BUTCHER in LA created two title sequences for upcoming thriller, ‘TheButcher-guilty-innocent
Guilty Innocent’. Editor David Henegar handled the full project from
conceptingand motion graphics to sound design.

BUTCHER’s David Henegar Creates Glittering Titles for ‘The Guilty Innocent’

Post-production companyBUTCHERin Los Angeles, led by creative director and editorDavid Henegar, recently worked with director Jamie Marshall to create two title sequences for the upcoming feature, ‘The Guilty Innocent’. David handled all aspects of the sequences including creative concept, motion graphics and sound design. Between the two contrasting sequences, he used a range of styles from polished CG to elegant 2D animation.

The crime thriller, set for release in 2015, follows an under-appreciated, over worked producer’s assistant, entrusted with a million dollar necklace. He races to find out which of his money-hungry roommates has betrayed him as he battles to escape a pair of desperate thieves.

Fractured Diamonds

BUTCHER’s David Henegar met with the film’s the director, Jamie Marshall, to talk over the titles but their discussion was brief. “He was in the middle of post-production at the time and I was unable to get a full copy of the movie before I began,” said David. Because of this minimal start to the project, David began concepting a sequence of animated diamonds as a test to show Jamie some creative possibilities.


“Originally Jamie had planned on displaying type over picture, but I asked him if he would mind if I tried splitting up thesequnce, with some over design and the restoverpicture. This was his first feature, so I wanted to give him something very polished to contribute to its production value. The two-minute sequence progresses from small, floating diamonds to larger ones that eventually fracture and begin to break on impact. The idea was to convey that something isn’t right, that the diamonds are ‘under attack’.  Like the movie, things start out with good intentions and devolve into tragedy.”

David wanted to take advantage of the naturally captivating effect of sparkling diamonds against a black background that viewers would find difficult not to be drawn into. He said, “I am traditionally a 2D animator and editor, but for this project I knew I wanted the diamonds to be three-dimensional, not just a stylised 2D graphic.

Reflecting and Refracting

“I knew I could achieve this look with the software plug-in Element 3D, an Open GL 3D object based particle rendering engine fromVideo Copilot, inside After Effects. These two products are a great combination for the kind of work I enjoy doing. I also like to animate each series of shots with lots of handles and then bring them into Final Cut or Premiere to shape them up or create pace and timing.”


David never planned on making the gems looking completely photoreal, and while these diamonds look close to real, there’s something unnatural about them, too. “I learned early in the process that a diamond’s appearance is primarily made up of its environment, that is, what it’s reflecting and refracting,” he said. “Lighting the diamonds didn’t seem to be enough, and in an all-black environment I found it difficult to give them that shiny, sparkling look. When I added environmental elements for the diamonds to react to, they came alive. Consequently, the look technically isn’t photoreal because the environment the diamonds are reflecting wouldn’t be empty space. Nevertheless, the look works.”

Inspiring Animation

From there, David’s inspiration actually came from the diamond itself. Once he had animated and lit a single diamond over a black background, he found he had a stark, fascinating object to play with. Placing it in a weightless environment gave the opportunity to flip and twirl the diamond, multiply it, and take advantage of its glistening facets to create interest.   


In this project, David worked with the music much later in the process than he usually does. He prefers to lay out the motion first and decide what looks interesting. “Then I’ll do some rough sound design to make me ‘feel’ the moves. I’ll often design the sound along with the picture to inspire me as I go. This may be an unorthodox way of working but I will usually design sections at a time, export them and then edit them in Final Cut to figure out what I want to do next, often completely rearranging shots to find the right balance,” he said.

After Effects was the main tool on the project for design and compositing, with Element 3D for creating and animating the diamonds. He created the space particles and fractured diamond pieces with Red Giant Trapcode Particular, using Video CoPilot Optical Flares for the lighting effects and Trapcode Starglow for the shimmers. Sound design was completed in Adobe Audition, and David edited the piece for timing with Final Cut Pro.

Flash Frames

As the titles roll out, the smooth, slow tumbling diamond animation is interrupted by flashes of frames revealing schematic diagrams of various jewelry elements that David designed in Illustrator. The frames introduce another side of the story with a different feeling. He said, “When I edit and design, I typically like to disrupt a smooth, graceful shot with something jarring or subliminal, mixing flat, 2D images with the 3D space. Just when the viewer settles into a shot I’ll break into it with something that snaps the viewer back to attention.


Having to manage 100 or more diamonds on the screen at the same time, David gave special attention to the camera animation and effects, such depth of field. Concerned that viewers’ eyes would be overwhelmed seeing them all in sharp focus, distracting them from the names on the screen, he tried to keep the depth of field short in order to force the eye to one specific area and then locate the type in or around that area.

“I used a mix of camera moves in this piece. Sometimes the camera is observational, almost locked down and watching the explosion of movement in the diamonds and then at other times the diamonds are frozen in space and the camera moves around them. I liked the idea of varying not only the diamonds’ movements but also the way the camera covered them,” he said.
You can view this diamond test sequencehere.


Round Two

The second titles piece David created for ‘The Guilty Innocent’ – andalsothe one that was used for the final movie - is completely different to the diamond animation, as well as much simpler. “Jamie loved the diamond design but after a lengthy discussion, we both realised that it wasn’t right for the film. In fact, it wasn’t until after I had built the test that I saw the film in its entirety. Jamie was right. The diamond design came a bit too close to a James Bond-style sequence for the film he had created.

“So, after further discussion, I proposed the alternate idea of the script. Jamie and I talked more about the main character in the film and how his goal in life was to work in the film industry, and that’s how the idea of the script theme was born.”


The experience they wanted to evoke was one of looking over the shoulder of someone who is working late at night, after hours. In the first fewsecondsthe viewer gets the idea that the story is most likely going to be about Hollywood or the film business. So, the theme is set in motion and the music helps set the dark mood. The camera is simply floating over the script as an unseen character scribbles the titles as notes in the margins.”

Scripted Illusion

Everything in the piece is digital – no photography was used at all. “Oddly enough, I needed a copy of the actual script in order to pull this off. I asked Jamie if he would hand-select some pages of the film that were pivotal moments and send them to me as PDF files. PDFs are great to work with in After Effects because of their scalable nature.


“Also, using PDFs made the fluttering page transitions simpler to execute than they may appear. I layered the PDF pages one on top of the other and added a drop shadow effect to create depth. Then, sliding them into position from left to right in two or three frames with motion blur makes them appear to be one big blurry movement. In other words, it’s a sort of optical illusion.  It appears to be 3D pages actually turning but it’s nothing more than flat images moving into place with blur.”

For this sequence, After Events could handle all tasks. “I used Trapcode Stroke for some of the hand scribbles, and the lighting was nothing more than vignettes in motion,” David said.  
You can see this final designhere.    http://butcherpost.com