Main on End (MOE)
3D Animation
Motion Design
CG (Computer Graphics)

The Gray Man

“The biggest budget blockbuster franchise ever produced by Netflix!” This is how the Russo brothers presented ‘The Gray Man’ to us when they introduced us to this film.  We knew right away that living up to this production would be a thrill ride of its own —   one that we gladly dove into head first without looking back!

Our Assignment

CIA’s top assassin, Sierra Six, uncovers some very compromising agency secrets triggering a worldwide manhunt. The film is two whole hours of non-stop action and suspense that keeps the audience at the edge of their seats. Add to that stunning visual effects and insanely beautiful locations and the experience is a world into which you want to escape.  

Our team was brought into this project during the script phase to help develop the look and feel of the film from a motion design perspective. The process started with a series of brainstorming sessions.

For each of those sessions, we prepared treatments and we had an open discussion with the directors, editors, executive producers, cinematographer, the vfx supervisor and other key creatives. This way, if any of the ideas involved production, everybody involved would be aware and could start planning prior to production.

In the end, we created an opening title, locators & time indicators throughout the film, and an epic main-on-end title sequence.

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Proud ♥

“Erin Sarofsky is an esteemed collaborator of the highest standard. We have partnered with her on many projects throughout the course of our career, and she consistently delivers incredibly inspired and elevated creative. We are thrilled and honored to have her work showcased in our film, The Gray Man.”

The Locations

This story takes place all around the globe. With so many locations we knew that it was important to keep the audience up to speed.

The prompt for our design was that it needed to be bold, but not occlude the stunning establishing shots. By using a translucent look, we were able to make the typography quite large while still feeling well integrated.  These moments were also an opportunity to both tie the film together graphically and build a type system that works from beginning to end.

The Opening Title

At the end of the opening scene (where Six is recruited) we transition the scene into the metallic sculptural look that we use throughout our main-on-end, and then, in an enigmatic way, we pull back into darkness to reveal the main title.

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Main-on-end Title Sequence

The Russos wanted to end the film with an epic title sequence. One that celebrates the characters, the story and the most memorable moments from the film.

We took inspiration from the production design, cinematography, actors and amazing action sequences, to create vignettes that immortalize these larger-than-life moments in a monumental way. How better than to reimagine these scenes as artful, textural, metallic sculptures?!

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Look Development

It’s always exciting when the team responds positively to a look we developed. During this project there were several stages of look development and, while they were all valid approaches, we got closer and closer to creating a world that felt in line with the tone of the film.

Round 01 – Hazy Moments
Round 02 – The Context
Round 03 – Material Studies
It all starts with a sketch

After our shot selections, the next step was to start building the story using thumbnail sketches, which always provides valuable insight into the content, scale, composition and even the overall motion, including the transitions.

These sketches are the foundation for what the title sequence will be. We use them to plan out our storytelling and to time out the edit. They are the base for the assets we created in 3D and, as we continue the process, get replaced as each shot gets further along in development.

Moments as CG Art

Sculptors like Rodin and Giacometti were our main artists reference. So, we set the bar quite high for ourselves.

Our CG team built all the sets, placed and posed the characters, and started camera animation to build a full grayscale animatic. All key cast members are represented in our main on end. In some cases we were supplied with their 3D scans, but those without had to be sculpted from scratch, using still photography as reference.

Using 3D sculpting tools, we adjusted the facial expressions for each scene. We also adjusted the displacement level in the material to roughen up the metallic textures just the right amount. That helped to age the sculptures and also make them more artistic.

The lighting we created plays off of the style Stephen Windon, the director of photography,  used throughout the film, with colorful gelled lights and strong contrast. We also introduced animation to the lights in the scene, which was a subtle way to keep the movement and energy going.

The Camera – Matching moves

Because the setups themselves aren’t animated, the camera and the lights did the heavy lifting to create movement.

Moving to the beat of ‘Wild Child’ by the Black Keys, the camera rotates through the scenes in a continuous motion. By matching the camera animation on the cuts, we were able to establish a style and motion language that is consistently energetic and makes the main-on-end feel more connected as a whole.


Bold, legible and elegant! Those were the guiding principles we worked off of as we explored typography for this film.

Heading Now offers a superfamily with extreme versatility that allowed us to keep a cohesive graphic look and feel. The letterforms are clean and elegant and we used them at different sizes to create interesting visual hierarchy.

Heading Now 27 Extrabold is our primary font, used in everything from the logotype to all the locators and even the credits on the main-on-end sequence.

For all the subheaders, we used Heading Now 55 Medium slightly tracked out. This pairing felt very balanced and also easy to read.

Designing the Logo

“The Gray Man” is set in Heading Now, which we tracked widely and framed by horizontal bars on the top and bottom. We extruded the logotype in 3D space and added a metal material that connects it visually and thematically to the metallic sculptures in the main title and main-on-end sequence.

To Hollywood we go!

It’s not everyday we get invitations to red carpet events (gray carpet in this case!) But we were so grateful to be included in the celebration of this epic film.

What an amazing night!

Project Credits 
  • Executive Creative Director
    Erin Sarofsky
  • Executive Producer
    Steven Anderson
  • Creative Director
    Duarte Elvas
  • Producer
    Kelsey Hynes
  • Editor
    Tom Pastorelle
  • Finishing
    Cory Davis
  • Look Development
    Juan García Segura
  • Stefan Draht
  • Matt Miltonberger
  • CG Lead
    Tyler Scheitlin
  • CG Artists
    Jake Allen
  • Scott Pellman
  • Dan Moore
  • Dan Tiffany
  • Typography
    Cat McCarthy
  • João Vaz Oliveira
  • Sculptors
    Soumya Verma
  • R.A. Esnard
  • Storyboard Artist
    Tricia Kleinot
Client Credits 
  • Client
  • Film Directors
    Anthony Russo and Joe Russo
  • Producers
    Jake Aust
  • Tim Pedegana
  • Editors
    Jeff Groth
  • Pietro Scalia
  • Assistant Editor
    John To
  • Jennifer Stellema
  • Josh Steele

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