If you’ve seen one of Marvel Studios’ enormously-successful films in recent years, then you have undoubtedly seen the work of design, motion graphics, and VFX specialists: Perception. It’s right there in the Marvel Studios logo; flashes of iconic characters like Iron Man, Captain America, and the Hulk.
Perception has contributed to nearly all the Marvel films since Iron Man 2, designing many of the futuristic interfaces seen in those fan-favorite blockbusters. Most recently, Perception assisted Marvel Studios on both Avengers: Endgame and Spider-Man: Far From Home.
With Perception based in New York City and Marvel Studios roaming the world on various shoots, cineSync video review is used to bridge the distance, interact, and keep creatives in touch with each other. Perception uses cineSync on every project it touches – whether the client is on the other side of town or… well, Far From Home.
Making an impression
Perception’s role in the Marvel Comics Universe (MCU) started with a bold, Tony Stark-like move. Originally enlisted to handle the Stark Expo background screen in Iron Man 2, the team caught wind of a futuristic smartphone being discussed for the film. On its own initiative, the team spent a weekend hammering out and motion-testing a see-through handset concept and sent it along to the filmmakers and VFX team. Months later, Marvel Studios came back asking them to do the real thing for the film, and the rest is history.
Since then, we’ve seen Perception handle some truly memorable visual elements in the MCU, including the Wakandan vibranium sand in Black Panther, which is used in an almost holographic manner to plot out missions and also seen in the title sequence.
Perception keeps a team of about 12-14 full-time employees but scales up as needed, and tackles both futuristic interfaces and title sequences for film projects.
In Spider-Man: Far From Home, we saw Perception design the holographic workbench that allowed Peter Parker to select features for his ultimate Spidey suit. Perception also designed the holographic “Beck tech” prototypes, later unleashed on unwitting cities, and worked on the HUD within Mysterio’s fishbowl helmet.
All throughout the process of working on Spider-Man: Far From Home, Perception used cineSync to keep in touch with Marvel Studios via video reviews 1-3 times per week. Communication ramped up near the end of the project, which found Perception and Marvel Studios using cineSync near-daily.
Doug Appleton, the studio’s VFX director who is known as “The Encyclopedia” for his vast Marvel knowledge, says that earlier attempts to use other software for video reviews never worked as well or seamlessly. That’s why Perception has been using cineSync for years now.
“We love cineSync. Before that, we used other software to stream to clients, and files would never play the same way in both locations,” says Appleton. “When we’re working with the team at Marvel, we’re looking at a lot of different designs. It’s great to be able to look at everything quickly and know when someone says, ‘Hey, look at this here,’ we see what they see.”
At times in the creative process, asset reviews may go quickly, when the Marvel Studios team want to give a quick yes/no response to certain design concepts. That wouldn’t be possible without both ends of the call entirely in sync and able to view media at the same exact time, whether it’s video clips or still images.
Better yet, cineSync allows both parties to draw atop all types of media to more easily annotate needed changes and tweaks. Now they don’t have to suffer through calls in which a client is struggling to describe what they’re talking about.
“With cineSync, we just circle what we’re talking about and draw a bunch of arrows around it. I love that we can draw on our frames,” says Appleton. “It’s also fun. Before the call starts, we’re usually doodling or writing notes on there like, “Hi from New York.” Just letting people know that we’re around and we’re real people, and not just a voice on the other end. The drawing and annotations are my favorite feature.”
“It feels like you’re in the room with someone, which is a lot better than just being on a phone call and trying to describe what you’re looking at,” he adds. “You’re both looking at the same thing.”
Just like being there
Perception’s skill set goes beyond motion graphics for films. The team also helps develop real world devices like smartphones, television sets, and cars – which can actually help inform their more futuristic film work.
“We have a background in real-world technology and so will often think about functionality first,” says Appleton. “We try to make the designs a bit more fantastical for movies, but always start in the realm of: ‘What could someone realistically do? And what could they do 20-30 years from now?’ Designs that are practical and usable today make up the backbone of Marvel technology.”
Perception’s use of cineSync isn’t confined to the big screen, either: the studio uses it across all projects, and has even convinced some of its other clients to adopt the software. “We’re using cineSync in all of our reviews, whether we’re looking at still images or video,” says Appleton. “We even converted a few of our tech clients to use cineSync, because it’s just a better way to review everything—everything that we’re showing people.”
In the case of Marvel Studios, a long-standing collaboration that continues to grow with each exciting new project, cineSync has been a key tool in uniting the creative forces.
“We’re in New York, but Marvel Studios productions are based all over the world. By using cineSync, we’re all looking at the same thing no matter where a movie might be shooting. It’s the second-best thing to being in the room,” Appleton asserts.