Picture Mill Takes A Bow for”Dreamgirls” Main Title Sequence

It seems simple enough. When you’sre part of a movie that has eight Academy Award nominations, you want people to remember who was in it. No easy task, especially when you’sre trying to keep the audience in their seats at the end of the movie. That was the challenge presented to the team at Hollywood design studio Picture Mill as they created the title sequence for Paramount and Dreamworks’s hit Dreamgirls, written and directed by Bill Condon.

The colorful, high-voltage sequence (which may be seen at www.picturemill.com) is a show-stopping ‘curtain call’ that celebrates the performances of stars and supporting cast, much like the rising curtain at the end of a Broadway musical. As Picture Mill creative director William Lebeda says, ‘Bill Condon wanted the sequence to be a real celebration of the cast and give the performers the same opportunity for a curtain call that stage performers receive. For the audience, it was a chance to go crazy at how terrific Beyonce, Jennifer Hudson, Jamie Foxx and Eddie Murphy were, without having to restrain themselves and sit quietly in their seats.’

The project came to Picture Mill through Dreamgirls picture editor, Virginia Katz, A.C.E. (Kinsey, Gods and Monsters). Katz had worked with the company on Jet Li Fearless in 2006 and that experience left little doubt in Katz mind that Picture Mill could handle the assignment. ‘Picture Mill came in with an incredible presentation,’ says Katz. ‘They had thought it out, totally understood Bill Condon ?‚àö√ë‚àö‚â§curtain call’s concept and what he wanted to do with color and music, and they came in with all these terrific ideas. Not only that, they came on board at a time when we were starting to have screenings and they had to turn things around for us very quickly. For every screening, they had to turn over a cut that wasn’st completely final, but always worked beautifully from start to finish.’

‘Bill Condon had a very specific idea about that transition out of the last scene of the movie and into the titles,’ says Picture Mill Art Director David Clayton. ‘His idea was to end the movie with the title song; then begin the end sequence with a driving instrumental version of one of the show stoppers, ?‚àö√ë‚àö‚â§I love you, I do’s underneath the picture as the title lets loose with a sequence of almost blinding kinetics.’ ‘Bill was a terrific collaborator,’ adds Lebeda. ‘He was great about providing notes and information, and was almost always readily available.’

To facilitate the transition, Picture Mill created a deep 3D background animation of soft-focus circular shapes that floated through the screen throughout the titles. Clayton explains, ‘For one of our original tests, we bought some sequins and shot them right here in our bathroom, in the dark with a flashlight. Bill loved the texture and the circular blurs, so for the final, our 3D people came up with a number of textures and elements of all sizes that we animated together and racked focus in and out to push the depth. It became a backplate for the entire piece.’

Katz and her editorial team supplied Picture Mill with a large reel of select takes for each actor, along with additional wild clips from the movie. To show as many looks as possible of each actor as quickly as possible, a design decision was made to use double and triple-split screens that slid in and out of frame. Clayton adds that all the split-screen animation was done within Final Cut motion keyframer. ‘This allowed our editor, Kye Krauter, to work very quickly and focus on the creative side of the edit, instead of having to export shots in and out of another program. For each character ID shots, we used garbage mattes and some light compositing within Final Cut to achieve just the right look.’

But it didn’st stop with the performers. After numerous tests, Condon asked Picture Mill to expand the concept to include many of the key below-the-line players on the production, including Director of Photography Tobias Schliessler, Costume Designer Sharen Davis, Editor Katz, Production Designer John Myrhe, and choreographer Fatima Robinson. Each discipline required acquiring elements such as costume sketches, production art, and conceptual designs that were then intercut with the final shots from the movie so that the audience could see the transitions going from idea to reality.

‘What we thought was going to be a very simple, short sequence ended up going over four and a half minutes,’ said Lebeda. ‘But since the art matched the shots so well, it proved to be very effective. Everyone who worked on that movie poured his and her heart and soul into it. Dreamgirls is a stunning piece of cinema, and we were proud to be a part of it.’


DREAMGIRLS MAIN TITLE CREDITS

Creative Director: William Lebeda
Executive Producer: Ty Van Huisen
Producer: Ryan Mosley
Art Director: David Clayton
Designer: Grant Nellessen
3D Animator: Bryan Thombs
2D Animation/Compositing: Josh Novak
Additional 2D Animators: Chad Bonnano, Akemi Abe
Editor: Kye Krauter

RELATED LINK
www.picturemill.com




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