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The Making of the Title Credits

Logo and text

We wanted something that you would see week after week and be entertained enough to keep watching.  Something that wouldn't completely reveal itself on the first viewing. --Alan Poul, Six Feet Under

We asked Thomas Newman to compose the music first, just to compose a ninety second piece of music.  I had worked with him before - he scored "American Beauty" - and I think he's just a brilliant composer.

Usually you do pictures first and then you add music.  We did it the other way around - I think basically because we didn't have any idea what we wanted picture-wise.
--Alan Ball, Six Feet Under

Holding hands drawing

When Digital Kitchen came in with storyboards, the main concepts - with the tree and the hands coming apart - were there from the beginning.  I remember thinking, "That's so elegant, so cinematic, so unlike TV."  --Alan Ball, Six Feet Under

Comic strip drawing

There were some shots we wanted that we just couldn't find, so we drew up a story animatic with some very specific shots.  We wanted to tell the story of what would happen after a person's placed into a casket and goes into a hearse, to the cemetery.

I was inspired by a series of photos that I had found, one of which was the gurney going down the hall.  That was the strongest image for me... it had a very strong story, but it was also very beautiful. --Danny Yount, Digital Kitchen

Bed feet drawing

Those feet on the gurney were part of the original storyboard.  And I loved the way that the actual titles themselves were worked in.  It's a very elegant and understated approach. --Alan Ball, Six Feet Under

Cart direction drawing

I feel like the title sequence really captures the spirit of the show.  It's as if every single image works so perfectly with that music.  There's that moment when the wheel on the gurney turns just as the percussion track kicks in.  It's such a wonderful synthesis.  I still get chills when I watch it. --Alan Ball, Six Feet Under

Picture frames

One of the great things about Digital Kitchen is that they have a willingness to depart from linear logic.  The image of the photograph of the woman on the desk was something that had never been discussed - it kind of came out of left field - but we all felt it was absolutely right from the moment we saw it. --Alan Poul, Six Feet Under

Oh, that's my mom.  My dad was a bit of a hobbyist photographer. --Paul Matthaeus, Digital Kitchen

Hands coming together

There are so many images in the title sequence that I just adore.  But the one that really remains with me is those two hands, when they pull apart and go in slow motion.  It's so perfect with the music and it's so heartbreaking, because once that separation happens, there's no going back. --Alan Ball, Six Feet Under

Raven feet

The thing that sticks out the most is the crow.  Every effects house had come in with some kind of death-releated imagery.  But the crow seemed like something that was not so literally tied to the show and not overly macabre, but so evocative of the darker feelings the show would conjure up. --Alan Poul, Six Feet Under

Raven head

The thing that we discovered about crows is that it is illegal to film true crows in the United States for commerical purposes.  This crow was actually a pied crow.  It has a white chest, so we pointed the chest black.  It was not very well trained, and it had to be on a leash, and it didn't want to fly. --Lane Jensen, Digital Kitchen

Tree on hill sun close

The other thing that came out of those first boards was the tree.  The tree that has become, really, our log.  The idea of a single tree, standing on a kind of a flat, barren horizon, with a big foreground of grass, and the concept of the tree sprouting roots that would eventually envelop the title treatment.  It's so simple, but it's nothing that any of us every could have thought up. --Alan Poul, Six Feet Under

Tree on hill sun far

The tree was by far the hardest thing to find.  We started weeks early.  It was the dead of winter, and we were looking for a tree with leaves.  Of course, Seattle is covered with evergreen trees.  It's still extremely difficult to find an empty hill.  So whenever there was a designer free from another project, we would send them out driving aimlessly with a Polaroid - please find a tree.  When people started coming back with the same pictures of these little patheticl trees, I knew we were never going to find a tree and a hill at the same place. --Lane Jensen, Digital Kitchen

Tree on hill dark foreground

So finally, the day before we were planning on shooting, somebody contacted somebody who contacted somebody who wanted this tree out of her yard.  And we paid her the four hundred dollars, and we had the perfect tree for our hill. --Lane Jensen, Digital Kitchen

The very next day they came and cut it down and they took it to Kite Hill, which is just fifteen minutes from here.  I think it's thrilling.  I look at it a hundred times and I go, is that my tree? --Amy Helgol, Former Tree Owner

Flower close up

The last piece to be completed and the one that was the subject of the most mutual frustration and time consumption was the flowers. --Alan Poul, Six Feet Under

After establishing how long it took for them to wilt, we rigged and photographed the arrangements for about ten hours.  The flowers wilted, but they didn't turn brown.  So we took the sequence into postproduction, shifted the color and emphasized decomposition.  Then, all of that footage was speed ramped, to give it a sudden wilting quality. --Paul Matthaeus, Digital Kitchen

Main title

Ultimately the title sequence transports you into the world of the show.  You go on a journey.  The moment those hands come apart, you're on this journey, and you're in the prep room, there's the presence of death.  You go down a tunnel towards light.  You go away from a body.  You see the funereal stuff - you know, the coffin, the hands, the hearse - and then ultimately it all comes back to that same place.  Life proceeds from what has come before. --Alan Ball, Six Feet Under

Behind the Scenes