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A52's effects and animation work title HBO's ROME

Mythologies and mystique of ancient empire unite in HBO's ROME title sequence

ROME, the spectacular co-production between HBO and BBC, debuted on HBO last evening, and viewers were transported into the mystique of Rome in 52 BC via a main title sequence created for the show by award-winning Los Angeles visual effects and design company A52.  The :90 main titles, created entirely in-house at A52, will introduce each episode.

Last year, A52’s team earned the Emmy for Outstanding Main Title Design, and a PROMAX Gold Award, for their title sequence for HBO’s original dramatic series CARNIVÀLE.  The team also created the opening titles for HBO’s DEADWOOD.

“This venture, our third with A52, proves what a powerful creative force they are,” said Carolyn Strauss, president of HBO entertainment.

“A52's Angus Wall and Scott Boyajan truly were the vision on our title sequence,” added series co-producer Todd London.  “From design and development, through production in Rome, and finally bringing it all together in post-production and final delivery, their talent, attitude, class and execution tend to be the reasons I enjoy having a working relationship with them.”

As was the case on CARNIVÀLE, Angus Wall once again stepped into the role of creative director for the ROME project, working directly with Carolyn Strauss and director of HBO Entertainment Gina Balian, as well as series executive producers Bruno Heller and Anne Thomopoulos, HBO production executive Michael Hill, and project co-producer Todd London.  The fulfillment of Wall’s vision involved capturing live-action footage on location in Rome, and combining animated graffiti on the walls of the city with vibrant cinematography to convey the unique mythologies and realities of the ancient world the epic series dramatizes.

Wall first researched the series’ scripts and Roman mythology to identify many scenes to be depicted in the graffiti, including the Lupercal and October Horse festivals.  While Wall and A52’s project producer Scott Boyajan traveled to Rome’s Cinecitta Studios for their live-action shoot, A52’s CG supervisor Andrew Hall and his team of animators began work on the animated sequences, which were based on original artwork created by artists Josh Bayer and Eugene Yelchin.

VFX artist Kirk Balden, who joined A52 earlier this year, served as A52’s lead artist and 2D supervisor on the project – and also designed the end title’s bleed-through effect.  “We began by conforming the rough offline edit from Rock Paper Scissors’ editor Brad Waskewich in HD in Inferno, using flat telecine passes,” he explained.  “From the beginning, we envisioned a palette that used the richest, most vibrant colors possible, so my next step was to begin grading all the scenes to match our aesthetic, and then to begin integrating the CG graffiti into the walls.  To make those elements look real – while also making them stand out – we used a combination of techniques, combining color correction and compositing… and adding grain and details from the walls.”

With nods to A52’s CG team for all their artistry – not the least of which was creating a chariot race from varied-rate footage requiring extensive 3D tracking – Balden also commended his fellow Inferno artist Tim Bird for his work on the artistic sequence where the camera travels into a dye wall.

“On many projects, you start off with storyboards and everyone has a good idea of what it's going to look like when it's completed,” Balden added.  “This project was very experimental right to the very end.  The tone of it is pretty much unlike anything we've done and most of what any of us here have seen. There's a lot there that creatively sets the stage for the series.”

ROME is a co-production of HBO and the BBC; co-creators, John Milius and William J. Macdonald and Bruno Heller; executive producers, Bruno Heller, William J. Macdonald, John Milius, Anne Thomopoulos and Frank Doelger; co-executive producers, Jim Dyer and Eugene Kelly; produced by Marco Valerio Pugini.

A52's project team, overseen by executive producer and managing director Mark Tobin, also included Inferno artist Ben Looram and CG animators Christopher Janney, Chris Bowers, Denis Gauthier, Craig Halperin, Max Ulichney, Brandon Perlow and Daniel Gutierrez.  Angus Wall directed the live-action shoot, and Tani Canevari served as his director of photography.

Telecine was handled at Encore in Hollywood.  The main title’s music was composed and mixed by Emmy Award winner Jeff Beal of Many Rooms Music.

A52’s CG team used Maya for CGI animation and Mental Ray for project rendering.  All visual effects were handled using Discreet Flame and Inferno systems from Autodesk.

About A52
Established in 1997 as a home for the very latest high-end photo-real visual effects technologies and the industry’s most innovative and talented graphic design artists, West Hollywood visual effects and design company A52 creates award-winning imagery for the world’s most visually ambitious commercial and television projects.  The company’s work has been earned AICP Show recognition for six consecutive years along with recent “Outstanding Commercial” Emmy, Andy, BDA, Belding, Clio, British Design and Art Direction, International Monitor, International Automotive Advertising, London International Advertising, One Show and PROMAX awards.  For more information, please call Mark Tobin at 310.385.0851 or visit

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Related Keywords:A52, visual effects, Ben Looram and CG animators Christopher Janney, Chris Bowers, Denis Gauthier, Craig Halperin, Max Ulichney, Brandon Perlow ,Daniel Gutierrez

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