YouTube Red enlists Sarofsky for series intro

Sarofsky Chicago created the main titles for "YouTube Red" Original Series

Sarofsky Chicago created the main titles for “YouTube Red” Original Series

When Ryan Hansen Solves Crimes on Television* creator Rawson Marshall Thurber (director of Central Intelligence, We’re The Millers, and Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story) and his team set out to find the perfect company to create their new YouTube Red show’s main titles, design-driven production company Sarofsky made their short list.

Well known for its work on title sequences for blockbuster films, TV dramas and comedies, the company’s creative team in Chicago was thrilled to land the opportunity.

According to Sarofsky’s lead designer Duarte Elvas, the show’s executive producers Beau Bauman and Krysia Plonka started by providing a lot of insights about Ryan, the show’s premise, and their goals for the opening. “They really wanted to introduce Ryan’s quirky and goofy personality and his relationship with Samira’s character, while conveying the show’s self-aware nature,” he began.

Breaking new ground in the hallowed realm of TV crime programming, this Hollywood-based action-comedy series teams actors with LAPD homicide detectives to solve crimes. It stars Ryan Hansen, Emmy nominee Samira Wiley (Orange is the New Black, Handmaiden’s Tale), and a who’s who of stars playing bizarro versions of themselves, including Joel McHale, Donald Faison, Eric Christian Olsen, Jon Cryer and Kristen Bell.

Here’s a look at the trailer:

Duarte also pointed out the importance of social media to the show, and the network’s vision of it being consumed on devices like smartphones and tablets. Knowing they wanted their solution to be funny, they were free to play with ideas about a star creating his own show.

After mocking-up ideas like a temp title and navigating a fake IMDB page, they also presented a more traditional title sequence with a surprise ending. That version – using a familiar split-screen editing style and fun, iconic moments from the show… as Ryan himself watches the footage on computers, a tablet, a smartphone, a VR headset and an Apple Watch – was the producers’ hands-down favorite.

“This treatment allowed us to introduce Ryan and Samira while also setting up the show-within-a-show idea, and the different viewing platforms,” Duarte explained. “Secondary design elements such as crime scene tape and the split screens also helped establish the crime-show vibe.”

Watch the trailer below:

Something special to look for in each new episode is how the asterisk in the show’s title is used. According to Duarte, it will always be something different.

Among other insights, Duarte also explained that they used soundtracks from several classic crime-solving shows to establish the style and the pace of the main title sequence, which was later given a custom track.

The live-action footage was provided by the show’s producers in 8K resolution, giving Sarofsky’s team its first opportunity to develop a post-production workflow with such high-resolution material. Associate producer Justin Pittman worked closely with Sarofsky’s technical leads, including executive producer Steven Anderson, producer James Babiarz, VFX supervisor Matt Crnich, CG director David Hyatt, and creative finishing/VFX artist Cory Davis to tackle the complexities.

The high number of screens-within-screens in a 4K deliverable required the team to use lower-resolution proxies during development, which would later be replaced by conformed and color-corrected high-resolution clips. While Adobe After Effects was used for animation and compositing, the 3D crime scene tape and credits were developed and rendered in Autodesk Maya, in a way to elegantly resolve the “pull-back” effect. Autodesk Smoke was used for 4K project finishing and delivery.

Naturally, company principal Erin Sarofsky was also on board as executive creative director. Along with concepting and brainstorming with the show team, she guided and oversaw all aspects of the title sequence’s development. Sarofsky’s deliverables also included an animated end title card that graphically wraps up each episode. That imagery using palm trees and warm hues is their loving homage to Hollywood celebrity culture.

“It’s always very gratifying to work on shows that make us all laugh out loud,” she said. “This entire process was extremely collaborative, and everyone was excited to contribute. It’s a dream come true when going to work is a place where everyone is having fun.” The series debuted on October 25.

Network: YouTube Red
Creator: Rawson Marshall Thurber
Executive Producer/Showrunner: Beau Bauman
Executive Producers (Thank You, Brain! Productions): Krysia Plonka, Tracey Baird
Associate Producer – Post (Thank You, Brain! Productions): Justin Pittman
Main Title Production Company: Sarofsky
Executive Creative Director: Erin Sarofsky
Executive Producer: Steven Anderson
Lead Designer: Duarte Elvas
Producer: James Babiarz
VFX Supervisor: Matt Crnich
CG Director: David Hyatt
Creative Finishing/VFX Artist: Cory Davis
Designer: Alex Kline, Jeff McBride, Brody Davis, Spencer Seibert
Finishing Assistant/Junior Editor: Erik Uy
Assistant Editor: Zoe Kraft
Junior Designer: Maggie Cummings

Contact Colin Costello at or follow him on Twitter @colincostello10.