The new Saturday Night Live title sequence is a great example of the use of many filmmaking techniques and if you wonder how this video was made, make sure to read Alex Buono's blog post in which he shares in great detail how the crew managed to create this amazing sequence. In this case the idea was to honor the 40-year history of the show (you can watch the title sequence here). Very soon director, Rhys Thomas and Alex came up with the idea to use only in-camera techniques, they wanted to do something low-fi, analog, optical, vintage and classic. And so Rhys, film unit producer Justus McLarty and Alex brainstormed a list of in-camera techniques to test: slo-motion, tilt-shift, black&white, long-exposure motion blur, double-exposures, light-writing, timelapse, strobe photography, aerial photography, infrared photography, optical aberrations, anamorphic distortions, prism-distortions, etc., and while it sounds exciting, the most important goal of the video was to warm-up the audience and introduce fifteen cast members.
It's hart to list all the hardware that was used to create this awesome sequence - there were various lenses with a variety of cameras:
"Our main camera for the cast portraits was the Red Epic Dragon. While we’ve leaned toward the Arri Alexa over the past couple of seasons, we tried out the Dragon on a handful of spots and found it to be a huge improvement over the (Non-Dragon) Epic. As advertised, the dynamic range is much closer to the Alexa’s performance while the Dragon offers us a much wider range of resolution and frame rate options. For a handheld experimental title sequence with lots of different tricks, the Dragon was an easy choice. We started shooting the cast portraits at 6K resolution at 5:1 compression, thinking it would be very helpful to have a lot of room to re-frame shots, but after the first two cast-shoots (out of fifteen) racked up over 2TB of footage, we quickly dropped down to a more manageable 5K / 7:1 resolution. For the non-freelensing shots, we rigged the camera with a Redrock MicroRemote wireless follow focus and Teradek Bolt; for most of the shoot, the only monitor on set was a battery-powered 5.6″ TVLogic for Rhys to handhold. In addition to the Dragon, much of the bumper-footage was shot with a Canon 5DmIII."
One of the greatest effects in the video is a custom bokeh technique, in which every light source in the shot turns into the SNL logo. In order to achieve this result, Alex needed to create a 4×5 filter mask with a logo that would fit inside a 25mm circle:
"I brought the logo into Adobe Illustrator, re-sized the logo to fit within a 25mm diameter and placed it within the frame of a 4” x 5.6” rectangle — which is the size of the glass filter I was using. We sent the Illustrator file to our sign printer who has the ability to print black laser-cut vinyl stickers. Then we simply took the vinyl sticker and adhered it to a 4 x 5 clear filter. Voila! We had a custom SNL-logo bokeh filter. For these shots, we picked up a set of Leica Summilux-C lenses. I experimented with different lenses and different sized-filters, but the best results were with the 50mm."
The team also wanted to incorporate light-writing into one of the bumpers and to achieve it they used a Pixelstick:
"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."
Make sure to read the full blog post - click here.