Wednesday, December 3, 2014

The SNL Title Sequence

Over thanksgiving break I had the glorious opportunity of joining some friends to a rehearsal screening of SNL (after sleeping overnight on the streets of New York waiting for tickets).

There's plenty I could say about the impressive studio performance, or how they managed to cram 5 separate stages in to a room just over half the size of a football field, but what I'm sharing today involves the one part of Saturday Night Live that is in fact not live – the title sequence.

My interest was sparked when I found a blog post by the creator of the title sequence, Alex Buono, just days after attending the rehearsal. Entitled "HOW WE DID IT – SNL TITLE SEQUENCE".

The full article has really useful information, including his stylistic techniques which were mostly (and most impressively) done in camera.

A few key points stuck out to me however:

1. Custom bokeh

Ah yes, that soft Japanese word we use to define the out of focus area of a photographic image. And to my latest discovery, how the out of focus light shines in to the camera can be manipulated into anything you want!

Bokeh is actually a reflection of the shape of the iris of the lens itself, which is usually why we see it as circular. In in its simplest terms, if you create a filter that's smaller than the diameter of the iris, the out-of-focus bokeh will magically take the shape of the filter in place of the iris. For Buono, the result came out something like this:

To have an effect like this coming strait into camera is just eff-ing cool.

2. A cool toy called "pixelstick"

Last year a company called Bitbanger Labs started a rather successful Kickstarter for their new product, "pixelstick". The page has so far brought in 571% of the initial goal...

...and for good reason, the capabilities of this device are incredible:

By slowly walking across screen several times, he accomplished this stop-motion clip that would be near impossible to accomplish with such accuracy just a few years ago.

In action:

Buono goes into great detail about how he accomplished the SNL title sequence, covering a range of equipment, lenses, and devices that gave the sequence its unique tone. I highly recommend it for any experimental or technical-oriented filmmaker.

Also, as this my last blog post for the class, I say adieu. It's not over yet, but this has already been an incredible experience. 

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