For the opening sequence of Marvel Studios’ Werewolf by Night, Chicago-based production company Sarofsky created a sequence that set the film’s tone, harkening back to the monster movies of yesteryear. And then when it came to creating the main-on-end titles, Sarofsky stayed with the vintage feel using silhouettes created via papercraft.
“I absolutely loved working with Sarofsky on Werewolf by Night,” said Michael Giacchino, making his directorial debut, in a statement. “During production I prioritized practical effects as much as possible, and when we started in post, Sarofsky fully embraced that approach. The shots they created (many crafted physically and then photographed) are stunning, and they were fantastic collaborators.”
“It’s fitting that Sarofsky is responsible for both the opening and ending sequences of Werewolf by Night – their work really ties our film together, and wholly embodies the aesthetic that I set out to create when we began,” said Giacchino, who has previously served as composer on several film and TV projects, including eight Pixar movies. He also wrote the music for Werewolf by Night.
Werewolf by Night is the first Marvel Studios film or series that brings monsters and their hunters into the Marvel Cinematic Universe. In the film, a secret cabal of monster hunters gather at the Bloodstone Temple following the death of their leader. In a memorial to the leader’s life, the mourners are thrown into a mysterious competition to find a powerful relic, the bloodstone, which will bring them face to face with a dangerous monster they will then have to defeat.
The film is inspired by horror films of the 1930s and 40s and it stars Gael García Bernal, Laura Donnelly, Harriet Sansom Harris and Eugenie Bondurant. Executive producers are Kevin Feige, Stephen Broussard, Louis D’Esposito, Victoria Alonso and Brad Winderbaum, with Brian Gay and Trevor Waterson serving as co-executive producers. Heather Quinn and Peter Cameron are the writers.
“Our assignment began with a brilliant and thorough explanation of a distinct vision for the film and its titles by Michael himself,” said Creative Lead Duarte Elvas. “Much more than a film about a werewolf, this is also the introduction of monsters to the Marvel Cinematic Universe.”
Because of the film’s vintage references, Giacchino sought motion graphics and VFX solutions that were authentic to the time period, ruling out CG as a resource.
For the animated opening sequence, Sarofsky created a series of illustrations that matched the narration. Longtime studio collaborator Tricia Kleinot drew intricate sketches inspired by old etchings and scientific studies that were then brought into After Effects, animated and timed out to a reference edit.
At the film’s conclusion, the main-on-end sequence gave the filmmakers the opportunity to dramatically illuminate the unique MCU domain where monsters and their hunters collide.
“Knowing this needed to be dark, mysterious, and somewhat sinister,” Elvas said, “we set out to heighten the vintage look and embrace the imperfections of something made by hand. As if by fate, we reconnected with Javier Rodriguez Garcia (Lobulo), a specialist in the art of papercraft, just in time to invite him onboard for this project.”
This finished 106-second sequence sticks with a specific palette of blood-red over black, using horror glyphs in silhouette that are highlighted by outlines of color that graduate into darkness. Titles appear in white with typography in the Priori typeface (inspired by old street signage and lettering from London neighborhoods), ultimately resolving into the Werewolf by Night logo designed by Andrei Popa.
Each of Garcia’s 20 featured glyphs took physical form as a “mini-set” shadowbox containing 20 or more individual layers of cut-out paper, which were lit and filmed in Sarofsky’s studio, in partnership with director of photography Mike Bove. To dial-in factors including ideal scale, lenses, and camera speed, the main-on-end sequence was pre-visualized using Maxon C4D. The illustrations were first created in Adobe Illustrator so the layers could be imported into C4D, extruded and placed in 3D space. Once the look was just right, each scene was exported in wireframe mode and brought into Adobe Premiere, allowing Sarofsky Senior Editor Tom Pastorelle to edit it to the music track.
“In this phase, each scene was boarded out and then put into an edit where I would play with movement and timing,” Pastorelle said. “That influenced the next stage where our design team started animating the boards. We met with Michael Giacchino and Jeffrey Ford. As a musician and also the film’s composer, naturally Michael was especially invested in how our sequence hit on certain beats.”
Lve-action production began with a Red Ranger Helium for principal photography, filming in 8K resolution and using a motorized slider for consistent speed.
Describing the project as “deceptively tricky,” Bove said: “We were shooting small objects very close with a repeatable camera move. Achieving the depth of field needed at such close distances required a deep F-stop and we were mostly lighting through thick paper, so we tested out a bunch of different types of lighting fixtures before the actual shoot days.”
“In the end it came down to something pretty old school: Mole Richardson tungsten fresnels,” Bove continued. “We could get these fixtures close enough to the shadow box to achieve the levels we needed, and also the focusability and crispness of the light beam really helped bring out the texture of the paper when lit through the sides or the top. The boxes themselves were so beautiful – every time a new one came to set we had to stop everything to admire it. Javier did an outstanding job.”
The studio’s finishing workflow involved minimal post, mostly consisting of minor clean-up and lighting tweaks, which allowed them to finish in Adobe After Effects.
“This piece was a direct result of Duarte’s passion, vision and craftsmanship. He is an amazing creative with the ability to listen, lead and ultimately follow through,” said Sarofsky. “Watching him and Michael mind meld was one of the most rewarding parts of the process.”
Client: Marvel Studios
Film Director: Michael Giacchino
Editor: Jeffrey Ford
Executive Producer: Brian Gay
Post Production Supervisor: Tristan Mathews
Dir. of Post Production/ Finishing: Morning Star Schott
VFX Assistant Coordinator: Hank Kilgore
Assistant Editors: Matt Barton, Robin Buday
Production Company: Sarofsky
Executive Creative Director: Erin Sarofsky
Executive Producer: Steven Anderson
Creative Director: Duarte Elvas
Producer: Andrew Rosenstein
Illustrator/Paper Artist (MOE): Javier Rodríguez García (Lobulo)
Editor (MOE): Tom Pastorelle
3D Previz Artist (MOE): Dean Ripper
Director of Photography (MOE): Mike Bove
Line Producer (MOE): Raphaela Kurzen
Prop Master (MOE); Andy Mason
Illustration (Opening): Tricia Kleinot
Animation (Opening): Tyler Scheitlin
Typography: Andrei Popa, Daniel Geiszler