Marvel Studios
Main on End (MOE)
Concept Creation
CG (Computer Graphics)
3D Modeling
Animation
VFX/Visual Effects
Character Design
Motion Design
Stereoscopic

Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Directed by the Russo Brothers, Captain America: the Winter Soldier has a character-driven plot of intrigue and espionage. That rich plot makes the film more of a ’70s conspiracy thriller than the typical super-hero movie. We wanted our main-on-end title sequence to reflect that. To get there, we distilled the complexity of the story themes and characters down to their most basic elements. Working in a simple style with bold graphics and strong, legible typography, we created iconographic vignettes representing the actors and themes.

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The Story

In Marvel Studio’s Captain America: The Winter Soldier, straight-shooting ‘40s-era hero Steve Rogers (aka Captain America) has to confront all kinds of conundrums to save a world where everything is upside down. Thrust from a simpler past into a 21st-century zeitgeist where bad guys pose as good, good guys spy and lie, and nobody’s sure who to trust, Rogers has one hell of a mess to sort. For starters? The espionage agency where he works has been infiltrated by yet-to-be-exposed evil forces. His boss brands him a criminal fugitive.  His most reliable ally is a female spy with a questionable moral compass. And he has to dodge the bullets of a brainwashed hitman who used to be his best friend. Things just get more complicated from there.

The Style and Inspiration

Directed by the Russo Brothers, the film’s character-driven plot of intrigue and espionage makes it more of a ’70s conspiracy thriller than the typical super-hero movie. We wanted our main-on-end title sequence to reflect that. To get there, we distilled the complexity of the story themes and characters down to their most basic elements. Working in a simple style with bold graphics and strong, legible typography, we created iconographic vignettes representing the actors and themes. 

Combined with our use of positive and negative space, the finished sequence has a Russian constructivist feel that pushes the principles of gestalt to their fullest potential. There are stars and there are stripes, shifting gears and winding tentacles, swirling shields and shattering panels, as heroes and villains battle in a shifting sequence of white on black on red. Everything moves with the tense, throbbing musical score from Henry Jackman that builds along with our story.

We created all of this with a respectful bow to title-sequence master Saul Bass. But we were also inspired by the graphic stylings of Marvel Comics’ collaborator and artist, Jim Steranko,  “His bold  illustration style really spoke to us when it came time to illustrate the characters,” says executive creative director Erin Sarofsky.  And with so many acronyms and fictional organizations in the film (S.H.I.E.L.D espionage agency; S.T.R.I.K.E. tactical unit, and Hydra– the evil society of villains) there was a plethora of those symbols to play with as well.

Reflections

“It’s not easy to refine something into its simplest form and still have it look right. Especially in silhouette, where the slightest thing being off will make the person look unrecognizable. We literally talked about Chris’s eyelashes for days.”

A Look Under the Hood

Defining the sequence progression, Erin collaborated on storyboards with talented comic book illustrator David Mack.

Once we moved into production, the illustrations were rebuilt in 3D ensuring each character had the right uniform, thematic cues, and physical likeness.  To keep our pipeline consistent we used After Effects, Nuke, Softimage and Cinema 4D for all of the production work.

The Results and Press

Taking such a minimalist approach with this main-on-end sequence proved to be the perfect resolution for the film. Boldly contrasting heroes and villains, good and evil, the sequence reinforced the film’s themes simply and clearly.

“Watching Marvel Studios’ executives light up when we presented the work was just magical,” says Erin. “With any visual job, if it’s a success, people credit you as artists, and that certainly was the case with this work. But this project represented a lot more to us. It was the moment when the world got to see that we are so much more than a little design shop in Chicago. We are a design and visual effects powerhouse.”

Marvel wasn’t the only one to notice the great work we did. The team at Communication Arts magazine took notice and did a feature article on the studio, displaying our work on Captain America: The Winter Soldier front and center.

CBS Sunday Morning also took notice and interviewed Erin during an Oscar special where they focused a segment on“Giving Credit” to those who design the credits.

Lastly, be sure to check out the in-depth article about our work on the film at the Art of the Title.

“Giving credit: The creators of movie title sequences”.
read the full article.

Erin and Lee Cowan chatting about the Captain America: The Winter Soldier titles.

Project Credits 
  • Executive Creative Director
    Erin Sarofsky
  • Executive Producer
    Rachel Steele
  • Producer
    Erik Crary
  • CG Supervisor

    Andre Zazzera
  • Co-Visual Effects Supervisors
    Matthew Crnich
  • John Filipkowski
  • Illustrator
  • Editor
    Josh Bodnar
  • Additional Editorial
    Steven Piet
  • Motion Designers
    Patrick Coleman
  • Duarte Elvas
  • Tinizsi Gadegbeku
  • Nick Hopkins
  • Alex Kline
  • Xiu Sheng Liang
  • Cameron Spencer
  • Tnaya Witmer
  • Digital Artists
    Brent Austin
  • Jenine Early
  • Associate Producer
    Michael Burke
  • Technology Consultant
    Mike Moe
  • Stereo Consultant
    Rob Engle
  • Music By
Client Credits 
  • Client
  • Executive Producers
    Kavin Feige
  • Louis D’Esposito
  • Victoria Alonso
  • Film Directors
    Anthony Russo
  • Joe Russo
  • Post Producer
    Jennifer Bergman
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