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Behind the Idea: Snarling Neon with We Hunt Together and UKTV

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Some underestimate the impact of title sequences on viewers, but the truth is these sequences can largely contribute to strengthen a solid tv show's brand. From Game of Thrones to Penny Dreadful, from Breaking Bad to Westworld, having memorable opening credits can make the difference between pushing that skip button and you know maybe I'll stay for another round after all, ensuring viewers are fully aware of what awaits ahead.

We Hunt Together will premiere exclusively on Alibi on 27 May at 10pm, and from its title sequence it is already clear that the show is just different. Ensuring the viewer is in the right mood from the beginning was one of the main goals of UKTV head of design Peter Allinson's team, and the result is a fierce opening with neon predators and glowing London streets, a strong statement from a complex character-led thriller.

We've had a chat with Peter to dig 'Behind the Idea' and understand what made We Hunt Together so special for both him and his team at UKTV creative.

"We Hunt Together" Opening Title Sequence (UKTV Original / BBC Studios) from UKTV Creative on Vimeo.

What was the brief?

The brief was to create a stand out opening title sequence that represents the show's key themes and unique tone.

We Hunt Together tells of two couples in a provocative new take on the cat-and-mouse thriller. It’s a complex and well-crafted character-led thriller. It’s contemporary and unique in style. It’s modern, thought-provoking and edgy.

The opening titles needed to encompass these themes and invite the viewer into this dangerous, beautiful, multi layered London.

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How did the initial pitch/brainstorming phase go? 

The competitive pitch included 4 design agencies. We were all given a few weeks to work up some creative ideas and put together a pitch document to present to the shows executive producers.

Before going client-side at UKTV Creative, I had worked at a number of design agencies and been involved in my fair share of competitive pitches. Although they are pretty nerve-wracking, I really enjoy them, but only if I’m fully prepared.

You must have confidence in the work you are presenting, if you want the client to put their confidence in you.

The main thing that I have learnt over the years is that you have to have full confidence in the work you are presenting, if you stand any chance of the client deciding to put their confidence in you. So when putting the pitch together, we put in a lot of work.

This included a general art direction, followed by three creative routes for the title sequence, ending on our recommendation that included a test video of what the title sequence could look like. This was all to give the client the clearest idea of what we had in mind, and to give them the confidence that we were the right people to work with.

We went to their production studios in Soho and presented to the shows director and producer as well as executive producers from BBC Studios. All the hard work paid off when we found out that we had won the pitch and that our recommended route was liked by all stakeholders.

Result!

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Tell us more about the concept. Why was it the right choice? 

This title sequence is set in a world of glowing neon where predators hunt together in the shadows. A tale of complex characters and the vibrant, violent world they inhabit. There’s a heightened reality to this world, which we see through our characters' eyes. A fantastical setting of glowing colour and neon light. A style that flows through each and every thrilling episode. It’s beautiful, but dangerous.

To create the neon-lit London we collaborated with Eugene Tumusiime, a new and upcoming Photographer, Art Director, and self-confessed Nightcrawler, who specialises in transforming London at night into vibrant neon.

Fierce predators appear without warning, much like the bursts of violence in the show

Predatory animals form the alter egos of our four main protagonists, creating a face-off between predators. These fierce predators appear without warning, much like the bursts of violence that happen throughout the show, catching you off-guard, making you feel unsettled and uncomfortable.

Buzzing street lights flicker and neon lights burst to create hidden messages of the violence and danger that is ever-present.

The discordant imagery, aggressive cuts and rich yet dark colour scheme all help to evoked an appropriately discomfiting reaction in our audience and prepare them for what is to follow.

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What was the production process like? What was the biggest challenge?

The production process ran incredibly smoothly and was a pleasure to work on from start to finish. The very best kind of project you could ask for. This was a result of doing so much work up-front and fully understanding what was needed to be done to see it all through… even before we won the pitch.

By the time we revealed the idea to anyone, we had already created a rough cut of the title sequence, lined up a very talented up-and-coming photographer and scheduled time for post-production and visual FX. So as soon as we heard the good news and had the go-ahead, we could just move forward with the production process we had already put in place.

