DESIGN AND PRODUCTION PROCESS
As a metaphor for Sherlock Holmes’ unorthodox and whimsical approach to crime solving, a custom Rube Goldberg contraption was created in order to represent the way in which the detective’s mind works. Setting him apart from other detectives are his often unexpected, primitive techniques to crime solving and I wanted to communicate this in the embodiment of the Rube Goldberg structure. A :30s chain reaction of events, akin to finally connecting the dots in a crime lead to the capture of the villain – case closed.
The footage was captured via a live action shoot in Silverlake, Los Angeles and consisted of a very tight one-day schedule. In tandem with shooting one setup, another two or three were being assembled by the production design team led by Andrew Clark. As props were being assembled throughout the day, the setups became more elaborate but this freedom worked in our favor enabling the execution of some ideas that were not even part of the initial thinking.
In addition to the steel structure elements, I decided to construct other details of the contraption with handmade objects representing potential murder weapons or scenarios that would be intertwined and contrast with the steel track.
Mack Sennett stage in Silverlake, Los Angeles provided the appropriate space to enable simultaneous preparation of many setups during the shoot day and there was enough room to have a mini workshop where we could assemble props and make adjustments on the fly.
The Arri Alexa was the camera of choice and shot by Cinematographer Benji Bakshi. In order to navigate some of the tight spaces in between the structure, he employed a probe lens which enabled us to achieve otherwise very difficult shots with regular lenses. There were multiple lighting setups and textures to work with so being nimble was key with the 30-40 individuals making up the production team. The intent was to capture everything in camera with very minimal fixes in post besides a bit of cleanup and color grading.
The collaboration with the guys at Art Customs to create the quirky mechanisms and customized components was important as I intended everything to have a handcrafted feel. Imperfections and worn elements were welcomed. The manikin was only cast twice so the shot had to be good in only two takes. This meant that the sledgehammer mechanism had to work perfectly in order for it to not only create impact in the correct position but also at the desired strength.
From a selection of twelve trained mice, Geoffrey made the cut due to his enthusiasm and speed. The mouse contraption consisted of a custom made mesh wheel attached to a mechanism that was made up of an intricate arrangement of cogs. Motivation from the rotating wheel in turn lit up the Edison style light bulb that was connected to a switch.
The complete 7ft Structure
We collaborated closely with Rolling Ball Sculptures to design and produce five stand alone pieces and one intricate 7ft high steel structure.
Elementary was nominated for an Emmy® for Outstanding Title Design, awarded Official Title Sequence Selection at the SWSX Film Festival, achieved Gold at the BassAwards for Best Opening Sequence for a TV series and received a bronze cube from the Art Directors Club in Miami.