Making the Intro to “Behind the B” with Travis Robertson and Greg Almeida.
The Boston Bruins have a behind the scenes TV show called Behind the B. I thought it would be interesting to have a change of pace and talk about the making of the Intro. Travis Robertson and Greg Almeida of MMB were kind enough to speak to me over the phone to talk about this Boston Emmy-winning Intro that they created together.
Here is the link to the TV show and intro – https://www.nhl.com/bruins/
Travis Robertson is a Creative Director, Designer and Art Director by trade. He has worked at the advertising agency Arnold Worldwide in Boston and is currently the Executive Creative Director at the creative agency MMB. Travis has a background in film, TV, web, and radio, and has won many awards for his work. He has worked with Greg on accounts with clients such as Jack Daniels, Boston Bruins and New Balance for years. Travis’s work is currently on exhibit in the permanent collection of the Cooper-Hewitt Museum of Art and Design in New York City. To find out more about Travis, visit his website at – http://mynameistravis.com/
Greg Almeida is Travis’s writing partner and is also an Executive Director and a writer by trade. Greg met Travis when they worked at Arnold Worldwide together, he has also won many awards for his work and previously worked at Wallwork & Curry and Mullen. He is now the Co-Executive Creative Director at MMB where he runs the Creative Department with Travis. To find out more about Greg, visit his website at – http://www.gregalmeida.com/
Henry – Let’s start from the Beginning. How did you both get involved with writing the intro for Behind the B?
Travis – So, Greg and I have been working with the Boston Bruins for over seven years as their creative team. They have basically followed us from agency to agency, and we have an excellent relationship with them. Every year we do a different kind of campaign for them, and then two years ago, the idea for Behind the B came out as an internal TV show that they were going to make, and they asked if we wanted to create the Intro! We don’t have anything to do with the show itself, but you don’t get many opportunities in your career to make a TV intro, so we were incredibly excited at the prospect of doing this and doing something a bit different. Dennis Leary (American stand-up comic, actor and voice over artist who is good friends with Cam Neely. He does the Voice over in Behind the B) was involved, and obviously, the whole team and organisation was behind it, so we jumped at the opportunity.
Henry – Who was the composer of the music?
Travis – When we got the assignment, it was pretty wide open as to what we could do or what we should do. There was nothing prescriptive, or directive as to what we wanted to make for the intro. For us, we wanted to take a little step back and create something a bit different for the category. The sports market, in general, is very raucous and aggressive, and it falls into a pattern of being the same thing over and over again. The common trend is, “hard hits” and a rocking music track. Here in Boston especially, everything is kind of a Celtic/Gaelic punk rock anthem that’s used everywhere, and we just didn’t want to do that, it’s been done! So, visually and musically, we wanted to take a step back and make something that was iconic, both graphically and sonically. Music wise, if you were in the next room and you heard it, you would know exactly what the music was. It wouldn’t be white noise, and it wouldn’t blend in with everything else you hear. So we worked with composers from HIFI Music. Greg and I thought something orchestral or something string based like cello or violin, something very stringy that could sound elegant would work really well. Jack Bradley was one of the composers who brought that vision to life.
Henry – Is the music throughout Behind the B done by Jack Bradley also?
Travis – No, that’s done by the Bruins production team.
Henry – What was it like winning the Boston Emmy for the Intro, were you surprised or did you see it coming?
Greg – No we did not see it coming! We were very pleasantly surprised, and it’s obviously an honour to win something like that. Both Travis and I are life long die hard Bruins fans, so it’s amazing to be able to work for the Bruins for such a long time doing a wide range of creative work for them. We’re just big fans, and it’s sort of a dream gig to be able to work so closely with the team. We’re doing work that other fans really seem to enjoy, so to win an Emmy for that was a real treat.
Henry – I would love to talk about how you actually made the intro. On the Bruins blog, it says, “The intro was created using only still photography and then converted to a grainy/grey scale in order to create a raw, evocative look. Each photograph was treated with a combination of 2D, 3D, and After Effects Parallax to create moments seemingly frozen in time.” Was it quite difficult to accomplish this?
Greg – Yeah it’s a bit tricky. Professional athletes are really tough to get a hold of and their schedules are crazy with them training and being on the road, so there’s not a lot of access to them. Going into something like this, you’re told, “you have very limited access!”, so we had to keep this in mind when pursuing any conceptual direction. I think we finished the whole thing in 2-3 weeks. We had to turn it around incredibly quickly, but the team photographer, Brian Babineau had archives of full-colour photographs which we ended up using. The construct or the idea behind “Behind The B”, was that there was an actual ‘behind the scenes look’ that we were trying to create. There was an emotional connection, and something a bit more visceral to it. You’ll see that it went to a black and white place, a place of honesty, a lot of photographs are in game and some are moments of vulnerability or moments where there is a specific emotional connection in it. So we took the colour from these full-colour photographs and then gave them a real grainy/fuji film feel and a granular film stock look, to make them feel even more tactile. Then we worked with a company called Black Math (http://blackmath.com/), who are a team of incredibly talented visual effects artists and animators. They took each photograph and sort of separated it by isolating the person in the foreground and recreating the elements in the background. If you didn’t know, parallax is the movement or tracking of things that gives it the sense of depth, or when something in the foreground moves slower than something in the background. So to add an extra sense of depth, we used little things and details, like light flares and dust particles suspended in mid-air, to bring all these photos to life.
Travis – When we do work with the Bruins every year, we try to limit the amount of time that we use the players, somewhere around 20 minutes after practice is normally the limit. If they’re in a commercial, or if they are in anything we do, we try to keep it brief. Their primary focus is on hockey, winning, practice and games, so we try to keep their involvement to a minimum. In this case, because all the media was pre-existing, we didn’t have to shoot anything else.
Henry – Do you also make the Bear and the Gang episodes?
Travis – Yeah we do those, and we were the ones that created the bear character! We have also done, the “Bruins Hockey Rules” and the Bear digital shorts.
Henry – So what is the next project for you both, with or without the Bruins?
Greg – We’re getting into the planning phase for next season at the moment, so we don’t know what the projects are going to be at the moment. I wish I could tell you, but we currently have no idea! When you do things around the players, you don’t necessarily know what the players are doing. Some are free agents, and some will be traded, so it’s tough to dive into things, but a guy like Patrice Bergeron isn’t going anywhere so you can certainly plan to have him in anything and everything. Right now we’re just making a strategy.
Travis – We just finished the animated stuff two weeks ago, so that’s currently wrapping up. There were 5 animated episodes that we did with JJ Sedelmaier, who animated Beavis and Butthead along with working for Saturday Night Live, which is unheard of for a professional sports team! So we’re pretty proud of that.
Greg – Also in the shorts, the players did all of their own voices which was great. After practice one day we just got each player for ten minutes each and had them record their lines. JJ animated and illustrated all of it. It was really fun to have all the players do all of their own voices.
Our sincere thanks go to Travis and Greg for their participation in this interview.
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