There’s no harm in having confidence in your work and being prepared.

However, I think the biggest challenge we faced during production was probably the soundtrack and deciding what song best suited a show and a title sequence like this.

We had a list of suggestions; some very well-known songs, some that were totally unknown. Each track bringing a different pace and tone to the sequence.

In the end the production company found a fantastic track by a relatively-unknown band called She drew the gun, with a song ironically titled Paradise.

This track had a dark, retro feel that complemented our visual style and had a tone that heightened the sense of danger, and otherness about our world and our characters.

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What’s the main message of the campaign and why does it matter?

A title sequence should help to establish the setting and tone of a show, so we really wanted to create a sense of danger and invite the viewer into this unsettling and violent world.

Our main objective was to evoke an appropriately discomforting reaction from the audience in order to unsettle them. To do this we used aggressive cuts, snarling animals appearing without warning and the neon signs I mentioned earlier.

All of these techniques were used to unsettle the viewer and question what they had just seen. Helping to put them in the correct mindset for the violence that was to follow.

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Why will the final assets resonate with consumers?

I think if you tune into a show like We Hunt Together, you are looking for a certain kind of drama. Thrilling. Suspenseful. Edge of your seat entertainment. So we need to service that audience with a fitting and appropriate title sequence.

The images and colour palette express that off-kilter under-belly setting – that North London Noir – to create a distinctive look with a kinetic energy to seduce the viewer.

This is a place you don’t usually go to or see on television. So strap yourself in.

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What is one unique fact about the campaign that will help it cut through?

To create the neon-lit London we commissioned bespoke photography that captures London locations that are specific to the show in order to maximise the look and create something unique. A London with a distinctive look. A London that’s never been seen before. A London transformed into vibrant neon.

We also wanted to stay true to the show and its urban setting so we shot in the exact locations that were used in all the episodes. This included Hackney, Mile End, Wood Green and the surrounding areas to give the title sequence a sense of authenticity.

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How long did it take from inception to delivery?

We worked on the pitch for a couple of months, from the beginning of October to the beginning of December. This gave us enough time to create a strong response to the brief and prepare us for the pitch.

After winning the pitch on the 18th December we had about 5 weeks to turn the whole title sequence around and deliver a final version by 28th January - the day that episode one was due to go into pre mix.

Thankfully with all of the preparations in place we went straight into production and arranged two night shoots during the first week of January with all post production ready to be completed straight afterwards. The cold, wet streets of London during the dark January nights were perfect for what we needed and we got plenty of brilliant material to work with.

After delivery of the first episode, we continued to deliver the following episodes as the edits continued to be completed in Soho throughout the next few weeks.

So all in all, it was around 4 months from inception to delivery.

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What do you hope it achieves for BBC Studios and the show? 

This show feels like an exciting step for UKTV and BBC Studios, so I hope it’s well received.

We Hunt Together feels like part of a new wave of TV where you don’t have to like the main characters in order to enjoy watching them. It’s on a very different level compared with many other crime dramas - it’s bold, risky and original, with an opening title sequence that complements it.

I just hope the audience appreciate the connection that the opening title sequence has to the series and agree that it helps establish the setting and tone of the show.

With these great characters and the stand-out visual language of the series, we also hope it will bring a new kind of viewer to the channel and drive major reappraisal of what the Alibi brand stands for.

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How satisfying is it to see it out there after so much hard work?

This project has been quite unique, as I have thoroughly enjoyed every single step of the process. From pitch to delivery.

The creative collaboration and trust that the client gave us meant that we could fulfil the promise that we initially pitched and make something that we can all be proud of.

We put our heart and creative souls into this project. We had a clear understanding of what we wanted to achieve and didn’t have to compromise the creative in any way, which is probably why we’re so proud of the end result.

We have been lucky enough to have already won two prestigious awards for this title sequence and I truly believe that you get out what you put in.

It’s certainly satisfying to see the work out there, but it’s equally satisfying to look back and remember how enjoyable the whole creative process was.

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Peter Allinson is head of design at UKTV Creative.

 

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