Sarofsky’s design expertise powerfully frames Russo Brothers’ explosive <i>The Gray Man</i>
August 16, 2022

Sarofsky’s design expertise powerfully frames Russo Brothers’ explosive The Gray Man

Ryan Gosling is The Gray Man and Chris Evans is his psychopathic adversary in the Netflix/AGBO spy thriller directed by Anthony and Joe Russo now available globally on Netflix. The Netflix release of the AGBO, Roth/Kirschenbaum Films production also stars Ana De Armas, Jessica Henwick, Regé-Jean Page, Wagner Moura, Julia Butters, and Dhanush, with Alfre Woodard and Billy Bob Thornton.
With the directors turning once again to their longstanding collaborators at one-stop cross-media production company Sarofsky for sublime storytelling graphics, including the film’s main title treatment and main-on-end (MOE) title sequence, once again, the iconic visual results speak for themselves. Watch Sarofsky’s The Gray Man design montage here:

Since starting out with the Russos in 2009 by creating the now-celebrated main titles for Community, Sarofsky went on to mint vintage titles for the Russo-directed series Happy Endings. Then came Marvel’s Captain America: The Winter Soldier, the first of Sarofsky’s many subsequent design adventures in the vaunted Marvel Cinematic Universe. With the studio’s collaborations soaring to new heights and even involving a few other A-List directors, to this day, nothing generates more excitement than a call from the Russos.

“Erin Sarofsky is an esteemed collaborator of the highest standard,” the Russos began. “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 for this film.”

In the words of owner and executive creative director Erin Sarofsky, “We are so grateful to have a long relationship with the Russos. We couldn't be happier to be a part of their trusted team.”

Sarofsky continued, “When they 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. Our goals were to honor this film and forge a legacy film brand at the same time.”

Another veteran of numerous AGBO productions through Sarofsky, creative director Duarte Elvas described the many benefits arising from the rare situation of boarding a project in the script phase. “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. This happens mainly in case the main title ideas affect production in any way.”

For The Gray Man, the directors sought to create an iconic, standalone MOE 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 explained. “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.”

In its novel approach transitioning between real characters and sculptures, Sarofsky’s team also heightened their MOE sequence with a moving camera point-of-view and lights. These engaging effects add yet another nuanced aspect to their thoughtful design touches for The Gray Man’s brand identity, inspired by the film’s music, story, pacing, and overall production design.

For the 20-plus global locators or “chyrons” featured throughout the film, the designers were careful to honor each stunning establishing shot while still clearly identifying its location. Resolving this challenge boldly, 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 MOE, and the locators as well,” Elvas confirmed.

Sarofsky’s Blockbuster CG Pipeline
Representing Sarofsky’s second massive CG project so far this year, The Gray Man draws on the studio’s deep investments into its talents and capabilities in this realm.

“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, 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.”

Going deeper into the company’s pipeline, here are a few noteworthy technical details:

  • • Adobe Premiere was used for editing through edit lock
  • • Maxon Cinema 4D (C4D) was used to build 3D scenes and animate the camera
  • • Each character’s head had to be either retopologized or fully sculpted using Z-Brush and brought back into each C4D scene
  • • The Redshift render engine was used in conjunction with the studio’s upgraded render farm
  • • Compositing was handled with Adobe After Effects using OpenColorIO to manage color within the ACES workflow
  • • The final deliverables were conformed in Autodesk Flame
  • • allowed the team to seamlessly manage hundreds of internal and client notes gathered from contributors spanning the globe

Additional project credits for Sarofsky include 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 and João Vaz Oliveira, sculptors Soumya Verma and R.A. Esnard, and storyboard artist Tricia Kleinot.

Visit Sarofsky’s case study to learn more: