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

Doctor Strange

Rich with symbolism and abstract imagery, Dr. Strange is a mystical wonderland.  The movement, compositions, transformation and overall vibe of the film are completely unique,  next-level, photo-real visualizations. We knew that whatever we did with the main-on-end titles needed to have the same qualities.

“Full-Weird, Psychedelic, Psychotropic, Rhythmic, Trance”

With those five words as our briefing, Marvel Studios wanted to see just how far we’d go with our main-on-end (MOE) treatments for Dr. Strange. The swirling, glittering psychedelic world of spinning mandalas that we gave them, went waaaay farther out than any Marvel Studios title yet.

The film, from director Scott Derrickson and Marvel Studios, stars Benedict Cumberbatch as Dr. Stephen Strange, who uses mind-bending powers to vanquish dark forces set on destroying our reality.  Seeing an early cut of the film, “Those five fantastic words Marvel Studios gave us took on new meaning,” says Erin Sarofsky, founder and executive creative director. “The movement, compositions, transformations and overall vibe of the movie were completely unique, next-level photoreal visualizations. We knew that whatever we did with the MOE, not only did it need to be beautiful visually, it also had to have all of those qualities.”

We also wanted the sequence to fit the film’s core story: Dr. Strange’s transformation from self-obsession, to heroic concern for the greater good, in a warped world of impossible possibilities.  To communicate all of that, we chose mandalas as the perfect symbol. In Eastern religions mandalas represent not only wholeness and the structure of life, but a universe that goes beyond the physical plane. Visually, each mandala offered us a cosmic map with infinite geometric possibilities.

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Technical Details
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Harnessing the geometric potential, we designed a series of intricate mandalas, animating them in changing sequences of symmetry and repetition, that whirl and shift in space and react with the appearance of each on-screen credit.

To begin, we created dozens of mandalas as vector designs, which we sent into 3D, and then textured to look like gemstones in a sparkling color scheme of gold, bronze, and silver. From there, we warped time and space, layering levels of geometry and animation that build up and break apart. In short? We created an ever-changing, psychedelic mandala universe.

Emphasizing the phantastic rhythms and energy, we meticulously choreographed the animation of the mandalas to the glittering sounds of the music track. Following musical cues, our design transitions synched with the appearance of each on-screen credit. Sometimes we did that with a dramatic camera move, and in other moments, with a flash of brightened tones.

The complexity of all this exceeded our visual goals.  But it also presented huge technical challenges as we pushed to render the work with deadlines looming. One time-saver? We modeled and animated in Cinema 4D, finessing scenes and camera movements with a lower-level proxy. 

After being rendered as high-dynamic-range image files (EXRs) we composited the animated content to add color, and other effects. And finally, we finished everything in high-definition resolution. Speeding it all to the finish line, we brought in additional servers to double our processing power.

In all, the 90-second Dr. Strange title sequence gave us the opportunity to reach new creative heights.

In The News

“In its fifth collaboration with Marvel Studios, Chicago-based design company animates a series of intricate mandalas for the 90-second main title sequence for director Scott Derrickson’s ‘Doctor Strange’”.

– Animation World

“Capping off this storied Marvel blockbuster where “impossibilities are endless,” audiences will find a mesmerizing 3D main  title sequence created in Chicago by design-driven production company Sarofsky.”

– CG News

Reflections

“The process was complex and so rewarding. At one point, I shared an idea with Scott Derrickson that I thought might have gone too far or gotten too weird. He told me, ‘There’s no such thing.’ I really appreciated him letting us go as far as our imaginations could go.”

Project Credits 
  • Creative Director
    Erin Sarofsky
  • Executive Producer
    Steven Anderson
  • Producer
    Sam Clark
  • Visual Effects Supervisor
    Matthew Crnich
  • CG Supervisor
    John Filipkowski
  • Smoke Artist/CG Artist
    Cory Davis
  • Senior Designer
    Duarte Elvas
  • Motion Designers
    Andrez Aguayo
  • Brent Austin
  • Chris Beers
  • Patrick Coleman
  • Jon Jamison
  • Alex Kline
  • Zach Landua
  • Jeff McBride
  • Nathan Matsuda
  • Anthony Morrelle
  • Dan Tiffany
  • Additional Design
    Josh Smiertka
  • Lizzi Stuart
  • Domico Watson
  • Tnaya Witmer
  • Smoke Assistant
    Erik Uy
  • Music
    Michael Giacchino
Client Credits 
  • Client
    Marvel Studios
  • Producer
    Kevin Feige
  • Executive Producers
    Louis D’Esposito
  • Victoria Alonso
  • Director
    Scott Derrickson
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