In 2013, writer/director/actor/producer and friend Jeromy Barber founded a Houston-based comedy theater called Beta. I loved the connotations:
- beta testing: improv as dramatic experiment
- beta fish: black box theater as fishbowl
- beta as second-rate: acknowledging, reclaiming and exploding Houston’s undeserved reputation as an uncreative place.
I chose Helvetica as the font for its utilitarian simplicity, fluorescent green-screen-esque green as a background color and an imperfect, fluctuating, handmade look that spoke to the theater’s DIY, grassroots origins and the founding artistic director’s casting of the entire operation as an “experiment in comedy.”
The “BETA” logotype
BETA Sketch Animated Titles
I created this animated title sequence to be used as ambiance before and after BETA Theater’s house sketch troupe’s live performances. Visual references: broadcast TV test signals, the cut-and-paste aesthetic of punk posters, and the lo-fi look of ’90s sketch comedy title design, from Kids In The Hall to The State, and You Can’t Do That On Television.
The Animation Process
The source artwork here was completely analog. I made black-and-white photocopies of print-outs of cast member photos pinched from Facebook, then cut them out and affixed three or four images of each cast member (one-per-frame) onto 100 lb bright white copier paper using Golden acrylic matte medium. Then, I applied text using Letraset transfer lettering (which I had last used as a teenager making album covers for imaginary Aerosmith records in a graphic design class c. 1994). Finally, I added color via fingerpainting with acrylics. Then we scanned them and Jeromy assembled the sequence on 3s in Premiere. I also wrote the music for it, which we added after the fact — at the show the titles were looping, and silent.