Volume 19

October 10, 2018

Free Solo

Film Design

Free Solo won the 2019 Academy Award for "Best Documentary" and hit the top of the indie box office for 2018, surpassing many others and marking the best theater average ever for a documentary.

Original Main Title Design by Carol Cai and Ivan Viaranchyk

Earlier this year, Little Monster Films called on us to create the main title and overall graphic look for National Geographic Documentary Film's, Free Solo -- a documentary about the most famed and accomplished free solo climber, Alex Honnold, and his ascent up the 3,200 ft wall of El Capitan in Yosemite National Park.

We were stoked to be part of such a monumental documentary and work with directors, Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin. Together, we collaborated to create the main title, lower thirds, location IDs and archival sequences--drawing inspiration from Alex’s journal entries and his life as a climber.

Passed Climbers Design by Ross Henderson & Ivan Viaranchyk / Animation by Brian Landisman & Ivan Viaranchyk
Magazine Design by Ivan Viaranchyk and Ross Henderson / Animation by Ivan Viaranchyk and Brian Landisman

Once we had designed, animated and delivered the primary film elements, the scope of the project continued to expand and we were asked to develop a fully rendered 3D version of El Cap. While Jimmy and the crew had captured extraordinary shots of El Cap, there was a need to visualize Alex’s climb through seamless transitions as he met each pitch point during his training and ultimately, his successful climb of the mountain’s face.

We worked with Google Imagery to create a pixel-by-pixel rendering of the exact image of El Cap’s structure. Through this partnership, we were able to zoom in extremely close to our model of the mountain and maintain the most finite details--as well as scale back wide enough to show the enormity of El Cap in relation to Alex’s location. This gave our 3D team all the advantages they could dream of and the rare opportunity to create an accurate, minutely-detailed final result.

Ultimately, we created seven unique scenes with precise mapping of the route from every angle, lighting and time-lapse effects, delivering an authentic model that would visually pinpoint all the pitches Alex had to meet and defy on his way to the top.

3D Mountain Design & Animation by Liu Chia-Lung, Jun Lee, and Brandon Sugiyama

“Free Solo,” National Geographic’s exhilarating adventure documentary about the first free solo rock climb of Yosemite’s El Capitan, notched the best screen average of the year to date. - Variety

The style and rendering of the mountain, archival treatments, font choices and bespoke moments gave the documentary a sealed look, and we’re thrilled to be part of a story that will live on for ages. The film was rated 100% on Rotten Tomatoes and hit the top of the indie box office for 2018, surpassing many others and marking the best theater average ever for a documentary. Thanks to National Geographic Documentary Films & Little Monster Films for allowing us to be part of the journey.

Go to www.freesolofilm.com for ticketing and showtimes to see the film - in theaters now!

Main Title Animation by Ivan Viaranchyk and Brian Landisman

October 10, 2018

FOX NFL Sunday

Promo Package

Using a gridiron architecture and hard hitting macro photography as our starting point, we built our chosen concept around the yard lines of a football field.

When FOX Sports came to us looking for an update to their NFL Sunday promo package, their current branding had not been changed for over a decade. With this in mind, we knew our approach had to be fresh, exciting, and bring new life to the highest rated show on the network.

Design References

With some of our top designers on the case, we came up with multiple looks and unique directions. From the beginning, we kept the utility of the package in mind, knowing that a flexible graphic structure would ultimately allow the client to easily transfer players in and out with our AE toolkits.

Three Original Design Concepts by Gera Frascaroli and Doug Chang

After creative back-and-forth with the network, we landed on one of our favorite styles and moved into production. Using a gridiron architecture and hard hitting macro photography as our starting point, we built our chosen concept around the yard lines of a football field, using them to transition in and out of footage to create fluid movement between key players and graphics alike.

Styleframes by Gera Frascaroli and Open Animation by Liu Chia-Lung

By creating four versions of the endpage: two player single game, two player multi game, one player multi game, one player single game, we allowed FOX the capability to make key adjustments as needed from week to week.

FOX NFL Sunday - Week 1 Promo

We followed a similar system with the lower thirds as well, linking the animations to our gridiron architecture, and versioning out seamlessly integrated lower thirds for each NFL team. In the end, we were able to toolkit and deliver the open, star player & match-up graphics, transitions, endpages, title cards, and in game graphics.

