For a comic book fan, getting the chance to work on Marvel Studio's Guardians of the Galaxy was an amazing opportunity and a brilliant experience, but getting the call to work on [The Avengers: Age Of Ultron](tag:293035) was all of that, plus terrifying. Looking back on the experience, it was definitely a career highlight and I'm very proud of the work we delivered.
Creating the screen graphics for Guardians of the Galaxy had been fantastic preparation for our work on Age of Ultron, which was a bigger project in terms of scale and number of deliverables.
We were brought on board by Production Designer Charlie Wood and Art Director Alan Payne, the team responsible for the amazing sets on Guardians of the Galaxy and with that collaborative experience fresh in our minds, we hit the ground running on Age of Ultron. Getting in at the pre-production stage while the script was still being written by Director Joss Whedon was ideal – it let us work with Joss and Charlie to suggest how screen graphics and UI could support plot points, performance and the stylistic vision for the film.
From those first conversations it was clear that Joss wanted to evolve the Avengers story with a dark and gritty vision that got under the skin of the heroes, revealing the memories, hopes and fears that drive them.
Our task was to bring an unprecedented level of realism to the beleaguered heroes and their technology, and to create screens that helped tell a more rounded story about each character – what they work on when not out fighting bad guys, what they tinker with, what fascinates them individually and collectively. With a creative approach that celebrates the storytelling power of graphic interfaces, we began to look at how our UI and tools could express each individual’s unique characteristics in digital form.
Ultimately, we created new visual identities and UI for all the characters and technology in Avengers Tower, including Stark Lab and Banner’s research lab, the Quinjet aircraft and newly introduced character Dr Cho, whose advanced medical lab supports the Avengers in the story, and finally, evil Baron von Strucker and his Fortress lab.
We began firstly by researching the backstory of each character, asking questions along the way that will help us get under their skin. Where does Tony Stark, Bruce Banner, and Dr Cho come from? What do they want to be remembered for? What keeps them awake at night? If they weren't a superhero, what would they be working on?
These questions led us to more in-depth conversations with the art department team, to Marvel's archives where we combed through old magazines, and to the concept art for all of the different films each had been featured in, including Age of Ultron. We also visited the costume and prop departments where we explored character developments to see how the costumes were evolving and why, and what did the props say about the individual characters.
Once we had a grasp of the characters, we researched the latest thinking in their individual fields – so, advance concepts and prototypes in architecture, military, robotics and avionics technology for Tony Stark, cutting edge research into plant, cellular and human biology and pathology for Bruce Banner, and state of the art clinical diagnostic and reconstructive biotechnology for Dr Cho. This research phase is hugely important for our team and meant that we were able to bring the fresh level of authenticity to the Marvel universe that Joss and Charlie wanted.
We then rolled up our sleeves and began the task of developing whole visual languages and UI styles and conventions for each character across all their technology. This concept phase happens at a frenetic speed; the studio is awash with visual references and mood boards, and wireframe prototypes evolve on a daily basis as we get feedback from the art department. The key is to ensure that content, UI and UX is consistent across each visual touchpoint – from computer stations, wall screens, touchscreen conference tables, to laptops, tablets and cellphone screens, there has to be consistency in application and behavior that matches real world expectations. And to successfully achieve our task, we had to come up with a unique and exciting mash up of real world references and Marvel's highly stylised aesthetic that felt true to the vision, story and action.
The result is that Bruce Banner / Hulk was primarily green with a lot of biology references, Tony Stark / Iron Man was red/orange/gold with content that reflected his passion for engineering innovation and new character Dr Cho was given a purple / pink colourway that included advanced clinical biotechnology references.
Each of the heroes labs is deliberately crammed with on-set screens that show an amazing density of detail and the idea behind this is to reflect their brilliance, energy and drive to solve problems, experiment and innovate.
So, in Stark's lab you have screens that show new innovative building plans, while others show progress on stress testing of the Iron Legion and Iron Man suits.
These engineering schematics are all based on real models from ILM and show in detail how they are assembled and tested after missions.
And, Banners screens show his preoccupation with biochemical effects on the human body. Real world references show plant and cellular details, DNA analysis, MRI scans and modeling as he searches to find a cure for his 'condition'.
Finally, Dr Cho's clinical genius is reflected in screens that show different aspects of her work, from state of the art technology, including brain and body scans, to innovative reconstructive techniques that are ahead of what can be achieved today.
The results, we hope, help to create a credible environment that also provides a a fresh depth if insight into what the characters like Stark and Banner surround themselves with and work on when not busy being Iron Man or Hulk.
In total, Territory created more than 200 screens and 80 minutes of unique animations across all 11 sets, making it Marvel’s most ambitious production to date at Shepperton Studio.
About Territory Studio Territory Studio is a motion graphics and design studio with a reputation for creating stunning work across film, games and brands. Under the creative direction of David Sheldon-Hicks, film credits include on-set screen graphics for Prometheus, Zero Dark Thirty, Fast & Furious 6, Ex_Machina and Jupiter Ascending. In addition to Avengers: Age of Ultron, Territory have another 4 films on release in 2015, including Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation, Hitman: Agent 47 and The Martian.