Interview With Karin Fong
(March 2011)

The designer of the Daredevil movie title sequence talks about the creation of the braille-inspired credits and some of the other ideas that her Imaginary Forces colleagues came up with.

Kuljit Mithra: A few years back you had done an interview with Watch The Titles and it was here I realized that it was you and your team at Imaginary Forces who had designed the title sequence for the Daredevil movie. How does your company get involved with these kinds of jobs? Is it effectively an audition against other companies, or had FOX already approached you for it?

Karin Fong: How we get involved varies from film to film. In this case, we had designed the Marvel logo so we had a connection with the filmmakers.

Mithra: Oh, I didn't know that Imaginary Forces had made the flipping page effect for the Marvel logo. I seem to recall that Daredevil was the first Marvel movie to use the actual comic character pages in the flip effect... am I remembering that correctly? What had been the first Marvel movie your company was involved with?

Fong: The Marvel logo first appeared in front of Spider-Man.

Mithra: Some of things I remember from that interview were some of the ideas you had beforehand... like his radar and "traveling through DD's ears", or his billy clubs. Do you remember some of those, and were there more? Were these just ideas on paper, or had you created test runs of them?

Fong: We begin the design process with a storyboard phase, and for Daredevil we created several boards, each exploring a different aspect of Daredevil's character. Because he has a special way of seeing through sound, several boards focused on his brand of vision. One board consisted of macro shots, such as footage of a fly landing, which would be ultimately be scored with larger than life sound effects. Another board showed his Hell's Kitchen urban environment through a rippling sound wave motif. I presented the concepts as printed frames when talking with the film's director. From there we discussed the idea he was most excited about and we moved forward into animation tests from there.

Mithra: For these tests... what kind of software are you using? Is it a custom application, or are you using components of existing "off-the-shelf" packages? Did you have to create elements from scratch that had never been done before?

Fong: For Daredevil, we used Adobe After Effects for the compositing and Cinema 4d for the modeling. We built a lot custom artwork from scratch, as well as modified elements from the film.

Mithra: How was the braille and buildings idea conceived and why was it ultimately chosen?

Fong: In our initial conversations, Mark Steven Johnson, the director, expressed that he wanted an idea that was specific to Daredevil -- something that possibly expressed his identity as the blind superhero. In the script there was a one line mention of credits that are in braille. We took this concept further by boarding a sequence in which the braille of each credit builds up on screen until it becomes the skyline of New York, where Daredevil lives. Mark liked this because not only did it speak to Daredevil's trait but also allowed us to illustrate the dark, moody urban environment of the story. As we moved into animation, we tweaked the idea to see the buildings first, and have them mysteriously recede to reveal the names. Our goal always to make something that felt haunting, rather than a wild ride.

Mithra: When movie companies ask you to brainstorm like this, and then eventually give you the go-ahead... how much time do they usually give you for the final product? How long did Daredevil take in comparison?

Fong: The timing changes per production, but in general after the go-ahead, we'll have 8-12 weeks to produce the sequence. I believe the Daredevil schedule was similar to this.

Mithra: When you design these title sequences, do you already have an idea of what type of music will accompany it? How close did you work with Graeme Revell? Or did he score after your design was done?

Fong: It really depends on the sequence. Sometimes we get a piece of music from the beginning and have several meetings with the composer and music supervisor. Others, I've worked on some sequences where I'm asked to make music suggestions, and sometimes these choices make it to the final. Often we pick something we think is close to the style and mood we want, and animate to that, and the composer scores the final . I believe for this film we might have had a conversation with Graeme, and he may have provided temp music, but he scored the final to finished picture.

Mithra: One of the things about the intro was the way the music used "beats" for timing of the elements to reveal out of the braille, and how DD himself might hear several things at once but it doesn't appear to be too chaotic. How did you feel about the final product? Anything you wished you could have added or changed?

Fong: I was happy with the final product as I felt the concept, music, animation and aesthetics all created strong mood that gave a sense of the character. In retrospect, I would have appreciated not having to build the double "DD" of the marketing campaign into the end. It was a last minute attempt to include a logo made familiar by the trailers and teasers, and when I look back I wish I'd either found a way to do that in a way that integrated it more to the piece, or come to the conclusion that we didn't need to have it culminate there. I enjoyed how the pacing and elements unfolded during the majority of the sequence, and the music has a lot to do with that.

(c) Kuljit Mithra 2011
Daredevil:The Man Without Fear

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