Our team at Perception collaborated with the team at Paramount on their new superhero film, Secret Headquarters. Secret Headquarters tells the story of Charlie Kincaid (Walker Scobell), his friends and their discovery of a superhero’s headquarters beneath his father’s home. Charlie and his friends soon learn that his father is actually the owner of this headquarters and is a famous superhero named the Guard. For this film, our team conceptualized various pieces of technology, as well as designed an opening title sequence to show the progression of the Guard’s rise to national heroism.
Secret Headquarters Opening Title Sequence
OPENING TITLE SEQUENCE
The opening titles were a crucial element of the story, since they told ten years of development between when Jack first discovers the source to him being a fully recognized hero. We worked closely with the directors to map out this narrative, along with organizing ideas and the story itself. Anything that we needed to tell the story, such as voiceovers or additional footage, they helped shoot and provide for us.
Early Storyboard Sketches
Since this narrative title sequence spans the length of ten years, we sorted through various concepts to decide which was the best to tell this story. One of the first concepts involved seeing how the Guard’s suit was built and evolves throughout the years. This concept began with Jack only having a single piece of his suit built - a gauntlet or the helmet, for example - and then as the sequence progresses, more pieces are assembled and come together as he grows into being a hero.
Another concept revolved around reading the Guard’s comic book. The Guard is a hero known around the world and Charlie, while not knowing that his father is the Guard, is a big fan of this hero. Reading the Guard’s comic book could show the adventures he has been up to along with establishing his worldwide recognition.
TITLE CARD LOOK EXPLORATION
Our final direction for this sequence was based in the idea that we are discovering the Guard’s story and progression from the point of view of the alien energy source. The source has paired with Jack and is now projecting things that have happened since they paired. To establish the Guard’s growth and the passing of time, we included a ticker of days and news clips. These news clips begin at a local scale and grow to a national level, showcasing the greater impact that the Guard is having over the years.
Initial Style Frames
Similar to our technology designs for Secret Headquarters, we based our look for this title sequence on the appearance of the energy source.
DEVELOPMENT OF UI FEATURES
We applied the orange color palette and hexagonal patterns to the sequence, allowing it to slightly resemble the holograms and technology of the Guard.
Not only did this tie the sequence into the look and common visual landscape of the film, but it also introduced the audience to the Guard’s technology before the children get to see it.
A NARRATIVE CHALLENGE
One of the biggest challenges with this sequence was discovering how to tell 10 years worth of story on how Jack became the Guard without being too text heavy. Secret Headquarters is a family film, meaning that many children will be watching this film. The audience may not have the attention or capacity to read heavy blocks of text and information in the given amount of time. Therefore, we used very minimal text and instead opted for a more visual and auditory sequence to communicate the narrative.
Secret Headquarters Opening Title Sequence Textless
BUILDING THE SEQUENCE
For these titles, the story drove everything we did. Similar to every title sequence that we create, we focus on telling a story. In the case of Secret Headquarters, these titles needed to fill the viewer in as to what happened over the course of 10 years within roughly 60 seconds.
Development Animatic 1
The first step was an animatic. This animatic allowed us to nail down timing, length, focus areas, and fine tune the story we are telling. The more detailed we were able to make the animatic, the smoother the rest of the process was.
Development Animatic 2
The process for this project was designed to be very seamless. Since this is a narrative sequence, it was imperative that the sequence was designed to be flexible and incorporate changes that were made on the fly. To accomplish this, we designed a lot of the UI elements in Adobe Illustrator and combined all of the assets in After effects. This allowed for easy editing to the individual elements as the Illustrator files were linked. It also allowed for layouts and compositions to be tweaked as they were designed natively within After Effects.
Development Animatic 3
Our team experimented with various forms of typography for this sequence. We tested different colors, tones and glows. We wanted the text to stand out from the orange UI but also fit the look of the sequence. Ultimately, we decided that blue text would be bold and legible but would not distract from the story of the sequence.
Typography Style Explorations
One of the most distinct themes of Secret Headquarters is the tension and struggling family dynamics in Charlie’s family. Charlie is resentful of his father because he’s never around, which he does not understand until he discovers his secret identity. It was important that we established the beginning of this tension in our opening title sequence.
Screen Animation Motion Test 1
Screen Animation Motion Test 2
In this sequence, the source is sorting through various audio recordings and news clips that are examining the Guard. At one point, the source brushes away the news to uncover audio recordings of a phone call between Charlie and Jack, which reveals that Charlie never sees his father. This is the source showing that Jack is getting too caught up in being the Guard, but it quickly moves onto more news segments and people in crisis because the hero is needed.
Screen Animation Motion Test 3
Screen Animation Motion Test 4
When the source was first discovered by Jack, he was not alone. His partner, Sean Irons (Jesse Williams) is with him but is not the one to receive the source. This has brought about a jealous bitterness in Sean that results in him working with Argon to track the Guard down. In order to bridge these plot points, we included footage of Sean appealing to Argon online and showing that he has a connection to the Guard.
News Screens Motion Test
Our team also designed the graphics seen in the concluding storylines cards at the end of the film. These cards serve as a way to wrap up the characters’ storylines. Each card and graphic was personalized to the character with a UI flare as a callback to the prominent technology of the film.
Closing Storyline Cards
It was an honor to collaborate on so many different features of Secret Headquarters with the team at Paramount. We loved experimenting with such unique and complex technology designs for all of the Guard’s UI and holograms, along with developing various storytelling methods for the narrative opening title sequence. Secret Headquarters is now streaming on Paramount+.
To see more of our work on Secret Headquarters, visit our Secret Headquarters Technology Design case study!