Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey

“Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey,” the reboot of the classic science TV series helmed by Carl Sagan that aired in 1980, should be required viewing for all of us.

In “Cosmos,” artful visual effects and elegant motion design inform and delight in equal parts. Animation is as essential to the success of “Cosmos” as the lovable hosting talents of astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson.

All-Star Team

With executive producer Seth MacFarlane behind the show and a 13-week run on Fox and National Geographic, the creators of “Cosmos” are going toe-to-toe with primetime. The premiere launched opposite AMC’s “The Walking Dead” and ABC’s heavily promoted “Resurrection” and still managed to rake in an impressive 8.5 million viewers.

Brannon Braga, co-executive producer and director, is no stranger to space drama. He co-wrote “Star Trek: First Contact” and executive produced all of the Star Trek series after the original.

Co-directing from behind the camera is DP Bill Pope, best known as the cinematographer for “The Matrix.”

Then there’s Rainer Gombos, visual effects supervisor of “Game of Thrones” fame. VFX shots themselves have been handled by a who’s who of facilities including Framestore, BUF, Tippett Studio, Atomic Fiction and Montreal’s Mokko Studio.

Not too shabby.

The Title Sequence

The title sequence (seen above) is as thoughtful and jaw-dropping as the show itself.

Created by BBDG (Shaun Collings and Curtis Doss), the opener oscillates between the cosmic and the microscopic, the tangible and the ethereal. Like the show, the sequence uses the power of metaphor to draw parallels between the mysterious grandeur of the universe and the grand reality of our everyday lives.

Character Animation

The animated sequences produced by Kara Vallow (with whom MacFarlane has a long working relationship) and Six Point Harness are an alternative take on the live-action based historic segments from the original “Cosmos.”

In an interview with Geekosystem, Vallow explains the reasoning behind using animation:

Seth [MacFarlane] thought that [using live action for the historic segments] was going to be prohibitive in this incarnation of the series, because viewers are much more sophisticated now than they were then in terms of historical time periods being recreated by Hollywood. We’re attuned to seeing big budget period movies and costumes and stuff, and in the original series they were done very low budget.

I don’t think they thought that viewers were going to accept that now, and they didn’t have the time to do a big budget Gosford Park type imagining of the narrative. So, it was Seth’s idea to do those in animation.

Watch it online

Full episodes of “Cosmos” can be viewed on the official site and on Hulu.


Or if you’re feeling lazy, watch the first episode here.

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About the author

Justin Cone

/ justincone.com

Together with Carlos El Asmar, Justin co-founded Motionographer, F5 and The Motion Awards. 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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  • Bob Yajahowiczs

    The main title sequence is stunning!

  • Gugy

    Great show and open. High quality production all over. The animations in the show are very well done and it is a great way to bring science to the masses. Kudos to all involved on the project.

  • Some of the best title work I’ve ever seen. Beautiful, elegant, and inspiring.

  • love the show!

  • bob

    Many more vfx studios were used, including Montreal’s Mokko Studio.

    • That’s great! I’m adding Mokko to the post. I’m having a hard time figuring out all the studios involved. Any help would be appreciated.

  • Congratulations Shaun and Curtis for an artful main title sequence! The universe and humanity in one . . . very impressive.

  • here’s some behind the scenes stuff: http://www.cosmosontv.com/production-diaries

  • at exactly 0:01 seconds into the opening, there is some dudes face on the top left…. nice try slipping in some inside easter egg. Happy easter

  • Elan Soltes

    Justin, check iMDB!