Main Pages

Actors & Crew
Year by Year
Magic Moments

Message Board

Interviews > Visual Playground

On 18th March 2010, Australian viewers saw the launch of a new title sequence to celebrate the 25th Anniversary of Neighbours' first episode airing. Returning to Ramsay Street for the first time in over five years with poolside locations and cricket matches, it was greeted with positive feedback by fans across the globe.
Here, Emily Harridge, the Creative Director of the company behind the sequence, Visual Playground, talks to us about their pitch and how they brought it to life.

Can you give us some background on your work outside of Neighbours?
At Visual Playground we mainly create opening title sequences and graphics packages for TV shows. We have worked on some of Australia's most notable and highest rating shows such as Big Brother, Masterchef Australia, Junior Masterchef, Rove, The ARIA Awards, 7pm project and the TV Week Logie Awards.

Can you tell us a little about the pitch process and how it came about?
We were contacted by FremantleMedia, the producers of Neighbours early in 2009 and asked to pitch on new Opening Titles for Neighbours. Of course we felt honoured to be selected to pitch as Neighbours has so much history associated with it and has such a huge following, particularly in the UK. The pitch was quite lengthy and I think we presented about three ideas.

Have you ever been a Neighbours viewers yourself?
I used to watch Neighbours avidly when it first started. I knew all the cast members names and I even saw Kylie Minogue in person at Safeway in Camberwell and it just happened to be when Charlene was about to marry Scott so her picture was all over the magazines. I was so excited (I think I was about 12) at the time.

What guidelines were you given for the new sequence?
The brief was based on coming home to Neighbours. The producers and the network wanted the sequence to be shot outdoors and showcase Australia's beautiful summer weather. They wanted Ramsay Street to be an idealistic place, an escape from people's everyday lives.

Many fans have highlighted the similarities to the opening titles used from 2000-2001 and again in 2002. Did you research any past sequences when creating your pitch?
Yes we did. We looked at all the past sequences and what worked well in each one. We also wanted to make the sequence easily updateable as characters come and go quite regularly.

What was your overall concept for the sequence - were there any elements the producers vetoed?
Initially we wanted to include cast members from over the past 25 years through the use of photographs and travelling through pictures. The concept changed when it was decided the sequence should be shot outdoors. Warm summer afternoons, soft-lighting effects and an emphasis on characters were the central themes of the artistic vision. Swirling dandelions add a subtle yet evocative thread to the montage. A key focus throughout production was ensuring the new sequence encapsulated the core values of the show and the expectations of its large and well-established audience.

Why was the decision taken not to feature toddler, Charlie Hoyland, and baby, India Napier, in the titles?
Charlie was sick on the day of the shoot, so he was always intended to be there. The Producers decided that India would not feature, I suspect because babies change so rapidly.

How was the sequence planned and recorded?
It takes a lot to schedule 25 cast members! We worked with some very proficient and accommodating production managers who made it all happen! The job was achieved using a full digital workflow, from being shot on the RED camera, though to the digital grade, and then finally to post production & delivery. Eight separate versions of the opener were delivered, from shooting the cast to vfx, to final delivery in less than two weeks.

What were the recording conditions like?
The sequence was shot over two consecutive days. We had pretty good weather overall considering many of the cast had to wear swimwear!

What were the cast like? Did you have specific set-ups planned, or were they improvised?
We worked closely with a talented Director called John Studley to come up with specific actions for the cast. These scenes were carefully planned in order to reconcile the artistic vision with the realities of television production.

What post production work was done after recording?
Grading, compositing the dandelion in the opening shot, adding the dandelion particles and character names.

What was the inspiration for the dandelion petals added to the final shots which display the character names? Dandelions featured in the title card of the previous sequence, was it a conscious decision to continue this theme?
The swirling dandelion particles are a visually interesting way to link the frames together. We were initially going to start the sequence with one of the cast members holding a dandelion and blowing it, but it was decided that no one person should feature.

Were the break bumpers used in Australian broadcasts which feature various Ramsay Street locations and those featuring photographs of past residents and storylines also part of your pitch?
Yes, they were part of the original pitch. The idea just came to me one night at 2am as these ideas sometimes do...

Have you been involved in any of the updates on the titles?
Just the visual effects side, we have graded the shots and added the dandelion particles and the names.

What elements of the final sequence are you most and least satisfied with?
Overall I am very satisfied with the end result. I thought the performances were great and the shots looked beautiful. There has been overwhelming positive feedback to the opener, from both here and the UK.

Do you remember any interesting incidents whilst filming the sequence?
I found the cast to be extremely professional and had an amazing ability to step into character and perform on every take.

Finally, after 25 years, what do you think is the secret to Neighbours' success?
I think Neighbours really is an escape from our everyday lives and viewers identify with the characters. There have been so many success stories from actors starting out on Neighbours so I think part of this success comes down to the casting.

If you've enjoyed the interview and would like to discuss it with other fans, click here

Interview by Callum. Added on 13 November 2010