Ever since Netflix premiered all episodes of the first season of Marvel’s Daredevil, many have wondered at the show’s striking title sequence in which a distinctive blood-like substance drips over several key objects. The creative forces responsible for the work were director Patrick Clair and a team of artists at Elastic, who had previously combined on the Emmy-winning titles for True Detective. We talk to key members of the group, and showcase a making of behind the scenes video.
fxg: Can you talk about your brief for the opening titles from Marvel?
Patrick Clair (director): The story is at the heart of everything, and storytelling is universal… if we can connect our creative executions to the heart and soul of the story, then our ideas will connect with audience’s everywhere. The showrunners and producers briefed us on the character and the world, and I read the script to the pilot episode. What struck me was the insidious corruption creeping into Hell’s Kitchen through the rebuilding process following the events of Avengers. The team was very supportive, they really let us drive our creative ideas - while also being collaborative and helping us shape the execution. The best title sequences seem to come when the production team take the time to really help us understand their vision for the world, then we can craft a sequence unique to the story they are telling.
fxg: How were the singular iconography and imagery developed for the titles - can you talk about the concepts behind them?
Patrick Clair: I was thinking about justice, the symbolism of blind justice, the detail of the New York streets and the origin of DD in the poisonous radioactive goop. Hells Kitchen is at the heart of the story, and DD is very much a super hero "of the street" - so we knew that a distinctive vision of NYC was called for. We began assembling options for symbols that combined justice, religion, history, New York and DD folklore. Once we had a collection of symbols - from weeping angels, to blind lady justice, to iconic NYC architecture - I started looking for ways to reference corruption, blindness and insidious contamination. All of this lead us to a point where a sticky liquid - be it blood or poison - could form these icons from invisible forms. It was an exciting creative process.
fxg: How did you approach the asset builds - were the faces based off a particular person(s)? What buildings/landmarks were used as reference?
Andrew Romatz (CG Supervisor): We created high resolution, fully production ready models for all the assets as a starting point for the CG team. Patrick and Marvel had a lot of photographic references for us to incorporate into the designs of all the sculptures. There were a few hero photo references blended together to create Lady Justice and the Angel and Daredevil. The same goes for the architectural elements with the exception of the Brooklyn Bridge which was sculpted from a photo taken from the footpath.
fxg: How did you achieve the dripping fluid? What different challenges did the face vs the building vs say the bridge have in terms of how to do dripping fluid?
Andrew Romatz: We ran all of our fluid simulations in RealFlow and exported the meshes into Maya. We wanted the buildings and the sculptures to feel like they we're scaled down models rather than real world scale scenes, so we had to play around with the world scale quite a bit. Getting the buildings to form within the time frames we had for the shots was really tricky. Our Lead FX artist Miguel Salek had to push the sims hard to get the top down shot of the building forming to work the way we wanted it to. If you look at that shot from a camera at ground level the fluid actually rushes down the face of the building extremely quickly.
Kirk Shintani (Head of 3D): We were looking for specific behaviors, and motions in our fluid sims. This is probably what was the most difficult. It isn’t a splash, it isn’t an ocean. We needed to be able to control how and where the fluid moved because each shot was very specific. It had to move and reveal the elements in a specific way. One of the challenges with the building sims was making sure the window cutouts and detail was preserved. If the sim was too viscous, the detail would flatten out. if it was too thin, it wouldn’t wrap the side of the building.
fxg: Can you talk about rendering the titles - what was your workflow through to rendering?
Andrew Romatz: We started out with creating the CG sculptures for each shot. Once we had the models for our base, we composed 3D camera moves for all the shots. From there we branched out into fluid sims and look development. We did all of our look development in Maya and V-Ray with the reference for the fluid surface being something like a mixture of blood, poison and red paint. We weren't getting usable UV's to texture the fluids so our Lead Lighter Katie Yoon used V-Ray's blend shader and multiple V-Ray Materials with 3D projections of ink tank elements and other liquid elements layered up on top of the fluid meshes. At the same time we were doing look dev the FX artists were setting up fluid simulations for the dripping fluids. Once we had the fluid simulation and color and lighting where we wanted it we sent renders into Nuke to be comped together cleaned up and have the final look applied.
Kirk Shintani: For rendering, V-Ray allowed us to render some seriously dense meshes, and still give us the control we needed to iterate quickly. V-Ray 3.0 was fast and stable, and rendering was never an issue, which speaks to the strength of the software.
fxg: There’s such a beautiful final finish to the spots, including the light source, redness, smoke and the particulates - how was that brought together?
Andrew Romatz: The project was comped and finished in Nuke by Shahana Kahn. Shahana generated some of the smoke dust and particulate matter using Nuke's particle system and also used some live action elements.
Kirk Shintani: Shahana did an amazing job of bringing subtlety and focus to the titles. Red is difficult to work with, and she was comping red elements on a red background. She was able to meld all of it together, add more life to the sequences and make the elements pop.
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