for our animators to follow.

This was something that was really interesting for us and super helpful because we could basically send this edit to AMC and our clients and they could all look at it and be like, "Yeah, this is cool- this is exactly what I want them to do." So we were able to get that in front of them and then we were able to hand it off to our animators and let them run with it. I think four people were working on just characters and then we had two other people working on the transitions and the effects. We had fire transitions, we had skin ripping off, we had skin melting, we had a knife cutting off faces and things like that. We started out with line animations and built it up from there over the course of a few months with six people on the project. I think when it was all said and done, it was almost a year of artists' time that was spent on it. But everything went really smoothly and then at the end we got a couple of other people involved who just worked on the composite and the color and things like that. While we were doing that, we were also doing the Angelville spot, which is something else we shot and got the comps. So we were working on those two projects hand in hand. It was just a lot of fun and we had a really great team for it who all worked very hard and were very excited about the project.

Preacher animations

BGSTR: What has the transition of BigStar in 2020 looked like for you? As Head of Production, what are some of the challenges you faced during this COVID time of transitioning to working from home and how have you addressed them?

Virgil: It's been an interesting time for everyone. At BigStar we've been lucky enough that we kind of rolled pretty seamlessly into this remote workflow. But I do think something what's so important is keeping everyone motivated and making sure everyone knows that you're here, every day, day in and day out - you try to have a smile and you just keep everyone going. I think that's so critical! Not only from an artist standpoint and from an internal standpoint, but also with your clients. Things are strange and curve balls have been coming, seems like a little more here and there, but it's how you take it in stride.

BGSTR: What are you most looking forward to?

Virgil: Well, I guess a little bit of normalcy. I do look forward to being back in the office at some point, hopefully in 2021 or whenever that may be. I look forward to being able to have meetings with our clients again. I look forward to having dinner with people. I look forward to being back and interacting with everyone on a more human level than Zoom. I really look forward to things going back to normal, whatever that might be!

BGSTR: What do you think BigStar is best at? What is our biggest asset, if you were going to tell somebody, hey, when you need to do this- call BigStar?

Virgil: Oh man. There's two sides to that coin a little bit, but the documentary and non-scripted work that we've done for some of our filmmaking partners is definitely some of our most proud work. You can look at things like Free Solo and a number of other documentaries, Food Inc. for instance. Over the years, there's so many that we've had a hand in and I think it's been really important work for us. But there's also a lot of really amazing promo work that we've done for networks. We just talked about Face Face and there's a ton more of that stuff, too. I guess I would have to say some of our non-fiction stuff are the things that come to my mind first when I think of BigStar.

BGSTR: What do you like to do in your spare time?

Virgil: In my spare time I like to go up to the mountains and hike a little bit, but also just relax up there and get out of the city. I also like to golf, and do that on the weekends quite a bit. I'm actually going this coming weekend. I really like being outdoors and I really love sports, so I think golf kind of checks off those boxes for me.