Facility’s graphics teams produces intricately animated graphics to help
illustrate the story of the King assassination as part of a complete package of
post services.

TORONTO—Final post production for Justice for MLK: The Hunt for James Earl
Ray,
a two-hour documentary that premiered recently on the American Heroes
Channel, was completed at Pixel Underground, a SIM Group company. The facility
handled online,
final color grading and deliverables. It also provided graphics services,
creating the main title as well as dozens of artfully animated elements that appear
throughout the show.
Produced by Cream Productions in association with Absinthe
Film Entertainment, Justice for MLK centers
on the final days of Martin Luther King’s life and the tense, 65-day manhunt
that led to the capture of his killer. Directed by Michael DeCarlo, the
documentary is composed of archival footage, interviews with people familiar
with King, Ray and the police investigation, and historical reenactments.

Graphic elements, created by Pixel Underground, were based
on materials related to the King assassination—news clippings, police records,
crime scene photographs and other historic artifacts. They serve both as a
bridge between scenes and provide important information about the course of the
investigation. Some, for example, feature animated maps that track Ray’s movement
as he attempted to elude police.
“Executive Producer Richard Curson Smith wanted the graphics to be organic and an integral part
of the history that was unfolding,” recalls Pixel Underground VP/Creative Director Marcus
Valentin. “He wanted it to appear as though we are in the office of a police
investigator and that these surveillance photos and wrap sheets are items lying
on his desk.”
“The graphics orient people in the story,” adds Cream
Productions Post Production Supervisor Shawn Gerrard. “Pixel Underground did a
great job in making them fit the time period and feel like they are a part of
that world. That’s where they really shined.”
Valentin and Lead
VFX/Motion Graphics Artist Patrick Kirschner came up with an approach for
producing the graphics that combined traditional photographic techniques with
digital enhancement.  “If the graphic
involved a map, we’d create
a map, print it, place the map on a table and shoot
it with camera movement,” Valentin explains. “We’d then add film grain and
scratches…and maybe make it jittery. If there was something we were
highlighting, we would animate it. It was made to look like it was inked into
the paper.”
The graphics team
shot items using variations on classic animation stand techniques. Most of the
photographs and documents were actual archival material. Where those were
unavailable, artists produced facsimiles. Additionally, Valentin visited a
local prop shop and acquired old telephones, tape recorders, typewrites and other
period items. These were placed on the periphery of shots to heighten the sense
of time place.
“In its simplest
form, we’d shoot something and then do some layering, adding atmospheric
elements in After Effects to make the shot element appear to be floating
through space,” Valentin notes. “It might be dust or glass, something to give
it another layer so it wasn’t just shot material.”
Valentin points to a
photo of a stricken Martin Luther King lying on the balcony of the Lorraine
Motel. “We did a classic layering effect where we cut out portions of the frame
and added a parallax move to give it depth,” he says. “It makes elements within
the frame appear three dimensional. We then added film grain and camera flares.
It was a way to make the 2D photo seem more alive.”
“Every shot
was different,” adds Valentin, “but they all had to have the right sensibility
to merge and feel like a part of the history. The graphics might be cut against
old 16mm or Super 8 footage of a Martin Luther King march and it had to be
seamless.”
Peter
Remmers designed the show’s main title. Final color grading for the documentary
was performed by Martin Wells; Steve Jones was the online artist and Cailyn
Webster was project manager. Pixel Underground’s affiliate Station X handled
digital delivery.
“Pixel
Underground did a great job of getting it through the pipes,” notes Gerrard. “They
provided creativity, technical acumen and a high level of service. It was a
pleasure to bring this project there.”
About SIM Group:
Backed by
Toronto-based investment firm Granite Partners, the SIM Group is a leading
supplier of production equipment, workflow and post-production solutions, with
offices across the US, Canada and China. Our diverse services can be utilized
on any production at any stage. In Canada, our offices in Toronto and Vancouver
service grip and lighting from PS Production Services and can be complemented
with SIM Digital cinematography and playback equipment for any production’s
needs.  Bling, Chainsaw, Pixel Underground, Tattersall Sound and Picture
and Post Factory NY provide an array of services from dailies, to online
and offline editing, to final color/DI and visual effects, to sound editorial
and mixing. Bling’s services, which include a comprehensive workflow solution,
are offered at all offices across the US and Canada, as well as off-site
service through POD (Post on Demand).  Chainsaw’s full-service facility in
Hollywood provides creative editorial and extensive finishing services with
some of the top colorists in the industry. Rounding out the family of
companies are Pixel Underground, a Toronto-based post-production
company, and its associated service, StationEX, which provides physical and
file-based media fulfillment and encoding/distribution services, Tattersall
Sound and Picture, a provider of sound editorial and mixing for motion pictures
and television and Post Factory NY, one of the East Coast’s top independent
post-production facilities. For more information, visit simgroup.com
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