Creating the Opening Titles for HBO’s “Ballers”

“Ballers” is HBO’s newest addition to their Sunday night time slot. The show premiered last weekend, and it 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 opening titles for the new series were created by The Molecule’s Motion Graphics department.

“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.

Cut between stunning aerials of urban, beach-y, and yacht-y Miami are pieces of footage from athletes all over the country as they sweat through grueling workouts. We see what sets them apart from the rest of us in how fast they’re able to move their feet, how high they can jump, how much they can lift.

What the general population perceives about pro football doesn’t always line up with the reality of the day-to-day of its players: in order to just do their jobs like the rest of us, they have to push their bodies to the limit every single day. They are professionals because they can push their bodies further than most people in the world.

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

“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 smart phone).

The lo-fi style of the titles was also unconventional – especially considering the high polish given to other well-known HBO shows that aired on Sunday nights up until a couple weeks ago…

“We didn’t set out to make another ‘Game of Thrones’ intro. We wanted it to be more everyman.”

So we sourced footage from every man: Dwayne Johnson sent in clips from his personal Instagram account, Jay Glazer sent in footage from his training center, football players sent in photos of them as child athletes. Footage came in from Omar Miller, DeSean Jackson, Julian Edelman, Victor Cruz, and Antonio Brown, among others.

We also sourced footage from the everywoman. There’s no gender restriction in who thirsts for becoming a top athlete, and the women you see are as driven and tough as the next wide receiver.

America’s life-long love affair with football has also worked its way into this title sequence. As a nod to the tradition and ceremony of the sport, a massive marching band forms the perimeter of the USA.

And there are always the trophies, the checks, the closet full of designer shoes. That is what we expect from the off-duty hours of our sports heroes. These titles have the luxury, the excess, right up front. The creators aren’t trying to fool you into thinking that doesn’t exist in the game – we all know it does. But there’s a lot more wrapped up in the wads of cash money – there’s the hard work, the sweat, the patriotism, the team spirit, the love of the sport.

And with that, we leave you with Team Pug.

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