Chicago and Hollywood-based design firm Sarofsky went back to work with Joe and Anthony Russo to create the graphics package as well as the main and main-on-end titles for Netflix’s spy thriller, The Gray Man.
The film, which is now streaming on Netflix, stars Ryan Gosling as top CIA assassin Sierra Six and Chris Evans as the psychopathic adversary who is trying to bring him down. The Gray Man is directed by the Russos, who also directed Evans in Captain America: The Winter Soldier and other Marvel films. Its produced by the Russos’ AGBO Productions along with Roth/Kirschenbaum Films and also stars Ana De Armas, Jessica Henwick, Regé-Jean Page, Wagner Moura, Julia Butters, and Dhanush, with Alfre Woodard and Billy Bob Thornton.
Sarofsky’s partnership with the brothers began in 2009 when they created the main titles for NBC sitcom Community and then later for ABC sitcom, Happy Endings.
“When [the Russos] briefed us for this project, the discussion included the main-on-end, a main title treatment, and typographic locators throughout the film. We were engaged early in the filmmaking process, which allowed us to do a comprehensive exploration before landing on the final approach,” said Sarofsky Owner and Executive Creative Director Erin Sarofsky in a statement. “Our goals were to honor this film and forge a legacy film brand at the same time.”
“This collaboration took place through a series of brainstorming sessions which included the film’s editors Jeff Groth and Pietro Scalia, cinematographer Stephen Windon, VFX supervisor Swen Gillberg, and many other key creatives,” said Sarofsky Creative Director Duarte Elvas, who described the benefits of boarding a project in the script phase. “This happens mainly in case the main title ideas affect production in any way.”
For The Gray Man, the Russos wanted to create a standalone main-on-end title to establish the visual connective tissue for the film and franchise.
“The whole team really responded to the styleframes we created showing a sculpture of Six in an empty set inspired by the production design deck,” Elvas said. “Embracing this look allowed us to visually connect the title card shown at the beginning to the main-on-end title sequence; the opening scene transitions into a sculpted world, very similar to the vignettes we recreated at the film’s conclusion.”
For the 20-plus global locators or “chyrons” featured throughout the film, the designers wanted to honor each establishing shot while clearly identifying its location. To resolve this challenge, the team used translucent fill and larger type for their letterforms.
“There is a strong graphic unity which we achieved with a consistent typography treatment from the logotype, to credits on the [main on end], and the locators as well,” Elvas said.
“Creating CG renders for the big screen requires a level of fidelity and definition that is much higher than our work for television,” said Sarofsky’s Managing Director/Executive Producer Steven Anderson also in a statement. “Also, similar to other feature film projects we’ve worked on in the past, we had to work within the Academy Color Encoding System (ACES) color pipeline common to all of the film’s VFX vendors.”
To create the look, Sarofsky turned to such tools as Adobe Premiere and After Effects, Maxon Cinema 4D, Z-Brush, the Redshift render engine, Autodesk Flame, Frame.io and more.
[Images of Netflix’s The Gray Man main-on-end titles courtesy of Sarofsky]
Client: AGBO Productions
Executive Creative Director, Owner: Erin Sarofsky
Creative Director: Duarte Elvas
Producer: Kelsey Hynes
Editor: Tom Pastorelle
Finishing Artist: Cory Davis
Look Development Artists: Juan García Segura, Stefan Draht, and Matt Miltonberger
CG Lead: Tyler Scheitlin
CG Artists: Jake Allen, Scott Pellman, Dan Moore and Dan Tiffany
Typography Artists Cat McCarthy, João Vaz Oliveira
Sculptors Soumya Verma, R.A. Esnard
Storyboard Artist Tricia Kleinot