High-end visual effects are all about world building, from the micro to the macro. And whether you’re working on a towering CG creature or creating a sci-fi interface, the devil resides in the details. Read on to learn how Territory designs for the future and how cineSync ensures even the smallest elements are delivered just as expected.
In the real world, a successful user interface should sink unnoticeably into the background; but in the imaginary realm of sci-fi, the situation is quite the opposite. Here, user interfaces become complex, fluorescent holograms or flashing, multi-screen displays, packed with graphs, statistics and charts that pulse with a non-stop feed of data. It’s mesmeric stuff; not to mention a handy visual aid in illustrating the advanced nature of tomorrow’s software.
It’s here that London-based creative outlet Territory Studio found its niche. Along with full post-production services in VFX, video games, broadcast, branding and more, Territory’s strong design-based mindset comes to the fore in the creation of these intricate nexuses of data, marrying sci-fi escapism with the rules of the real world.
The creation of such elaborate imagery has been witnessed in productions that range from Prometheus to The Avengers. Getting the details right in such high-profile productions is incredibly important, whether you’re looking to establish a consistent aesthetic or convey information in as clear a manner as possible.
To ensure everything stays on track, Territory relies on cineSync. Via its remote collaboration solutions, Territory is able to ensure the needs of its global client base come off without a hitch.
Territory’s first ever job was on the opening cinematic for EA’s hotly-anticipated 2010 Medal of Honor reboot, following which the studio quickly stepped into the world of Hollywood.
“Video games got us into the industry, but it wasn’t long before we were approached by the art department on Prometheus to create the UI and screen graphics for the spaceship,” says Territory’s executive creative director David Sheldon-Hicks. “That truly launched us into the feature film world, and the projects just kept on rolling from there.”
The studio was catapulted through a rapid evolution, quickly growing to work on a variety of projects alongside its work on fantasy UI: “We have a digital team that deliver AI, apps, websites and other digital experiences, and our motion team regularly jump from commercials, to VFX, to titles, to UI prototypes, to facial projection and VR,” says Sheldon-Hicks. “Two years ago we added a physical and service design component to our company, so we now also design the interior of aeroplanes, among other things!”
Recent film projects have included Ex Machina, Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation, The Martian and Batman v Superman – the latter of which involved the creation of a VR Batmobile experience.
The global nature of such productions, alongside Territory’s multidisciplinary approach to work, prompted studio to find a communication solution that met the needs of its international clients.
“Or projects come in from all around the world,” says Sheldon-Hicks. “Originally they primarily came in from LA, but soon encompassed all continents.
“When working remotely from our partners – especially on complex work such as fantasy interfaces and screen graphics – communication and definition of creative intentions becomes of utmost importance,” he continues. “cineSync allows our partners to describe clearly what they need, visually and verbally, and we can record it to better implement those ideas into our output. It’s become absolutely essential to how we work as a studio.”
“Over the years I’ve found the look and interaction with UI growing increasingly interesting to directors and the audience – after all, most of us work in front of screens,” says Sheldon-Hicks of Territory’s specialty in fantasy user interfaces. “We need to work with art departments to get the look and feel just right for the nature of the film, and that’s where cineSync helps a great deal.”
For instance, on 2015’s Ex Machina, the Territory team researched coding language to create practical interfaces that would feel believable in that world, while still conveying a sense of technological evolution. Constant visual communication with the film’s production team meant each bit of data was presented as true to the needs of the film’s narrative as possible.
“On The Martian we also had sessions with NASA, who explained how their systems work and what sort of data each screen displays,” says Sheldon-Hicks.
Work on the Marvel Cinematic Universe, meanwhile, took on a more fantastical nature:
“On Guardians of the Galaxy we worked closely with VFX supervisor Stephane Ceretti to fine-tune details on the Milano spaceship,” says Sheldon-Hicks. “Stephane had a great eye for design and knew that our work needed to be bold enough to work for wide shots, but detailed enough to look good on a close-up. We’d get deeply into these notes on a cineSync session to make sure each moment on our screens worked visually and narratively.
“It’s here that the ability to draw on frames in cineSync proved incredibly helpful,” he adds. “We can hear the director making comments while drawing on the video, just as though they’re in the room with us. What’s more, we can save that information to share with artists at a later date, giving direct, clear feedback on a specific shot even if they weren’t in that original meeting. It’s features like that which make cineSync invaluable to us.”
Really, really good-looking
Another project in which cineSync proved vital was the tongue-in-cheek epilogue to Zoolander 2. It’s here that Territory was able to stretch its funny bone alongside its high-end design skillset.
Although Territory worked on a number of sequences, the epilogue was the team’s big set-piece: a visual summation of what happens to the characters post-film, created using a montage of magazine covers and other editorial features. The graphics needed to look good, but the timing of visual jokes was just as important.
“As the director, Ben Stiller would have regular cineSync sessions with us to provide feedback,” details Sheldon-Hicks. “A lot of these were actually less around the design of things and more about humour. It was an interesting brief, as we’re often focused on visual impact over whether or not our designs are funny! But in this case, timing was very important to Ben – we needed to move through each graphic transition to get to the next joke with a good sense of rhythm.
Ben encouraged us to keep everything snappy so that each joke flowed into the next,” he continues. “Using cineSync he’d discuss his thoughts while scrubbing through the timeline. It gave us a great sense of the comic timing that was required.”
So, if the devil is in the details then cineSync has been the angel on the Territory’s shoulder. According to Sheldon-Hicks, it will continue to be an essential resource as the studio expands its diverse portfolio: “We really don’t have to worry about how remote a client is,” he concludes. “We can work collaboratively and forget about the frustration that we would have with written comments, no matter the project or medium.
“Simply put, cineSync is essential for our business.”
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