2009 Emmys: Outstanding Main Title Design Nominees

Here are the nominees for a 2009 Emmy award in Outstanding Main Title Design.

True Blood (HBO)


Rama Allen, Designer; Shawn Fedorchuk, Editor; Matthew Mulder, Creative Director; Morgan Henry, Main Title Producer; Camm Rowland, Designer; Ryan Gagnier, Designer
Making of and case study on Digital Kitchen’s site

Taking Chance (HBO)


Michael Riley, Title Designer; Dru Nget, Title Designer; Dan Meehan, Animator; Bob Swensen, Main Title Producer

United States Of Tara (Showtime)


Jamie Caliri, Director/Director of Photography/Editor/Main Digital Compositor; Dave Finkel, Creator; Brett Baer, Creator
Q&A with Jamie Caliri on The Art of the Title Sequence

Storymakers (AMC)


James Spindler, Creative Director; Mike Wasilewski, Designer; Ahmet Ahmet, Art Director; Grant Lau, Art Director
Interview with the creators on AMC’s blog

Lie To Me (FOX) – Video not available

lie to me
Robert Bradley, Title Designer; Thomas Cobb, Title Designer
You can watch full episodes of Lie to Me on Hulu.com (in the United States).

See the official Emmy site for more details.

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About the author

Justin Cone

/ justincone.com
Together with Carlos El Asmar, Justin co-founded Motionographer and F5. He currently lives in Austin, Texas with is wife, son and fluffball of a dog. Before taking on Motionographer full-time, Justin worked in various capacities at Psyop, NBC-Universal, Apple, Adobe and SCAD.

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  • invertebrae

    it’s me again, mr. complainer. this time i want to bring up a sore point. as a designer and director myself, i don’t live for awards but it is a compliment to receive one. especially for those who work on titles like these and get nominated (and win) emmy’s.

    at digital kitchen (many already know) my alma mater, they have racked up as many emmy’s as anyone for their excellent title designs. and as a reward, the team invovled in working on the nominated titles get to come with the company to the award show, where there is a good chance their titles will win.

    where am i going with this? well you might also know that i had some beef with how the TRUE BLOOD titles went down. serious homage going on there on the point of (what i felt was) plagiaristic behavior. but the complaint i had didn’t stop there. it has to do with giving credit where credit is due.

    when THE COMPANY was nominated for best titles a few years back, the designer of the boards that won the job was flown out to hollywood. even though he had quit dk and started a job at shilo in nyc. mind you, the end result of the titles didn’t really resemble his boards in any way, it was a great gesture on the part of dk to bring him out.

    fast forward to 2009, and here we are with a controversial main titles sequence which will likely win (mostly because the most acclaimed shows tend to win, regardless of the title designs, imo). another close friend of mine, who was heavily involved in pitching, boarding, and winning these titles for dk, has been snubbed from the project on a couple of levels.

    here is why:

    1. he designed boards for the show, which helped win the job. PROOF: http://www.liftingfaces.com/uploads/true_blood.jpg (frames which ended up in the final piece include: nudes in the dark, moth, swamp shot, fox shot, dancing in bar, poolhall), and…

    2. he also worked with ryan g. a credited nominee and dk staffer, on the polaroid treatment. from what i remember, this was my friend’s concept. PROOF: http://www

    3. all of that said, my friend had a bit of beef with a few staffers at dk, which led to a less than awesome relationship. since leaving as a freelancer, my friend was asked kindly to not show the titles on his personal website, something dk has allowed most other freelancers to do. they have also told him not to show it period. both of which my friend agreed to, even though he felt it was inappropriate and a bit of a bummer.

    4. while remaining credited as “designer” on the dk site. come emmy nomination time his name is nowhere to be found. why? you’ll have to ask dk yourself. but pretty shitty in my mind. no flight to LA for doing a good job, no mention or whisper of a credit on the nomination sheet. these are things that reward us for our hard work, that partly make us feel it was worth the grueling effort put forth.

    now, i’m not saying my friend was the only creative mind behind this job. the crew had a plan to go down south and find some weird shit, some weird people, shoot as much as they could, and edit something sweet together. another staffer worked on a convincing rip-o-matic which sourced many different pre-existing pieces of film to help win the job as well.

    however, when the founder of the company says my friend’s contributions were “too limited to be justified in showing on your own site,” one has to look back at THE COMPANY, and wonder how that logic works by proxy.

    anyhow, congrats to the nominees.

    :)

    …ryan

    • Panasit

      At first I was just going to leave a simple “yay! I hope DK wins” and then go off to look at websites with inappropriate contents. But your post interests me. Firstly, thank you for the inside information. I always love reading behind the scene stories.

      After reading it quite thoroughly several times (I wanted to make sure there is no misunderstanding on my part) I feel that your main point is: Digital Kitchen treated your friend differently than they did with the guy who worked on the main title for “The Company”. And you don’t know WHY.

      Well the answer to that WHY is most likely this BEEF your friend had with the staffers. At least that’s what I gathered from your message. So I am asking now, what were they arguing about?

      “It’s private” is not acceptable because this whole “not crediting your friend” thing is also a private matter, which was brought up anyway and, whether intentionally or not, put Digital Kitchen in a very bad light. It makes no sense to respect your friend’s privacy but violate Digital Kitchen’s.

      You can claim that it doesn’t matter. The guy could have been a serial killer, a credit should goes to whoever it is due. Not necessary. Especially since this beef could have been work related. And it did occurred at around the time True Blood title sequence was in production right? Until we know what it was.. which could have been argument over a parking space… we can’t be hundred percent sure.

      I am not taking side with Digital Kitchen, it’s just that I learned pretty early in life not to jump on a bandwagon to bring down a heroic figure within an industry.

