EVIL GENIUS // NETFLIX
I had the privilege of creating the graphics package and special sequences for Netflix's true crime docu-series, 'Evil Genius'.
This title sequence was one of many pieces I made for the show that mixed analog items with digital work. The show revolves around a homemade collar bomb that was strapped to the neck of a pizza delivery man who was forced to rob a bank. The bomb was made using hardware store and household items by a hoarder named Bill Rothstein. The concept behind the graphics was to create a forensic vibe using analog equipment as if Rothstein had made the graphics for the show himself.
THE NITTY GRITTY
All of the people involved in this crime, including the pizza delivery guy, lived in filth. Their houses were all like messy junkyards. Also, this crime happened in 2003, back when digital video technology was going through puberty. So the main idea was to attack it as if the people who made the homemade bomb also made the graphics for the show. They wouldn’t just sit down in front of After Effects and create everything digitally. They would use real items and it would be clumsy since they would have used available technology from 2003.
SHOOTING THE TELEVISION
Instead of creating glitches using popular glitch plug-ins, I used a 13” TV/VCR combo to create a lot of the video signal interruptions. I made a timeline of still images from the bank’s surveillance camera from the day of the crime and burnt them to DVD. Then I had a DVD player hooked up to the old television. To get an authentic texture, I shot video of the CRT TV screen as the DVD played the slideshow of the still images from the surveillance cam.
I did a few clean takes of it and a few takes of it while I was jiggling the video cable in and out of the input. This created a natural glitch effect that was subtle but authentic. Some of those digital glitch effects you see nowadays that are meant to emulate VHS generation loss are just too overdone, too heavy and, frankly, not authentic.
Lots of the other graphics in the show employ maps of the area of the crime and the actual scavenger hunt notes that were given to the pizza delivery guy. Again, I wanted a forensic feeling to these bits but I had to create them using real items. So, for example, the maps were done using basic inkjet printouts of aerial shots of the area. Any labelling of places of interest was done with transparent overlays. Again, I shot this live on my cheap camera while I was placing the paper onto a lightbox, then flipping the overlays onto the printed maps. These overlays acted like analogue versions of supers, or any other title identifications normally used in documentaries.
BANK HEIST NOTES
I worked with transparencies that I printed copies of the original heist notes onto. I was kinda creepy just having them around, knowing that it was the actual handwriting of the bomb-maker. Old overhead projector + cheap prints make for good forensic art.
Same analog transparency technique was used for the maps except they had more layering, which made for some dynamic documentary maps.
A simple but bold treatment for presenting photographs, letters, notes and other evidence seen in the series.
Director: Barbara Schroeder
Producers: The Duplass Brothers, Trey Borzillieri
Graphics + Animation Director: John Morena
Main Titles: John Morena
WATCH THE SHOW
Click here to stream 👉 EVIL GENIUS ON NETFLIX.