Does the name "Golden State Killer" ring any bells? The uncaught criminal first made headlines over 40 years ago, committing 51 attacks and 12 murders in California. In 2016, after decades of inactivity, the FBI reignited the cold case by launching a national campaign and a $50,000 reward for new information.
Enter Unmasking a Killer, HLN's five-part documentary series that examines the longtime investigation under a magnifying glass by examining the murderer's terrifying crime patterns and mind games in hopes of helping lead to his arrest all these years later.
Fusing the timeline-driven aspect of the true crime show with the craft of design, The Mill's Los Angeles team joined forces with Joke Productions to set the tone with the opening title sequence and a graphics package.
We sat down with Hyejung Bae, Art Director at The Mill, to learn about the inspiration behind the design and animation within the titles.
There are multiple visual elements in the title sequence. Can you tell us about them?
We initially pitched a few different directions, and ultimately combined two of them to create the final product. The first direction used broken glass to depict the journey of the killer's crime in an abstract manner; the second one incorporated images of evidence and documentation provided to us. Merging those elements tied the story together in a graphical way, all while accurately depicting the events through the maps and timeline we designed.
Ultimately, what sort of feeling were you trying to emulate through the title sequence?
It's not aesthetically pretty. I wanted the titles to emulate the seriousness and darkness of the show without making it overly scary. The bulk of the killer's crimes took place back in the '70s, so we went for an overall vintage feeling as well.
Everything we executed was based on research - it was really important to study up. For example, the Golden State Killer had a pattern of using shoe laces, so we had to educate ourselves on those details and integrate them into the design. He also left behind a series of scribbles, revealing psychological patterns and issues, so we wanted to digest those details as well.
Final Title Sequence
How did you go about creating the effects?
We experimented with the shattered glass effect in CG, but it didn't quite look right - it needed to be more tactical. We ended up achieving the desired look by practically shooting a sheet of glass layered over a file I created of a big California map, layered with recreated and stylized news clippings, photographs, and a timeline whose font was inspired by real identification photos pulled from the case.
Green Screen Glass
Final Title Sequence
What other elements did you create for the show?
I designed the Unmasking a Killer logo at the end. The point in the "i" represents the sharpness; the violence of his crimes.
We also created the graphics package and lower thirds to be used throughout the series.
Anything else you'd like to share?
It was wonderful working with Joke Productions on this project. The end production phase was turned around in less than a month - an easy process thanks to our small, hardworking team and close collaboration.
Find out more about the project here.