Call it a prime example of ‘less is more’– design/animation studio One Fine Day created the compelling promo for HBO’s latest original film achievement, “Bessie,” starring Queen Latifah as the legendary blues singer Bessie Smith, featuring feathers gently falling in an empty theater where a boa lays wrapped around an antique microphone. Click here t view promo.

“We challenged One Fine Day with our need to reflect the deeper themes of ‘Bessie’ -- where what's beautiful or glamorous at first glance, is not so beautiful as you look closer,” Gwen Sarnoff, Executive Producer, HBO Marketing/Creative Services, says. “One Fine Day created a moody, evocative graphic tease that was so well received that the elements became the 'look' for all of the digital assets we produced for all media platforms supporting the project. With every new project, One Fine Day brings their expertise, passion, and A-Game to develop, flesh out and deliver superb creative -- their work speaks for itself.”

For Nathalie de La Gorce, One Fine Day’s Creative Director, the same aesthetic that often describes HBO’s branding and promotion – cinematic, elegant understated – also describes the 11-year-old creative studio she founded with Visual Effects Director Chris Haak that has collaborated numerous times with the cable network.

“HBO has a very specific look in terms of their marketing that is very much in-line with the strengths of One Fine Day,” de La Gorce says. ”Their branding is always cinematic and story-driven, which is closely akin to the way we approach projects as a creative studio as well.”

Capturing The Look Of ‘Gilded Decay’
The new “Bessie” builds on that stylistic tradition. With a look that HBO described in their creative brief as ‘gilded decay,’ the spot opens with a mysterious shot of an array of blue feathers slowly falling through the air while the haunting strains of Latifah, singing mournfully as Smith, can be heard. The camera slowly tracks back as the color of the feathers change from bright blue to a de-saturated gray, a symbolic nod to the dark turns in Bessie Smith’s own life story.

The spot ends with a shot revealing the feathers are from a feather boa, falling gracefully around an empty stage, except for an exquisitely 3D animated old-fashioned microphone and footlights.

“HBO wanted to use several visual elements in the promo, but after some creative discussion, we decided it would be stronger visually if we focused solely on the feather boa,” de La Gorce notes.

Working closely with New York-based production company House of Nod on the high-speed photography, Haak explains that it took some experimenting to find the right frame rate to shoot the falling feathers. 

“We wanted to capture the fine-scale, fluid-like undulations that occurred within the feathers, but also to see the larger-scale, aerodynamic motion of the feather as it moved through space,” Haak says. “In the end we struck a balance, shooting around 500-700 fps for most shots.

Although the microphone and stand are based on period-authentic props seen in the film, the actual props were in L.A. and similar ones couldn’t be found in New York, which led to Haak and the creative team reconstructing them in 3D.  “While time-consuming, it ended up providing us with a lot more flexibility because it let us achieve camera angles and moves that would have been difficult to capture practically, and to modify and refine them as the piece evolved,” Haak adds.

Adds de La Gorce, “We had a precise idea of what we wanted, which was made all the more challenging because it can be hard to wrangle feathers. They don’t always move the way you want them to. In the end though, I think we got something that feels filmic and story-driven: much like HBO itself.”

Click here for more info about “Bessie”:

Promo Credits

Client: HBO  Project: “Bessie” promo (:30)
Production/Design/Editorial: One Fine Day, New York
Creative Director: Nathalie de La Gorce
VFX Director: Chris Haak

About One Fine Day
Launched in 2004, by former R/GA and Trollback & Company creatives Nathalie de La Gorce and Chris Haak, One Fine Day ( is a boutique motion graphic design and visual effects studio specializing in film and television production. Known for their storytelling prowess, One Find Day’s work focuses on exceptional design that goes deeper and is both more complex and simpler than passing fads. It is that understanding that ultimately makes each project emotionally and visually relevant to its audience. Recent work includes projects for HBO, Cinemax, MTVN, Vh1, LOGO, AMC, TV Land, TNT, Spike, SciFi, National Geographic, TCM, TNT, Discovery, Fidelity, Pontiac, Dodge, Lincoln, GMC, Volvo, Proctor & Gamble, AICP, Intel, SAP.  Click here for more info about One Fine Day: