Film Friday: Patrick Clair Details the Creation of HBO’s ‘True Detective’ Title Sequence

I recently stumbled across the title sequence for HBO’s True Detective and was immediately blown away by the art direction and stunning use of double exposure effects. True Detective follows two Louisiana State Police Criminal Investigations Division homicide detectives and their hunt for a serial killer in Louisiana. The title sequence exudes a feeling of mystery, giving the viewer small glimpses of the show’s main characters and locations without ever fully revealing them.

HBO’s True Detective – Main Title Sequence


In an article recently published on Art Of The Title, Patrick Clair, Creative Director at Antibody stated, “Visually, we were inspired by photographic double exposures. Fragmented portraits, created by using human figures as windows into partial landscapes, served as a great way to show characters that are marginalized or internally divided. It made sense for the titles to feature portraits of the lead characters built out the place they lived. This became a graphic way of doing what the show does in the drama: reveal character through location.”


True Detective Story Board

True Detective Story Board – Images via Art of the Title


As Clair and his team started planning the movement and animation, they faced some interesting challenges. Clair explains, “We wanted the titles to feel like living photographs. But the footage was too kinetic and jumpy and stills were too flat and static. Many shots feature footage that has been digitally slowed to extreme degrees. The digital interpolation and artifacts created by slowing footage down often looks strange or tacky, but we found that in this case it evoked a surreal and floaty mood that perfectly captured what we were after. Some shots were dragged down the point where they are hardly moving at all — 10% or 20% of their original speed. These gave us striking and smooth character portraits to use as slow-mo windows onto our landscapes.

Then, we took the shots from Misrach and others, and built them out as 3D projected scenes. We created low-poly geometry for truck stops, oil refineries, and more, and then projected landscape shots overtop, painting in details. Very slow virtual camera moves would then fly gently through these spaces, bringing them to life in 3D. These landscape and portrait elements would then be combined in a single comp with more spatial animation, focus effects, and lots of texture.”


True Detective Layer Compositing Examples

Layer Compositing Examples – Image via Art of the Title


To read the full interview and see dozens of other fantastic examples of this fascinating process, visit Art of the Title.

Video Credits

Opening Title Sequence: Elastic
Director: Patrick Clair
Executive Producer: Jennifer Sofio Hall
Design/Animation/Compositing: Antibody
Senior Designer: Raoul Marks
Animation and Compositing: Raoul Marks, Patrick Da Cunha
Producer: Bridget Walsh
Research: Anna Watanabe
Additional Compositing: Breeder
Compositing: Chris Morris, Joyce Ho
Production: Candace Browne, Adam West
Client: HBO


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Author: James Peacock

James Peacock is a Digital Marketing Specialist at FIDM in Los Angeles, California. He received his A.A. in Graphic Design from FIDM and was hired as Social Media Assistant in 2013 by his alma mater in order to help grow the institution’s social media marketing efforts. James now combines two of his passions, telling stories and solving problems by managing data-driven marketing campaigns across multiple channels that ultimately result in a positive return on investment.

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