      Your friend did contribute a lot to the work as far as I’m concern. He set up the concept and mood and tone. So much so that it would appear no matter how bad this BEEF was, not crediting him was ever going to be justified.

      Still, it is a missing part of the story.

      My opinion is that Digital Kitchen did not handled this very well. As the party that decided to keep things under wrap, they are more likely to look guilty. But then without knowing the whole story, they could have been trying to protect your friend as much as they were trying to protect themselves.

      I once worked on a project with a person that slack off, lied about being sick, and in the end even tried to sabotage our works. Despite finding out about this person’s true nature, due to time limit, his very small contribution still made it onto the final rendering. I credited this person anyway, even though this person betrayed us and only drew the head of a main character (not torso, not even the eyes), and I did the concept, the art direction, character designs, and me and two other guys did background and other character animation. But I credit this person because just because I don’t want there to be any problem… problem like this. But I didn’t feel like I had to do it. And I definitely would not feel like a bad person if I want to take this person’s name off the project, even though his design of main character’s head pretty much float around throughout the entire music video.

      • invertebrae

        @panasit:

        i’m not sure there were any major “incidents” that created the discord between my friend and his coworkers. he’s definitely his own personality, and maybe some thing it can be polarizing. i like him a lot, and think he’s very talented. he’s a hard worker, and stays up all hours of the night to get a job done, and his contributions to this job was no exception.

        i think it was just a personality conflict more than anything. he didn’t sabotage any jobs, didn’t sleep with the creative director’s girlfriend (i don’t think!), so yeah, i think just different people not jiving.

        still doesn’t excuse the omission in my opinion. i think it’s just an ego thing, and using this as a way to “get even” perhaps? not sure, again, you have to ask the ones responsible.

        another (dk) friend DID inform me that the Emmy’s used to have a four credit limit, and that in large part thanks to dk, they increased the number to six. that would explain the non-crediting i guess, but still doesn’t excuse not letting my friend show the project on his own site, assuming the proper credits are given.

        …ryan

  • ikaria

    I’ve yet to work on a project where credits give the true picture of artists contributions. If anything, they are more indicative of the power structures within the organization. More often than not, the people responsible for the bulk of the work get listed several rows below those that hand out the paychecks.

    That being said, I must counter your assessment of the boarding artist’s contribution to the COMPANY titles. As someone who worked on the project and was among the nominees, I believe that his boards define the very look, feel and style of the piece. The artist’s inclusion in the nominee list was consulted with other artists involved. The fact that he was no longer at DK at the time only validates the worth of his contribution as companies will rarely go to such lengths to give credit where credit is due.

    – Igor

  • ceevee

    Has anyone else seen the amazing documentary “Searching For The Wrong Eyed Jesus”? is one of my favorites and i highly recommend anyone to watch it; shot like the most beautiful music video, narrators are wonderful and what a great soundtrack. The film is inspiring.

    Unfortunately it looks like the people at DK got a biiiiiiit too inspired.

    Having watched the documentary a few times, there are scenes in the True Blood open that are lifted directly from Searching For The Wrong Eyed Jesus.

    If they win this or any award…i could care less. But something i do care about is the lack of ethics that most studios show. ..

  • Why don’t we all try to adopt a modern, standardized credit system for our industry? It’s very important for everyone’s careers and their reputation that proper credit is given, and that noone tries to claim more ownership for any project than is right.
    This was alluded to in the interview that Justin did with AICP Digital, and it should be something we all push for. More and more studios are now putting credits for specific jobs on their sites (and sometimes in PR), which is definitely a step in the right direction.
    I’d personally like to see a system used everywhere that also links to personal sites: for staff, freelancers and external companies. Fair is fair, no?

  • oeuf

    This all went down when the True Blood titles came out. Ryan partially linked it in his post, but here’s the rest: http://www.liftingfaces.com/2008/09/the-wrong-eyed-concept/
    Read the article and don’t skip the comments, looks like DK came in to give their side of the story. The rest, well, is up to you.
    And another note to these emmy noms, does anyone know the process, because alot of times, credit is not given to the people that worked on the pieces. If memory serves correct, last year it looked like the only place to credit everyone involved was for The Company. I could be wrong though. I think The Company should have won, but instead Madmen did, and in my opinion, only did because it was the “happening” series. Even then, I was extremely surprised at who was credited at being involved in that project. Was a quite a shame.

    • “I think The Company should have won, but instead Madmen did, and in my opinion, only did because it was the “happening” series.”

      This, I think, plays a bigger role than the Emmys are probably willing to admit.

    • Panasit

      I think Mad Men title deserved to win more than The Company’s main title.

      The Company’s title sequence was definitely well executed with great transition, while Mad Men’s, from technical stand point, look very unpolished and more lazy than minimalistic. However I think the concept is where it was decided.

      Just look at the use of symbolism: The Company’s title’s symbolism is way too literal and blatant compared to those found in Mad Men’s title, which are more subtle and leaves room to many interpretation.

      The stylized homage to hitchcock could have just been random imagery but because of the nature of the show, there’s a feeling by everyone that there’s more to it than that.

      It’s like a very well written beautiful verse fighting against a mediocre Poem. Of course the Poem is still going to win.

  • Panasit

    I have to ask. Where’s Fringe opening?

    I know United States Of Tara and True Blood is the top contender and Fringe’s title can’t beat them. But I think it looks better than Taking Chance’s title.

    Is this another one of those “anything SciFi don’t get nominated for awards” thing again? I hope not. Yeah, it’s very brief and cartoony, and the words get repeated, but something about it makes me want to watch it over and over, some time more than ten times, consecutively. I hope I’m not the only one.

  • Mad Men stands alone.