For a brief period of time, it seemed as if the world of television had lost the magic of a good opening credits sequence. Flashy title cards or overlaid credits on screen were swapped in lieu of the good old-fashioned one-minute sequences, which set up the entire world of the proceeding show. Thanks to shows like Severance, these days seem to be gone. Oliver Latta, AKA Extraweg, is the man behind the opening credits of Apple TV’s frighteningly good breakout show of the year. To no surprise, Oliver’s stunning and creative work for Severance bagged the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Main Title Design, following tons of online praise throughout the year from fans and critics.
Despite how well the 3D animated sequence ties in to the show’s overall themes and storylines (no spoilers!), Oliver tells us he wasn’t clued in too much when he began to work on the show. In fact, it was executive producer Ben Stiller – yes that Ben Stiller – who first approached Oliver after browsing his Instagram. “When Ben and his team reached out to me for the first time, he didn't have any specific treatment for the show,” he recalls. “All I knew was that the show would be about work/life balance, and something about ‘people getting a chip implemented into their brain’.” Oliver had to start his research from scratch, working without visual references or a storyline, which is quite out of the ordinary for this field of work. Eventually, Oliver was told the show contained “lots of doors and levels”, and received the first 50 pages of the script, helping him build the sequence we see today. “The themes were just conversation starters – points that we could agree on or disagree if they match Ben's vision,” he says.
Many inspirations for the sequence flooded Oliver’s process. “I created a big library of references I found on the internet over the years to draw on,” he explains. “But, I also browsed through older work or unpublished ideas to see if I could adapt some of those ideas into this.” Oliver is an artist who emphasises the time to ‘play around’, especially in 3D animation. By spending time making 3D animations just for the sake of creativity, and with no intention to publish, Oliver had built up a library of his own he could look back on when the time was right.
That isn’t to undermine the hours put into Severance, however. It took Oliver “over a year” to finish the relatively short animation, which accounted for breaks in production due to Covid-19. The production in general was different to his usual commercial projects, as it was his first opening credits sequence. “My aim was to create a surreal intro, like a world between real and fictional but nothing too defined,” Oliver explains. “We also got a 3D scan made of Adam Scott, the main actor, for the sequence, and with those 3D based meshes I started texturing the skin and grooming the hair in Houdini software.” Cloth creation and rigging was also done in Houdini and Marvelous Designer, with the rest being a combination of his own motion capture suite from Xsens, finishing touches in Houdini and Cinema 4D, and finally rendering in Octane.
The process and pauses was all worth it in the end. When Oliver won the Emmy in Los Angeles last month, he tells us “it was the most exciting week [he's] ever had in [his] life.” With an Emmy under his belt, we can’t wait to see what Oliver does next.
Extraweg: Severance (Copyright © Oliver Latta, 2022)
About the Author
Joey is a freelance design, arts and culture writer based in London. They were part of the It’s Nice That team as editorial assistant in 2021, after graduating from King’s College, London. Previously, Joey worked as a writer for numerous fashion and art publications, such as HERO Magazine, Dazed, and Candy Transversal.