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Interviews > Ryan Renshaw

The Neighbours opening titles have undergone many changes over the years, and in 2000 Ryan Renshaw was commissioned to design a new sequence to accompany the show's move to widescreen production. He describes the creative process from concept to finished montage, complete with his original storyboards and plans.

Can you give us some background on your work outside of Neighbours?
My background is in working for as an on-air promo director for MTV Australia, MTV Latin America and Network Ten, and also as a director of music videos. When I was asked to create the titles I was working as a freelance promo director.

How did you get the job on the show?
I was purely a contractor brought in to do the titles as a one-off. It is a relatively unusual situation in that, because of contractual agreement, it is the only part of the programme that is not made by Grundy, but rather Network Ten in Australia. Neighbours is of course somewhat of an institution and so the prospect of creating the titles was an exciting thought!

What guidelines were you given for the new sequence?
The titles were a fixed duration - 22 seconds - and within this time frame, of course, one must establish each character that features in the show, preferably in a way that summarises their personality. The next challenge is that, because the characters in Neighbours are constantly changing and evolving through the season, the sequence must then be created in a way that allows it to be easily manipulated. If the producers know that Flick is going to be leaving, then the character she is shot with should also be shot as a single to be placed into the cut when this eventuates.

Did you research any past sequences?
I was very familiar with many of the previous sequences simply due to growing up with Neighbours as a kid. To be honest, the initial request to make the sequence excited me because I saw it as a chance to re-invent - to an extent - the very predictable sequences we have seen in the past. The budget allowed us to shoot in an interesting way and in locations that might not be what I saw as 'predictable' as the previous sequences. So in the first presentation to Grundy and Network Ten, I explained about five very diverse ideas. From the perspective of Grundy there was the same inherent problem in all of these ideas. With Grundy continually updating the titles, they needed a location they could access easily, and the titles needed to be shot on video - not film as many other 'non-soap' opening titles are. These were the frustrating challenges that ultimately took us back to the familiar scene of seeing the cast having a great time in the backyard of a home in Ramsay Street.

What was your overall concept for the credits - were there any elements the producers vetoed?
Once the basic framework of the title concept was set, my principle goal was in developing a way to stylise the imagery in a unique way that could be easily mimicked down the track by the Grundy crew when they were ready to update. The other element I pushed strongly was shooting elements of underwater photography to be fleetingly intercut through the sequence. We shot two of the girls under water, Holly Valance and Krista Vendy. In the end, disappointingly, the footage was excluded from the final cut.

You oversaw the first widescreen titles - did this present any particular concerns?
Widescreen will one day be wonderful. For the time being, however, widescreen is a pain in the ass. Certainly - like everything that is shot for a 16:9 finish - one frames for 4:3, but makes absolutely sure that the 16:9 space also works effectively as a frame. So all characters would sit within the 4:3 frame leaving empty space on the left and right, for the handful of people at home with widescreen televisions. I remember presenting the idea early on of creating effective 4:3 titles, but with graphic elements on the left and right of frame. The graphics were then a kind of 'bonus' for those with a widescreen televison, but not essential if your were only watching on a traditional telly.

How was the sequence planned and recorded?
Initially I flew to Melbourne and viewed the location. Walking up Ramsay Street for the first time is a very surreal experience! Each sequence and the combination of characters appearing in that image was, of course, planned well in advance. For example we filmed Lou, Louise and Joe standing at the Barbeque, but I was also asked to only film Lou and Louise separately too. Perhaps the producers knew something I didn't! There were ten set-ups overall in the backyard and then also the underwater scenes with Tess and Felicity that never made the final cut. For those who may care, the titles were shot on Digital Betacam, primarily on a remote-head crane fitted with a third axis. The third axis allows the camera to rotate and spin as well as pan and tilt - and you'll notice this as a recurring technique used throughout

What were the recording conditions like?
my memory of the day was perfect blue skies. It was super hot, high 30s - Celsius! Perhaps it clouded over in the afternoon.

A location plan used during preparation for the shoot

What were the cast like? Did you have specific set-ups planned, or were they improvised?
The cast were... varied. Most were wonderful, some were painful... but it was a hot day. I would be lying if I said it was one of my easier shoot days. Almost everything was highly planned. Only with the underwater sequences, at the end of the day, did we experiment a little more.

