Subtle Bombast can best describe what Manhattan-based Verb! delivered in the form of a show package for the highly successful, The Colbert Report, which follows The Daily Show with Jon Stewart on Comedy Central.
Verb! rose to the challenge to create the brand package for one of the most talked-about shows on TV. The project included logo design, the show open, bumper graphics and an extensive toolkit of news graphics.
What The Daily Show with Jon Stewart is to evening news, The Colbert Report is to personality-driven pundit shows. Stephen Colbert brings his narcissistic charm to a half-hour show, rewriting the issues of the day (and the English language) to fit his agenda and telling his guests why their opinions are just plain wrong. Colbert mines the egos of mainstream pundits, such as Bill O’Reilly, Joe Scarborough, and Chris Matthews, to create a sort of uber-pundit: smug, self-infatuated, condescending Ã¢Â€Â¦ and not a little misinformed.
To pull it off, Colbert aggressively wraps himself in the American flag and is all things patriotic-something VERB! drives home in their show open-with just the right amount of sarcasm and machismo, striking a balance between parody and quasi reality.
“Working with the funniest people in TV was a great privilege for us,” said Greg Duncan, Verb!’s creative director. “At first, we thought the package needed to be “O’Reilly” or “Hardball” on steroids, but realized we could take it one step further. We decided to amp it up and build Stephen into a fully-realized three-dimensional world of hyper-patriotism, replete with macho adjectives, a large squawking eagle and a giant, chrome-plated 3D Ã¢Â€Â˜C’ for Colbert.
“We knew it was going to be a different kind of project when our client gave us feedback like, Ã¢Â€Â˜is there any way you can make the logo a little uglier?’ It was hard, but we managed.”
From the beginning, Verb! knew that the project would tap many of its capabilities and techniques, from shooting, to 3D character animation to comprehensive motion graphic design.
The team started by shooting Colbert in a variety of clichà©d, news anchor-esque poses-eyebrow raises, finger points, disingenuous smiles-on a green screen stage. “We brought in a jib arm to get some great angles and we put Stephen on a turntable,” said Bill Bergeron, VERB! Executive Producer. “Stephen instantly figured out the comic possibilities of the turntable, like allowing his legs to spin a little too far as he spins around. Everyone on set was laughing for much of the shoot.”
Back at Verb!’s studio, lead designer, Andrew Ã¢Â€Â˜Stubbs’ Johnston and designer Ã¢Â€Â˜Be’ Chamlinaroen, worked on designing Stephen’s patriotic world. They designed and built elements using Apple Power Mac G5s, Adobe After Effects and Maxon Cinema 4D.
Editing was performed in Final Cut Pro with Black Magic Hardware. The sophisticated CGI eagle, Colbert’s co-star and alter-ego in the show open, was created by Andreas Berner in Alias Maya for Mac.
The magic all comes together from the moment the show opens, revealing the CG bald eagle dropping out of the clouds into a red, white and blue set that pulsates with patriotic symbolism. The camera then pans left on Colbert waving an over-sized American flag-everything exuding big, bold and slightly over the top attitude.
After Colbert does his signature yank of the glasses, the camera dollies around him as he mugs for the viewers. All the while, patriotic-and occasionally inappropriate-text floats in the screen as the eagle continues to buzz bomb the set. The open concludes with the Colbert logo materializing, and a giant eagle crashing into the frame from below, opening his beak, and revealing the set. “We were going for the ultimate Ã¢Â€Â˜eagle wipe,” said Duncan. “The idea was that the eagle is essentially eating the audience.”
“One of the most challenging aspects of the assignment was finding the right level of humor,” Duncan added. “How much shtick does the open need? Who’s in on the joke? Would a straight parody of O’Reilly Factor play comically, or just blend into the background? In the end, we decided that Colbert and his eagle doppelganger were the keys; as long as we made those two the centerpiece of all the graphics, the joke would play out right. As the Colbert folks said to us, Ã¢Â€Â˜we’ve watched the open countless times, and we still laugh every time.’ That’s our criteria of success.”
Bill Bergeron, Executive Producer
Greg Duncan, Creative Director
Lauren Wang, Producer
Lead designer: Andrew Ã¢Â€Â˜Stubbs’ Johnston
Design and animation: Chaiporn Ã¢Â€Â˜Be’ Chamlinaroen
CGI Artist: Andreas Berner
Apple Power Mac G5s
Adobe After Effects
Alias Maya for Mac
Final Cut Pro
Black Magic Hardware