SNL gets a rebrand for season 40
Alex Buono a videographer – and great storyteller – tells the story of the new branding for SNL season 40.
As always, the titles are a huge team effort. Our director, Rhys Thomas, spent the summer collaborating with our logo design team at Pentragram Design, led by Emily Oberman, and with our portrait photographer, Mary Ellen Mathews, on a new logo and font design along with a set of mood-boards to experiment with the overall tone of the sequence. The idea was to honor the 40-year history of the show with something classic and iconic, a little more dressed-up than previous seasons and with typography that was integrated into the cityscape.
Our most experimental footage was relegated to the interstitial bumpers – so if you watch the show, watch out for them during the commercials this season. One of the tricks I was most excited to try was a custom bokeh technique. This one looks like a magic trick. As we all know intuitively, when a light source is thrown out of focus – be it a lamp, car headlight, traffic light, etc – it turns into a soft ball of light. The shape of the out-of-focus light is called the “bokeh” (Japanese term), and is actually a reflection of the shape of the iris of the lens itself.
For another bumper shot, we wanted to shoot a tilt-shift timelapse to “miniaturize” an iconic city scene. Shooting timelapse with a tilt-shift lens is a well-heeled trope, but for those who have never tried it: a tilt-shift lens allows you to “tilt” the focal plane, creating a narrow band of focus. When you shoot tilted shallow focus time lapse of – say, a cityscape — our brains are tricked into interpreting that bustling cityscape as a miniature, like an electric train set. Shooting from a slightly high angle (to mimic how you would traditionally look down at a miniature) and with a fairly fast shutter speed to decrease motion blur and create choppier movement helps increase the optical illusion. In the case of this bumper, we shot out of a 7th floor window at the base of Park Avenue, which offered a perfect high angle shot looking north up the canyon of traffic.
The Pixelstick is one of those amazing ideas that is hard to explain but once you see it, you immediately get it. In short, it’s a portable, lightweight bar containing 200 RGB LEDs. You can upload the device with an image in the form of a 200 pixel-tall 24-bit BMP (bitmap) file via SD card. When you trigger the bar, it flashes your image in a succession of pulses, one vertical line at a time — each LED corresponding to a single pixel. If you photograph this pulsing with a long exposure and you move the bar across the frame as it pulses, you literally “paint” the image in midair.