In February 2018, Black Panther opened in cinemas worldwide and immediately made an impact on cinematic history. Records were broken, reviews were raving, and a blockbuster exploded into a cultural movement. One of the most celebrated aspects of Marvel Studios’ Black Panther is it’s spectacular setting, the homeland of the Black Panther himself— Wakanda.
In June of 2016, our team consulted with Marvel Studios to explore the different ways technology could be envisioned and impact the mythological world of Wakanda. A week's worth of consultation expanded into 18 months of conceptualizing technological paradigms, interface design, animation, VFX, an elaborate title sequence and a narrative prologue.
Marvel Studios enlisted us to help build an introduction to the world of Wakanda through the prologue sequence of the film. The prologue is an introduction to the world, a history lesson and introduction to key characters all at the same time. Marvel Studios approached us to help realize these important story beats. Our entire team was excited to develop this opening sequence, but equally thrilled that the filmmakers wanted the entire sequence to be rendered in the Vibranium Sand that we had developed for other sequences.
We provided more consultation, centered around the stylistic choices for a sequence of this type, as well as the general nature of fast-moving storytelling sequences. The consultation led to a 6-week stint of pre-visualizing the sequence to determine how and where each beat of the story could be presented on screen. We were provided a script and rough storyboard sketches by Marvel Studios, and began the work to create a detailed pre-visualization for the entire sequence.
Taking advantage of the stylized nature of the Vibranium sand medium, each idea was translated into a visual metaphor. Equally important was the animation and transitions from idea-to-idea. The sequence contains rapidly changing visuals, and a continually moving camera that sweeps through thousands of years of history.
As the pre-visualization was taking form, we generated artwork to flesh out the mood and general feel of the sequence. As the pre-visualization came to close, work began on the final sequence which was executed by an incredibly talented team at Storm VFX.
Lighting and mood illustrated style frames
MAIN ON END TITLE SEQUENCE
Black Panther was the third Marvel Studios title sequence that we created in 2017, and by far the most ambitious. When work began, we agreed that the title sequence would be another element rendered in Vibranium sand.
Unlike the history-lesson prologue sequence, this would be fun and energetic— with the energy of a music video. We would see characters and iconic moments being entered into Wakandan history, with swinging camera-moves and bright color-coded backgrounds. We presented this idea to Director Ryan Coogler and the team at Marvel Studios, and were given the green-light to begin.
Black Panther Main On End Final Sequence
Before blocking out the sequence as a whole, we assembled some proof-of-concept tests to ensure that they were aligned with the filmmakers. These early tests embraced the Vibranium Sand techniques, as well as various African patterns and the concept of cymatics (visuals based on sound frequencies).
2D Animated Patterns to power particle effects in Houdini, C4D, and X-Particles
Various tests explored the possibilities with sand, patterns, and characters.
Black Panther Main-On-End Motion Test for Ryan Coogler and Company
Since our team had a hunch that there could be a custom music track for the title sequence, these tests also explored the use of sound reactive visuals. It was at this point that Director Ryan Coogler divulged that the sound bed for the sequence would be an original track by none other than Kendrick Lamar (“All The Stars”, featuring SZA).
Our first step in building out the entire sequence was to brainstorm relevant imagery that could align with the individual credits. Each moment needed to be iconic enough to be recognized in the Vibranium Sand, and also reflect the key themes and motivations throughout the film.
With individual shot concepts coming together, we began editing the 2.5 minute sequence. The song “All The Stars” set the pace, establishing a bond-esque speed that is smooth, contemplative and continuous.
One of the distinct characteristics of the sequence was the colorful backgrounds, which created an electric contrast for the dark Vibranium Sand. Director Ryan Coogler guided us to align the background colors to a thematic color-script he had developed with the production design team to signify different characters and personalities with specific colors.
Director Ryan Coogler shared his 'Color Script' with us to appropriately reflect the way color emphasizes the themes of the film.
We used a wide range of techniques to generate the Vibranium Sand seen throughout the sequence. From Cinema 4D and X-Particles, to Houdini, it was important that each scene feel as though it was sculpted from millions of grains of Vibranium Sand. There were also numerous opportunities to embrace the technological construct of acoustic levitation by having various forms and images pulse to the beat of Kendrick Lamar’s soundscape.
Houdini Particle Effects
In addition to the various sand effects, the type itself played a big role in representing Wakandan culture. We developed a technique to create an animated ‘translation’ from traditional Wakandan glyphs, to a Wakandan-inspired latin typeface for each individual credit. The final type card— “Black Panther” received a special treatment including customized letterforms (based on Beyno) and a gestural animation.
Variation on the final "Black Panther" type layout
Final End Credits Gallery
In addition to designing the technology of Wakanda and creating the end title sequence, we also designed the locator cards seen throughout the movie. The idea was to create title cards as if they were intended for Wakandans and then translate them to English. This process explored various layouts and ways to animate the translation from Wakandan to English in a way that wouldn't be too jarring.
The delivery of the title sequence concluded our work on Black Panther, and also encapsulated 18 months worth of ideas, even going back to the initial consultation. We can’t be thankful enough to the entire team at Marvel Studios, and are exceptionally proud to have had a hand in this history-making film. Be sure to also check out the full case study on our design and development of Wakanda technology.