The top U.S. box office film of 2014, Marvel Studios' blockbuster "Guardians of the Galaxy" launched on digital platforms on Nov. 18 and became available on DVD and Blu-ray on Dec. 9. While the multi-talented designers, animators and producers of Sarofsky Corp. are accustomed to seizing big-screen and television spotlights with their masterful main title projects, the group's contributions to "Guardians" required a different type of artistic and production expertise.
Earlier this year, Sarofsky Corp.'s two-minute, full-screen, fully animated main-on-end titles for "Captain America: The Winter Soldier" drew rave reviews from all around the world. In contrast, "Guardians" director James Gunn envisioned his movie's titles appearing at the beginning of the movie, over picture that he filmed. In Gunn's now-famous title sequence, Star-Lord (played by Chris Pratt) cues up "Come and Get Your Love" by Redbone on his classic Sony Walkman, then dances his way through a foreboding alien landscape as the film's title and main credits animate on and off the screen. Those on-screen words, and the ways and places they appear and disappear, represent Sarofsky's work.
"We always look at projects to see how our talents can best be utilized, and in this case, it was about us showing restraint and precision," explained company president and owner Erin Sarofsky. "At its core, this was a typography assignment. Essentially, we set out to create typographic elements that are legible and cool-looking, but not overly emphasized… most important was that they had to work into the plates seamlessly and not take away from Star-Lord's performance."
Although Sarofsky's deliverables were relatively few, their creation still entailed considerable diligence and craftsmanship, beginning with winning the initial pitch and running all the way through delivery of final elements.
By Erin's account, of several solutions pitched, Gunn and Marvel's executives favored the look and tone of a custom typeface created in-house at Sarofsky, which has similar qualities to the official logo and harkens back to typography from the 1980s. Interestingly, another of Sarofsky's solutions was chosen for use in locator cards throughout the film.
The project's major challenge had to do with the fact that the Star-Lord scene we worked on underwent many revisions at the hands of the editors, so placement and timing of names had to change as well. "Also, their cut starts out kind of slow and methodical, then half way through, ramps up when Star-Lord puts on his headphones and the music livens things up," Erin added. "To play against that with the animation, we start the first half with simple fades as the names come on screen. When the music kicks in, the typography begins to really animate on and off in a more fun way."
Delivering the files in the correct color space, accurately viewing the large resolution stereoscopic files, and managing the project within new comp iterations from Marvel's vendors throughout production also tested Sarofsky's team. "The main tools used to combat potential issues on these fronts were communication and planning," said Matt Crnich, Sarofsky Corp.'s VFX supervisor. "No software package is going to fix the failures of a poor pipeline."
"It's really great to work with a group of people who know what they like and communicate well," said Erin. "The Marvel team is always on point with feedback and that really helps us create excellent work."
With the project's focus on 2D type animation, Adobe After Effects (AE) was selected as the primary animation/design tool for the type. The logo was produced in Autodesk Maya and Sarofsky's pipeline also involved The Foundry's Nuke and Tweak RV. After setting up templates in AE, artists designed and animated in correct color and resolution. To address the changes in the background plates, type animations were output with alpha channels, which allowed the typography to be repositioned or re-converged later on in the pipeline. All the AE renders were then conformed in Autodesk Smoke.
"We use Smoke heavily on all our Marvel work, as it's one of the few tools that can play down large resolution stereoscopic files in real-time while applying a Look Up Table," Matt confirmed.
Along with Marvel, Sarofsky Corp.'s credits for the "Guardians of the Galaxy" main titles consist of creative director Erin Sarofsky, producer Erik Crary, CG supervisor Andre Zazzera, co-VFX supervisors Matthew Crnich and John Filipkowski, executive producer Rachel Steele, CG artists Duarte Elvas, Alex Kline and Tnaya Witmer, designers Jason Hammel and Chris Salvador, and associate producer Michael Burke.
About Sarofsky Corp.
Director, creative director and designer Erin Sarofsky launched Sarofsky Corp. in Chicago in 2009 to provide her patent, design-driven production services to leaders in the advertising and entertainment industries worldwide. Today, Sarofsky's staff artists use animation, visual effects, computer graphics and live-action to collaborate with illustrious clientele from concept to delivery, producing work that is visceral, innovative and diverse. With artistry that heightens audience impact through sublime commercials, brand films, title sequences and much more, Sarofsky's reputation for breakthrough design, its proven cross-media production expertise, and its fabulous Olson Kundig-designed studio in Chicago's West Loop are all key components of the attraction. Learn more at http://sarofsky.com