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?