A Team’s Look at the Modern Ed Sullivan Series

As a studio full of creatives of every distinction, each team member contributes their unique perspective and experience to shape the look and feel of a video. We recently worked with Universal Music Group to complete a four-video series about Ed Sullivan, the prolific television host, who showcased some of the world’s greatest talent throughout the years. We want to take this opportunity to turn the spotlight on some of our team members and ask them some thought-provoking questions about their process in creating the Ed Sullivan Series.

Let’s open the show with Alexis! Her role as Associate Creative Director is leading the vision of the series. She worked very closely with the clients on all four videos making sure we were achieving their goals, and supporting the artists to be able to do their best work.

With this being a series, how did you ensure the tone and visuals stayed consistent across all videos  each video?

“We spent extra time during pre-production to develop the look and feel for the entire series. Because depicting likenesses is always challenging, we established rules for our character designs upfront. And then that helped us as we set rules for everything else, like transitions, stroke thickness, colors, sound, and everything on screen.  The artists on the team were instrumental in creating that and sticking to it throughout the series. The rules we established helped as I was writing the scripts and directing. I knew our limitations and areas where we could push ourselves based on the rules we set. It was an excellent way for everyone to be on the same page throughout the process and give everyone some creative freedom to put their touch on it.”

Coming up next we have Caroline, our Project Manager. Her role is unique because she focuses on the logistics, making sure everyone has what they need and the budget and timeline stay on course.

As you watched the series come alive, did you have any thoughts or reflections? Sometimes, as a Project Manager, you get to see the work come together from a different perspective than the creative team. Did anything like the storytelling, design, or animation strike a chord?

“For this project, one of the coolest things to observe from my end was how the project evolved across four videos and several months. On a normal, one video project, style exploration and design are built into the beginning of our process. Since these videos were all a part of the same series and we established the style of the series with the first video, the added time and confidence in the direction of our style allowed our team to grow the scope and complexity of each video as we went, in a way that typically isn’t possible on a shorter, one video project. Take for example the rotating television in video 1 compared to the 3D spinning living room setpiece in video three! The ability to grow and expand each video across the series was incredible to watch.”

Coming your way are thoughts from two of the designers, Ash and Liz, who worked on this project. They create every element of design in the video. From characters to typography, they bring each element to life.

Ed Sullivan touched a lot of Americans’ lives. Were there any specific design choices aimed at making the content more accessible or appealing to a diverse audience? Either culturally or generational?

(Ash, Designer) “Ash, Designer – The guests of The Sullivan Show; all those artists were all very different, and with the show spanning such a long period of time, including the full scope of the performers that were on the show was important. The people who love those artists, love their music, and are from all over. That, and the inclusion of text on screen with the voice over also broadens the accessibility of this project.”

Were there any interesting facts about Ed Sullivan’s life or people he had on his show that you discovered during your research that influenced the design?

(Liz, Senior Designer) “One distinguishing aspect of The Ed Sullivan Show was the set design. Each performance had a different environment and we wanted to emphasize their significance by including patterns and accents inspired by each set.

The show also went on through monumental changes in television. We paid close attention to specific periods in time and whether or not the footage was shot in color. Time-specific mediums of communication and technology were included to underscore how long The Ed Sullivan Show had been a phenomenon. We also created a lot of historically accurate flags to highlight the show’s reach as an international sensation.”

Next to the stage is Ben, an Animator and a double threat! He also worked on some design and did a lot of the animation! He takes the static designs and adds all that lovely motion.

Were there any stand-out animations you created that were challenging, or you are proud of? Did you try any new techniques? 

“Without a doubt, my favorite scene from the series is the 3D spin around Oprah’s living room in ‘Connecting the Past with the Present’. I purposefully designed that frame to challenge myself with After Effects’ limited but growing 3D tools while staying true to the 2D and graphic art style. Using some extrusion, bend, and camera effects I was able to layout a whole space of floating furniture in 3D space all completely in After Effects! I really think the finished scene turned out dynamic and fun, really proud of it!”

As our closer, we have Ryan! Our Technical Director, served as the Sound Engineer who brought his expertise in sound design to create a soundscape to set the scene.

How did you work to create a sound environment that complemented the visual elements and enhanced the overall viewer experience?

Ed Sullivan was a variety show with such a wide range of unique musical acts! I wanted to capture that sentiment with our sound bed. The rapid music changes give you a feel for what his show was like while keeping you engaged and on the edge of your seat. I love how it all came together!

That’s it for tonight’s blog post. Thank you to all our wonderful artists, for their passion and insights. Come back next time to hear from our luminous Creative Director, Hilary to hear her thoughts on how long your video should really be.

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