March 7, 2013

Rama Allen's 'Vikings' Title Sequence Sets the Stage for New History Channel Drama

Fairly or not, when it comes to TV series watching I'm apt to come to a decision fairly quickly as to whether or not a show's going to be a worthwhile investment of my time over the coming weeks. Whilst concepts, show runners and featured actors all play a part in that decision, often when coming to a show cold a lot hinges on those all-important moments of introduction which happen during the title sequence. With that criteria in mind, see if you, like me, have high hopes for Michael Hirst's (The Tudors, Elizabeth) new show Vikings for the History channel which premiered a few days ago:

Exceptions aside -- I'm looking at you Sons of Anarchy -- crappy titles flash a warning that not nearly enough care went into the fine details of a show and any time invested is unlikely to pay off in the long run. With the 52 second Vikings opener, director Rama Allen builds the character of our drowning hero, literally prop by prop and given how well these images fit with Fever Ray's haunting track, it's no surprise to discover that music was the catalyst for everything that followed:

We began with music. Fever Rays "If I Had A Heart" was the first move, and it became the soundtrack to our development, our pitch, and eventually the finished work.

Our sequence was inspired by a folktale found in The Sagas. That of the nine sisters, the goddesses of the waves, that would pluck Viking explorers from their ships and pull them to a sensual, dark, watery grave. The Vikings relationship with death was built on honor, inevitability, sex, and the constant presence of gods pulsing through every grain of sand and swell of the ocean.

We follow the separation of a Viking from the living. He slips into darkness amongst ornaments of his life. Weaponry, gold and bone. His fading memory flickers throughout before he is consumed by one of the Sisters. He is left a shell below the waves before we learn he is not alone, but one of many sinking below the creeping surge of Viking raiders above. A fiery massive raid assaults a darkened coast line.

A small crew from The Mill -- where the project was housed from conception to the final grade -- headed by DP Khalid Mohtaseb shot the sequence in a pool and on New Jersey's Pre-Sandy beaches, then settled down for the in-house edit and composition work.

Here are a couple of stills from the Vikings shoot which second unit DP Adam Carboni was kind enough to send over -- as well as clue me in to the incorrect still I had at the top of the post!

It's no surprise to see Allen maximise his short window to set the tone of the show given that he was one of the Creative Leads at Digital Kitchen on the much lauded True Blood title sequence. If you haven't seen it yet (how's that possible?) here it is again -- it does contains flashes of NSFW imagery, so perhaps not one for the office.

Also, if you've ever been curious what visual delights these artists could produce if given more time to play with, here's a look into how those titles were made, followed by an equally affecting, but more languid approach which extends many of the visual motifs present in the final title sequence.

How well did the Vikings title sequence set the mood for you? What other show openings are worthy of a mention?

Link: Vikings Opening Title Sequence -- Rama Allen

Your Comment

6 Comments

The titles on Vikings are only average. The best thing is the music track, which has been used elsewhere to much better effect.
The show itself is ok, (Gabriel Byrne is terrific) although some of the effects in the show are pretty dodgy. For example, laughable compositing ruins the end of the opening battle sequence.
My current favourite TV title sequences are House of Cards (mainly for the logo design with the upside down flag) and FX's "Americans".

March 7, 2013

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marklondon

I think title sequences are the big window to putting you in the mood for a story. The True Blood intro is one of my favorites and I also really enjoyed the Vikings intro. Title design, art direction and specially timing are key features to the making of a great engaging intro.

The guys that made the Dexter and Six Feet Under are great at setting the mood for a show. I'm not sure if True Blood was made by the same team.

A good website for TV and movie intros is http://www.artofthetitle.com I recommend checking it out.

As always, great creative post Mar Belle.

Cheers

March 7, 2013

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Francisco

Thanks!

Although not overly flashy or technically difficult, I always like the original Big Love title sequence -http://youtu.be/9y9c2Sfo1hM - it annoyed the hell out of me when they redid them for the later series.

You're right Digital Kitchen nailed all three of those titles. Art of the Title is a great resource, thanks for sharing. Another titles site worth looking in on is http://www.watchthetitles.com/.

March 7, 2013

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MarBelle
Writer
Writer/Curator

I feel like the titles are missing some foley and sound design. Even subtle water effects would have made it more interesting. Great imagery though!

March 7, 2013

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Agreed. These titles are average at best. Its goes no where fast. This makes me not even want to watch Vikings. I mean it what way shape or form does this even say "Vikings" True Blood, Dexter, Game of Thrones.
Those are epic. I have watched every title sequence DK has made they rule.

March 7, 2013

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Derek Lawrey

some favourites of mine in no particular order: Carnivale (HBO), Boardwalk Empire (HBO), Breaking Bad (full sequence)

March 7, 2013

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johncl