HBO Design & Branding Westworld [image] by Elastic Pictures

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Westworld [image]

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Industry TV Channels/Radio Stations and Programmes
Media Design & Branding
Market United States
Agency Elastic Pictures
Director Patrick Clair
Designer Paul Kim, Henry Deleon, Jeff Han, Felix Soletic, Maxx Burman
Producer Ben Foster
Released October 2016


Cannes Lions 2017
Design Design Craft: Video / Moving Images Silver Lion

Credits & Description

Title: Westworld
Agency: Elastic
Brand: Hbo
Country: USA
Entrant Company: Elastic, Santa Monica
Advertising Agency: Elastic, Santa Monica
Production Company: Elastic, Santa Monica
Head Of Production: Kim Christensen (Elastic)
Director: Patrick Clair (Elastic)
Animator/Compositor: Raoul Marks (Elastic)
Designer: Paul Kim (Elastic)
Designer: Jeff Han (Elastic)
Designer: Felix Soletic (Elastic)
Designer: Maxx Burman (Elastic)
Designer: Henry Deleon (Elastic)
Visual Researcher: Dan Alexandru (Elastic)
Storyboard: Lance Slaton (Elastic)
Lighting: Shamus Johnson (Elastic)
Animator/Compositor: Yongsub Song (Elastic)
Head Of Cg: Kirk Shintani (Elastic)
3d Artist: Jose Limon (Elastic)
3d Artist: Jessica Hurst (Elastic)
3d Artist: Dustin Mellum (Elastic)
3d Artist: Rie Ito (Elastic)
3d Artist: Joe Paniagua (Elastic)
3d Artist: Mike Kash (Elastic)
3d Artist: Ken Bishop (Elastic)
3d Rigging: Josh Dyer (Elastic)
Animator: David Do (Elastic)
Producer: Ben Foster (Elastic)
Supervising Producer: Carol Salek (Elastic)
Managing Director: Jennifer Sofio Hall (Elastic)
Campaign Description:
We witness icons of the Wild West world being formed inside a lab. This feels like a dance, a grand balletic expression of creation. A horse gallops in slow motion across a vast landscape, a cowgirl sits high atop it, her hair streaming in the wind while a six shooter is aggressively pointed forwards. Two lovers embrace in a dark room, the surfaces that face each other are soft and seductive, while their extremities are half formed and grotesquely revealed. We see a saloon pianist, playing a familiar tune... but as he himself is weaved, the piano takes over his tune - an automaton itself. He is rendered redundant, and as "ash-to-ash" and "dust-to-dust" he returns to the milk bath from whence he came... his final loop complete.
Typically, we would begin by reinterpreting the devices from inside the narrative (the mechanics of making an android “host”) into something more abstract and poetic. The challenge here was that the process from the show was already a beautiful and poetic process of weaving and milky baths… there’s a ballet that takes place as the robots are forged. So, we looked into how we could reveal a deeper narrative using these established pieces. We stepped into a different, slower, timeframe – injecting grace and poetry into the established visuals. We leveraged the icon of the automatic “Player Piano” as kind of robot… teasing the irony of a robot created to be a man rendered obsolete by a robotic piano. There was no simple or direct metaphor, but a desire to explore the concepts of independence, consciousness, art – all while blending the Wild West with the cold mechanical lab.
The sequence became an iconic part of Westworld’s presence. The show itself got strong reviews (89% on Rotten Tomatoes) and became massively popular. The titles have received coverage through-out the design press, but also garnered mentions throughout mainstream and entertainment media (The Guardian, Vulture, Collider, Quartz, TV Guide, etc…). The real impact is seeing the visual cues echo in emerging trends across the industry.
We intended to create a sequence that drew on real, three dimensional photographic style depictions of the objects from this world. However, the sets had been struck. We needed something with subtlety and nuance in lighting and texture, we didn’t want to rely on illustration or graphic techniques. So, we created everything in 3D CGI. The challenge was render times, we had only a few weeks to produce the final animations. We explored the emerging field of GPU rendering – where specialized graphical processing chips take over the job of traditional CPUs. These created beautiful light effects and stunning textures, in record time. While the team developed the creative approach, we also developed a pipeline whereby many of these new GPUs could run in special parallel arrays – accelerating render time and creative potential to make the sequence a photographic style reality.
The team behind HBO’s Westworld approached us to develop a main title sequence for their reboot of the classic film into a contemporary series. The show mixes Wild West and Sci-Fi traditions into a heady blend of action, philosophy and drama. Our job was to create a sequence that could capture those iconic but divergent aesthetics in a single poetic visual thread. The show was epic on a grand scale, and the sequence needed to capture that expansive feel WHILE ALSO painting an intimate and tragic picture of machines given life, only to be destroyed for violent (and sexual) exploitation... all with subtlety, grace and restraint.