The main title opening sequence for the HBO Max drama The Staircase provides a segue for viewers into the world of the show, which follows the true crime story of a writer convicted of murdering his wife. Director Antonio Campos felt it was important for the titles to establish a sense of the complexity within the relationships of the characters and the ambiguity of the overall perspective.
“It was always our hope that the main title sequence would help establish the complicated family dynamics at play while capturing the show’s themes,” said Campos. “The sequence does that, but more importantly, by presenting these Escher-like impossible spaces and portraying the interior of the house as a maze – which is constructed and then deconstructed over the course of the sequence – it really presents a lens through which the audience can view the series in a visually exciting way.”
Created by video production service Sarofsky, the team wanted to convey the unexpected in the relatively mundane. Constructing a space out of glass gives the ability to look through but can also hide and obscure. It can be clean, crisp and transparent but it can also distort, alter, and mislead. It was these ambiguous qualities that the creative team was thinking about while creating a concept rooted in a transparent Peterson house – peering into someone’s life but not always seeing things clearly.
Since they were working with glass in CG, Sarofsky had to identify the boundaries for how far they could push reality before the image broke. There were a million details that needed to be right in order for the surfaces to read as believable. Plus there were still all the traditional challenges of lighting glass, wrangling reflections and art directing a mercurial substance. In this case it meant establishing the techniques and parameters that would enable the team to be creative in directing the glass and building the pipeline to facilitate the rendering and compositing of such intricately layered shots.
“They had this great idea of forced perspectives, and it was just a really wonderful collaboration where they came with their initial idea, we came with our idea, and then we started to kind of brainstorm and found something that was really original and speaks to so many of the the themes in the show…,” added Campos.