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Football, Footage, and Fur: Making the Titles for HBO’s Hit ‘Ballers’

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Audra Coulombe is the Marketing Manager for The Molecule, a VFX, Motion Graphics, and VR company located in New York and Los Angeles.

Last Sunday marked the return of HBO’s Ballers for its second season. For the uninitiated, the show centers on former NFL player Spencer Strasmore (played by Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson), who now stays in the game by playing financial advisor to current NFL pros.

The team at The Molecule had a blast creating the opening title sequence for the show. “Our main goal was to take a lo-fi, candid approach to representing football as part of America’s DNA, while introducing Miami in all its splendor as one of the sport’s Valhallan cities,” explains Chad Sikora, The Molecule’s Animation Supervisor.

As it turns out, that goal required sourcing a boatload of video clips:

 
“We didn’t set out to make another Game of Thrones intro,” Chad recounts. “We wanted it to be more everyman.” So we tried to source footage from every man (and woman). Dwayne Johnson sent in clips from his personal Instagram account and Jay Glazer sent in footage from his training center. Football players sent in photos of themselves as child athletes, and more footage came in from Omar Miller, DeSean Jackson, Julian Edelman, Victor Cruz, and Antonio Brown.

And then, in between these moments of intense physical exertion, is a shot of pugs running on a treadmill.

TreadmillPugs
 
“If someone giggles, it’s worth leaving in,” says Chad. “We want to remind people of the show’s softer, comedic side.” (Fun fact: The pugs actually belong to the show’s creator, Stephen Levinson, who filmed them at home using his smartphone). But we still had a long way to go to round out the idea we were going for.

“I was looking for footage that told a story about America’s historic love of football, from the perspective of everyone from the little kids in their backyards to the pros in their yachts,” Chad continues. That’s when stock libraries become a crucial resource. It’s not always an easy feat to distill our big vision into concrete search terms; nevertheless, phrases like “football home movies,” “huddle,” and “luxury travel” gave us exactly what we needed.

Ballers Title Sequence Pond5 Clips
Pond5 clips used in the titles for HBO’s Ballers.

“I often browse Pond5 before any other stock site, because I tend to find an offering that’s more varied and interesting than the more expensive ones,” Chad explains. “It’s not just a bunch of same-y, overproduced video; it has a lot to offer on the production spectrum, which is usually what I’m looking for.”

So with that (along with a reminder to check out “Ballers” on Sunday nights on HBO!), we’ll leave you with a collection of clips that helped inspire us:

Football Inspiration Collection

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