We also shot the image of the Ramsay Street sign which features as the end frame, with the superimposed Neighbours logo. This was another little surreal moment in life - carrying the Ramsay Street sign to the location in a station wagon and wondering how much we might get for it if we diverted to a pawnbroker! Ramsay Street, of course, isn't called Ramsay Street in real life, but it is absolutely unmistakeable when you walk into it. Apparently there are bus tours to there daily. We did meet briefly some people who actually live in one of the houses. What a very strange existence that must be for them.

What post production work was done after recording?
The post production process really was very simple. An offline edit is created, reviewed, tweaked, critiqued and tweaked again. Then it goes into the online process where the graphics are added. This was the first time that the Neighbours logo stepped up to a full three-dimensional rendered version from the standard flat cursive writing.

What was the inspiration for the graphic "ribbons" added to the final shots?
If I remember rightly, my suggestion was that they were going to ripple - in the same way as water. I think this idea was eliminated when the underwater sequences didn't make the final cut.

Were you involved in any of the updates on the titles?
I was not involved in any of the updates. In fact six or so months after they'd had been running I wondered why my name was still being credited at the end when so little of the original titles remained.

Were you told why your designs not used for the show's relaunch in 2002?
No. I've had no contact with Grundy since the first titles were sent out to air.

Looking back, what elements of the final sequence were you most and least satisfied with?
I was happy with how the third axis on the crane worked and how the images melded well through the continuous moves. However, this also became what I was least happy with when Grundy began updating the titles with new character images, without the use of a crane or third axis - so any additional images to the original sequence really tended to stand out.

Finally, do you remember any interesting incidents while working on the show?
Errr... Nothing that wont land me in a court room!

. .

Ryan's original location recce photographs of Number 30's pool and backyard

Multimedia: 2000 Opening Titles Presented in full 16:9 widescreen. Realvideo 1240k

Storyboard to Shot Comparison

Lou Carpenter (Tom Oliver), Louise Carpenter (Jiordan Anna Tolli) and Joe Scully (Shane Connor)

The wavy parallel lines seen to the edge of the storyboard images indicate the original water-motif graphic "waves", which were simplified to the animated ribbons seen on the final design.

Two versions of this shot were recorded; the version seen in the final sequence, and an alternative, featuring just Lou and Louise.

Michelle Scully (Kate Keltie) and Joel Samuels (Daniel MacPherson)

The original storyboard instead features Joel looking on, while Michelle leans on the pool edge watching him.

Libby Kennedy (Kym Valentine) and Drew Kirk (Dan Paris)

Two versions of this shot were storyboarded: One features Drew rubbing sunblock on Libby's back; the second features the couple chatting.

Karl Kennedy (Alan Fletcher) and Susan Kennedy (Jackie Woodburne)


Madge Bishop (Anne Charleston) and Harold Bishop (Ian Smith)

This shot was originally planned as a bird's eye view, shot from the back patio of the property, seen in the location photographs above.

Tad Reeves(Jonathon Dutton) and Toadfish Rebecchi (Ryan Moloney)

This shot originally featured Tad dive-bombing into the pool, with Toadfish watching at the edge.

Paul McClain (Jansen Spencer) and Felicity Scully (Holly Valance)

Paul was originally meant to be wearing a shirt in this shot.

Teresa Bell (Krista Vendy)

This shot, featuring Tess getting out of the pool was recorded to dovetail from the unused underwater sequences featuring Tess and Felicity.

Stephanie Scully (Carla Bonner) and Lyn Scully (Janet Andrewartha)

The original plan for this shot features Lyn hugging Stephanie, against a background of brightly-coloured washing hanging on a line.

Two versions of this shot were recorded; the version seen in the final sequence, and an alternative, which replaced Stephanie with Joe Scully.

Lance Wilkinson (Andrew Bibby) and Dione Bliss (Madeleine West)

The original sketch for this scene features Lance and Dione in bathing costumes.

An additional, unused version of this shot was also recorded, featuring only Dione. Ironically, when the titles were updated following Andrew Bibby's departure, an entirely new shot of Dione was recorded.

A selection of abstract underwater images of Felicity and Tess were also recorded, to be intercut fleetingly throughout the sequence. None were featured in the broadcast version.

A plan for an unrecorded shot featuring Stephanie and Paul playing cricket. A second variant was planned, also featuring Lance.

Images courtesy of Ryan Renshaw and Urban Guerilla Films (Sydney)

Interview by Stuart. Added on 1st April 2003