Star Player Gfx - Animation by Liu Chia-Lung

As a whole, we created a versatile and dynamic package that translated extremely well into toolkits for FOX to use throughout the season and onward. Thanks to our friends and collaborators at FOX Sports for a project that was a total touchdown!

Logo Animation by Liu Chia-Lung

October 10, 2018

Artist Spotlight: Brian Landisman


Brian Landisman is an artist with boundless energy, a tireless work ethic, and a lively character, all of which has made him an essential part of the BigStar team. Starting off as an intern nearly two years ago, he worked his way up to a staff position with us and hasn’t looked back since.

His ability to multi-task and prioritize several projects at once while giving them all the same level of detail and dedication is crucial to our internal team and workflow. Not only does Brian strive to improve upon his current knowledge, but he has taken two Cinema 4D classes through our continuing ed program, pushing to expand his skill-set into the 3D world.

We hope you enjoy “Bri Guy”s Q&A below, as you get to know a little more about one of our top in-house animators.

Free Solo Internal Sequences - Animation by Brian Landisman

Q&A with Brian Landisman -

When did you first realize you wanted to be a motion graphics artist?
I knew motion graphics was for me while I was in graduate school. I was going through the motions as a general design student, not really finding my niche. My last year of the program was when I got exposed to motion design and took my first animation class. It was instantly my favorite field, and I was almost mad I didn’t discover it sooner. I remember at one point, someone turned to me and said, “You should do this for a living.” Guess they were right...

What makes you love what you do?
Even before I was hooked by motion design, I’ve always been involved in the entertainment industry. I used to be a stage and commercial actor, and I believe my roots there have greatly influenced who I am as a person and an artist. I love that my career now still has a very strong emphasis on the stage and screen. I honestly couldn’t imagine a job for myself that didn’t. I can’t help but smile when I see my work on a screen.

What perspective do you bring to the industry / what makes you different?
I’ve always been proud of my talent of recognizing good stories when I see or hear them. Maybe it’s from watching too much TV, but it helped me understand how important it is. They help with every aspect of my work, from concept to execution.

If the work I do leaves people thinking or feeling anything that they didn’t have with them going into it, then I’ve done something right.

Fear the Walking Dead Promo - Animation by Brian Landisman

What is your ultimate goal as an artist?
To keep learning and growing! You never really stop doing either in this field, which I find really exciting. I constantly try to live by the phrase, “You’re only as good as your NEXT success,” because it keeps pushing me to do better. I want to soak up every new challenge and experience that comes my way, and utilize them in creating better and more refined work.

How long have you been a designer & animator?
I’ve been in the biz for about two and a half years now. I was mostly freelancing around the city before I found a seat at the BigStar table.

What/who has influenced you the most?
Honestly, there’s no one instance for me. From the types of immersive work I see on a daily basis to the people I surround myself with, I believe all of these experiences have shaped who I am as an artist.

AMA Animations by Brian Landisman

What are you most passionate about professionally?
I tend to be at my most bright-eyed and bushy-tailed when I’m working on projects that tell a great story because, at the end of the day, that’s what I do. I will jump on any opportunity to take a well-thought-out storyline and build upon it visually. It’s a fun journey to see what interesting or different directions you can take it.

Do you have any side-projects you continue to work on?
I sure do. Many of the people in my life outside of the office are in creative/entertainment fields, so they keep me busy. For instance, I have a small cluster of friends and colleagues who are constantly writing and producing motion pictures. I create the teasers and trailers for these projects, and I’ll also find myself designing press kits and pitch packages for potential investors, directors, etc.

Invisible Killers - Headlines by Brian Landisman

How do you want to be remembered?
As an all-around great human being and artist that always strived to take on projects I love and do them justice. If people started saying that now, I’d be pretty cool with that….

How do you determine the success of a piece?
When the visuals work in harmony with provoking thought. If the work I do leaves people thinking or feeling anything that they didn’t have with them going into it, then I’ve done something right.

Ride with Norman Reedus - Main Title Animation by Brian Landisman

Volume 18

Next Project: Volume 18
Telling the Bigger Story