Sarofsky’s design innovation continues to Marvel


Since early May, the Marvel Studios' blockbuster Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 has taken movie theaters by storm.

With the return of Peter Quill, Rocket, Baby Groot, Gamora, Drax the Destroyer and friends to the big screen thanks to screenwriter, director and producer James Gunn, fans of great design worldwide have seized the opportunities to see the talents of Sarofsky — the Chicago-based, design driven production company — shine.

In the groundbreaking original Guardians of the Galaxy release in 2014, Gunn presented Erin Sarofsky's studio with a fun challenge: As a result, their touches were seen in the film's main title sequence with an animated, custom designed typeface and a bold treatment of the Guardians of the Galaxy logo.

For the new Guardians release, Sarofsky, who has also worked on titles for Marvel’s Captain America: Winter Soldier, Dr. Strange is back to rock the opening titles again, and to heighten a new dimension of the Marvel Studios Cinematic Universe: the must-see "storytelling" end crawl.

As is so often the case for Erin and her executive producer Steven Anderson, the project officially began with a film screening in Los Angeles, followed by a meeting.

In this case, she and Steven were briefed by Gunn along with Marvel EPs Kevin Feige, Victoria Alonso, Louis D'Esposito and VFX Supervisor Christopher Townsend.

"The first assignment was to explore some ideas the Marvel team had been tossing around since James wrote the opening title scene," Erin began. "In the end, we built off those initial ideas and landed on something that utilizes the typeface we created for the original movie, but executes it in a totally different way."

She continued, "When the neon look got applied to the typography, we integrated that into the Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 logotype. That created unity between the titles and the logo."

It's a point of pride for Sarofsky Corp. that the custom font developed for the first Guardians film lives on... while also appearing in the headers of the new end crawl.

Since opening credits and logo appear amidst a vital opening scene, issues like timing, placement, size and transitions drew lots of attention, and so did legibility.

"Even though there was a lot of great negative space to work with, the action happening in the background made it especially challenging to set glowing type on top and have it be legible," Erin continued.

Getting everything just right involved very close coordination over a span of months with the producers and artists at Framestore in London, who were responsible for creating the opening scene where the titles appear.

Through this painstaking back-and-forth, Framestore earned the title designer's highest praise, both for their well organized and highly collaborative process and for the scene itself: She described it as "mindblowing" and "a masterpiece."

End Credits: A New Beginning

For owners of design companies, historically, certain moments arise that lead them to crossroads. So often, the decision comes down to a yes or a no. When Gunn and Marvel's executives presented their concept for a new type of end crawl, Erin's initial instinct was lukewarm at best.

To be more specific, the idea was to create a new type of armature for the end crawl that would fully engage viewers at the movie's end while leading into the story tags Marvel has become so famous for.

"This was the first time Marvel has considered treating the end crawl as a significant part of the film's experience," Erin confirmed. "It's also the first time we've worked on an end crawl. The responsibility of getting so many names spelled right just seemed daunting."

The discussion continued. As part of the plan, Sarofsky was invited to team-up with Exceptional Minds, the company that normally does the Marvel scrolls. And on the design side, Sarofsky was invited to do a wide exploration, aiming for an outside-the-box approach that would add new thrills for audiences.

"James made it clear that this was an entirely new sandbox for us all to play in," Erin continued. "And play we did. We couldn't believe what a huge creative opportunity this end crawl proved to be. We really got to cut our teeth doing beautiful design, and in that process, create an eight-minute long piece of very unique entertainment!"

The approved end crawl solution is based on vintage album art, but with nestled images, GIF-like animations and all sorts of Easter eggs. For type, the Din font is used along with type headers set in Sarofsky's custom typeface.

By Erin's description, the completed end crawl is scored with the perfect soundtrack, and every moment delivers something very special.

"It's something James painstakingly engaged in with us... making sure it was jam packed with goodies," she concluded. "Until the very end, he was noodling and adding stuff that he knew would blow people's minds."

The studio's project pipeline relied on Adobe After Effects for the credits and Autodesk Maya for the logotype, with The Foundry's Nuke and Autodesk Smoke used for finishing. The end crawl design and delivery involved After Effects, Nuke and Smoke.

Matching Sarofsky's enthusiasm for Framestore, everyone at the company sings high praises for Exceptional Minds.

"Not only were they a wonderful collaborator for us in this process, they also are a great inspiration," Steven said. "As a non-profit animation and VFX school and studio for young adults on the autism spectrum, we were absolutely thrilled to have this opportunity to collaborate with them."

As a Marvel fan, I can’t wait to see (and hope) what Sarofsky does for Avengers: Infinity Wars!

Follow Colin Costello on Twitter @colincostello10.

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