Unmasking Billy the Kid for Discovery

Unmasking Billy the Kid for Discovery

DENVER — Citizen Pictures ( based here, designed and produced an unusual promo package for Discovery’s new historical forensics series, Discovery Quest, and its documentary special, Billy the Kid Unmasked, which debuted in March. In the :30 promo, the camera follows the fatal bullet fired from lawman Pat Garrett’s gun as it travels in ultra-slow-mo toward Billy while showing flashback scenes of his life.


Director of on-air promotions for Discovery Mary Claire Baquet requested a “Matrix-style” move around the bullet as it traveled through scenes of Billy the Kid’s final moments. Discovery producer, Heather Roymans, along with the production arm of Citizen Pictures, enabled the team to bring her vision to life.

“The thinking for the project was to take an old event and look at it through modern-day eyes,” says Jeanne Kopeck, senior creative director for Citizen Pictures. “People don’t know if the account of Billy’s death is accurate. Through the use of forensic science, technology and expertise, Discovery was able to take a closer look at how the killing happened. Our job was, in 30 seconds of time, to draw people into Billy the Kid’s world in hopes of delivering as many viewers as possible.”

Under the leadership of Kopeck and digital effects supervisor Mitch Monson, Citizen Pictures produced and directed the live-action material, created the effects and graphics, and then edited and composited the promo.

The flashback footage was created using re-creation footage from the Discovery documentary. The show clips were loaded into the Quantel Henry Infinity to transform them to a flickery, grainy, old-film look. Discreet Inferno was then used to add stuttering and strobing effects to simulate a zoetrope effect. Other effects were added, including speeding up and down of the film, intercutting of shots and the liberal use of motion and lighting effects.

Kopeck directed a daylong 35mm film shoot with actors portraying Pat Garrett and Billy. Blanks were shot from an authentic Colt revolver, captured at super high film speed, so that a realistic muzzle flash, particles and smoke could compliment the bullet, which was created in 3D. Dust particles were likewise captured at high speed on film for use in post. The 3D logo animations were also completed under Kopeck’s and Monson’s supervision. Anderson Images and Pixel Farm, both in Minneapolis, provided 3D animation and compositing services using Alias Maya and Discreet 3DS Max running Reactor.

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