A Simple Color Palette, Iconic Stills and Lots of Movement Result in a Chilling Promo for a Run of the Master's Scariest Films

The creative department at Chiller, NBC/Universal’s horror-slash-thriller network, is not large. In fact, creative director Shea Pepper was a department of one until very recently. Chiller’s budgets are equally small. So last year, when Pepper learned that the network was running a rare marathon of Hitchcock films on New Year’s Day-unfortunately not a regular event, thanks to a new owner of the Hitchcock catalog-she called on the team at Motive NYC to flesh out and execute her promo ideas.

One   minor problem: The team had to rely mostly on stills, not actual footage, save for a tiny clip, from the films themselves. The resulting spot, “Chiller: Hitchcock,” manages to do much more with less, using an edgy sense of movement to push viewers through a mashed up, 3D world of iconic Hitchcock characters and scenes. Pepper says it brought record viewers to the fledgling network for the marathon, which was part of an effort by the channel to move away from its late-night, creature-feature reputation and toward a wider demographic with intense thrillers and new independent films. The spot was recently recognized with a nomination at ProMax and tied for the “Top Spot” prize in Studio’s Top Spot Festival.

Said Studio’s Top Spot Festival judge Patrick Davenport, director of operations at Method, “I liked the storyline and use of graphics to neatly highlight some of Hitchcock’s most notable movies.” Judge Charlie Tercek, creative director of Serial, noted the spot’s great use of special effects. “It sets up the mood very effectively, with a remarkable and unique use of movie stills.”

Pepper has worked for some time with the team at Motive, who have mostly all worked and moved together from one studio to the next. While part of The Creative Group’s Mantra, they created spots for her promo and ad work at Lifetime and more recently, BBC America. “Our biggest challenge was that we had to create our entire promo strategy based on the fact that we were working out-of-house, which is hard,” she says. “But Motive got my concept right away: a zooming, swooping movement that felt very active, to mirror that visceral rush you get when watching something scary.”

Motive’s Felix Thoo created a visual style that ultimately settled on Psycho‘s eerie black-and-white palette, with a dash of saturated blood for added effect. “When we first presented the initial boards, we had that muted color from some of Hitchcock’s middle to later films in there,” says Thoo. “But it ultimately worked better in black-and-white, especially with the splatter of blood at the end.”

Says Motive executive producer Chris Valentino, “Since we weren’t allowed to use any of the footage, what we had to work from was poster art and publicity photos. The more we talked about the concept with Shea, we realized that we needed to move through the spot and set up all of the films to be showcased in the way that Hitchcock defined them. Psycho was the obvious starting point.”

“We also considered recreating the world of Rear Window in After Effects 3D space, and traveling around there, filling all the apartment windows with the films,” says Thoo. “The Vertigo staircase was another obvious place to start. That Rear Window concept is still in there, which we built in 3D space in After Effects.”

Motive primarily used After Effects CS4 and prepped all the stills in Photoshop. The only live-action shot, used in the promo at the close, was edited in Avid and mixed in Pro Tools before being brought into the After Effects comp.

To see more of Motive’s promos and other work, visit: www.motivenyc.com.