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June 21, 2016

Tilt to Last

Innovative title design for CBS's Late Show evokes a host's enduring love for New York.

Maria Neuman

When Stephen Colbert was named host of The Late Show on CBS, he came to the job with a to-do list — he wanted to create more intimacy in the venerable Ed Sullivan Theater, he wanted a band he could sing along with and he wanted his beloved New York City to star in the opening credits.

For the latter, enter Fernando Livschitz, a director from Buenos Aires, Argentina, and owner of Black Sheep Films. While most late-night shows use similar opening-title sequences — usually glamour shots of their host city — in the hands of Livshitz and his team, the familiar Big Apple landmarks became something different.

Showcased in a tilt-shift, time-lapsed aesthetic, the opening is "a magical and different way to see New York," Livschitz says. "Tilt shift is a technique in which the footage is manipulated in postproduction to give the impression that life-size locations and people look miniature. It's confusing, but in a really fun way.

"And since I knew it was going to be something that people watched over and over again, I was really mindful of it not being boring."

Far from it. The result is a montage of Manhattan and the surrounding boroughs as never seen before, a bustling toy town that looks like a scene from the latest Pixar project.

Creating the sequence took a month of shooting throughout the city and then two months in postproduction. "The most difficult shot was the hyper lapse on the Brooklyn Bridge," Livschitz recalls. "The way we did it was that I would take a picture, walk a step, take a picture, walk a step. I did that about 300 times."

Clocking in at just under 60 seconds, the title sequence gives new meaning to the term "New York minute."

As for Livschitz's favorite moment, that's easy. "When Stephen and the show's band pop up," he says. "It's like Where's Waldo?"

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