This is a Robbery

Series Graphcis


Barnicle Bros



* Netflix Top 10

On St. Patrick’s Day 1990, two men dressed as security guards snuck into the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston and pulled off one of the wildest art capers of all time. We teamed up with our partners at Barnicle Brothers to help tell the story of how 13 priceless paintings went missing, where they could have gone, and explore who could be responsible in the hit Netflix series, This is a Robbery.

To design the series graphics package for this docuseries, we had to hit several different angles of the heist and in the process utilized a number of techniques, including some that were brand new. First, to establish an informed perspective of how the crime went down, we created suspect boards and map animations of the areas surrounding the museum to create a visual narrative to supplement the story. Potential suspects are introduced right away in the series, starting with the security guard on duty the night of the robbery who was either oblivious or complicit in the events that led to the art theft.

Blueprints designed by BGSTR

To this day, the Gardner museum leaves the frames of the stolen paintings empty as an homage to the missing art. This gave us a great opportunity to graphically composit the art back in the frames and recreate what the museum might look like with the art in place. To achieve this effectively, creative director John Leamy invented a totally new process to get the look just right:

“The technique for the painting CUs involved a number of steps. First the paintings were resized to the maximum we could achieve without loss of fidelity/resolution. Then, I did research and found some firms that do hi-res scanning and examination of old master painting surfaces and their layered and cracked topology. Using some of this data, I was able to create what are called normal maps that give a 3D surface dimension. Using the resized painting and these maps, the paintings were re-built in 3D, allowing for the placement of lighting that would reveal these surface details in a way that was convincing. Subtle play of light movement as well as camera drift was the final step. An interesting problem to solve, and I learned quite a bit about impasto (layered paint on a surface) and the decay of varnishes.”

To create suspect boards that evolved with the telling of the story and revelations of new information, we worked intimately with the director and producers to ensure the information we were delivering was accurate and easy to understand visually. Similarly, the map animations had to be clear enough to take a viewer who has likely never been in the museum and place them at the scene in a way they can understand the layout of the museum and the path the thieves might have taken.

The use of 2D and 3D techniques in tandem with each other was also a skill we enjoyed showcasing within this docuseries’ framework and helped to characterize the look and feel of the narrative. We are particularly proud of the design of the newspaper and document treatments and how effectively they helped tell the story of the heist. In combination with the timeline we created, the document treatments seamlessly guide viewers through the events of the night and the subsequent investigation.

Thanks again to our partners at Barnicle Brothers, we had a blast working on the series and congratulations on its success!


Credits -

Executive Creative Director - Josh Norton
Executive Producer - Carson Hood
Creative Director - John Leamy
Producer - Shannon Hall
Design - Ross Henderson, Ivan Viaranchyk
Animation - Casey Drogin, Ivan Viaranchyk, Carl Dempsey
3D Animation - Alec Iselin

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