March 26, 2007

S4 Studios Completes Chilling Animated and Live Branding Campaign

Hollywood, Calif. - Hollywood’s S4 Studios has completed the on-air animated and live branding campaign for Chiller, NBC-Universal Cable Entertainment’s new all-HD channel featuring 24-hour horror and thriller programming. 
The campaign is S4’s latest major stride as it continues its emergence into a full-fledged design studio. Chiller, which launched March 1 on DirecTV, will be available as an HD simulcast channel (also with standard def), with video-on-demand and broadband-on-demand also available.  
Created by S4 director/designer Geoffrey Kater and writer/producer Larry Le Francis, along with creative director Thomas Helmintoller, the campaign consists of five original teasers, ranging in length from five-second IDs to a commercial-length 30-seconds; five multipurpose graphics packages for station Ids and bumpers, as well as a 90-second pre-launch promo that introduces all of Chiller’s graphic elements.   
According to Kater, the design ideas presented to Dan Harrison, Sr. VP of Emerging Networks at NBC Universal Cable Entertainment, and Sarah Pierce, the network’s director of on-air promotion, Emerging Networks, NBC Universal Cable, were not what viewers might expect from an all-horror network. “What was most important to us was capturing the more psychological and subtle themes and visuals associated with horror,” says Kater. “We wanted to create scenes that would be horrific without showing one drop of blood or violence.”  
The environment that Kater, Le Francis, and Helmintoller created for their client was a city replete with all the elements of a large, rundown, dark metropolis. “A big city can be a very scary place,” says Le Francis. “But more than that, a city environment is a great leaping-off place to sample textures, gain perspectives, and identify iconic design elements—street signs, sewers, dark subways, corridors, alleys—that we could use to provide us with those gritty urban dark visual graphic elements that we needed in order to create the proper psychological atmosphere.”   
Each graphics package dealt with a specific location in the city,” Kater explains. “They included a freaky warehouse, a bus stop at night, a sewer, the inside of an industrial fan, and a wall with bricks that seem to breathe with a life of their own. Each package has a beginning, middle, and end so that individual promos and channel bugs could be cut according to each station’s needs.” Other elements included an otherworldly airport security man watching a suitcase full of bones go through x-ray, a melting painting, and a haunted house guarded by a chain link fence made up of tiny skulls.
From storyboards to final turnover, the entire campaign was created at S4’s Hollywood headquarters. After concepts and storyboards were approved by NBC-Universal, location and in-studio bluescreen shots were executed in HD. At the same time, Kater and the S4 team of animators were creating the CGI elements using NewTek Lightwave 9 running on Windows XP Pro. After CGI was composited with the live-action bluescreen shots, After Effects 7 and Photoshop CS were utilized to add numerous effects until the more than 100 HD elements were fully integrated.   
“We were able to help a major studio brand a first of its kind network and give it a look that is different from anything else out there,” says Le Francis. 
To view the Chiller campaign, visit        

Production: S4 Studios, Hollywood, Calif. 
Designer/Director: Geoffrey Kater
Writer/Producer: Larry Le Francis
Creative Director: Thomas Helmintoller
Music and Sound Efx: Lightpost, Los Angeles, Calif. 
Composer: Jenna Leigh
Scoring Engineer: Francesco Dicosmo