It’s all a matter of Perception.
As you may already know, or may have guessed, here at MCU: Location Scout the main topics of discussion are the filming locations of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. What’s that building in real life? Where did this production film that crazy scene? Why didn’t they actually film Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness in New York? So it may seem strange that there is an article discussing the credits of the latest Disney+ series, Ms. Marvel.
There have been some amazing title sequences over the life of the MCU. Black Panther, Spider-Man: Homecoming, Thor: Love and Thunder and the recent Disney+ shows including WandaVision, Hawkeye, and Ms. Marvel, are all strong examples of memorable title sequences which all have one thing in common. They were all designed, executed, and crafted by the team at Perception, a visual effects design studio that splits its time between the real-world of designing cars & visualizing cyber-security incursions and the fictional-world of filmic title sequences & integrated user interfaces. Formed over 20 years ago by Jeremy Lasky and Danny Gonzalez, Perception has been involved with work on over 100 credited projects including a majority of Marvel Studios projects since Iron Man 2.
No doubt you have seen and appreciated their work. Besides crafting interactive displays (such as Stark’s holographic coffee table in Iron Man 2 or the Quantum Locator from Ant-Man and the Wasp), they have also created in-film montages that add to the story (like the Hydra history sequence from Captain America: The Winter Soldier and the opening titles to Black Widow). They have also crafted what are called the End on Main title sequences for each Marvel Studios Disney+ series to date: from WandaVision through Ms. Marvel. The Ms. Marvel credits are unique, which is why Jovial Jay sat down with some of the staff at Perception recently to find out more about crafting these unique end titles, utilizing real-world locations that continues to inform the audience about the story of Kamala Khan, while also entertaining them with new visuals.
The impetus for this article came about after Perception saw the links to the MCU: Location Scout pages detailing the filming locations for each of their credit shots on Twitter and reached out regarding an interview with the staff responsible. Jay sat down with Doug Appleton, the chief creative director for Perception, and Vivian Amaro, a designer, animator and the lead artist for Ms. Marvel‘s end credits to talk a little about the company, their design process, and the amazingly intricate end credits for the series.
Jovial Jay: Doug, how would you describe what Perception is?
Doug Appleton: A visual effects design studio. We focus mainly on motion graphics, which is– we won’t make Iron Man or the Hulk, but we’ll make the technology that they use. We do things like Iron Man’s HUD when you see the graphics on his helmet. We haven’t done that specifically, but we do things like that.
JJ: For people to get an idea of what you do, I believe you guys had done the Hydra history sequence in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, among other things for that film. That’s like one of the elements. But then you also would do like the, like you said, the Iron Man HUD or the Nick Fury heads up display in his SUV?
DA: Yeah, Winter Soldier is a great example of kind of all the things that we do. So we have the Hydra montage that tells the history of Hydra, which is very much an editorial piece. It’s one of the stories that we worked a lot with, not just with the directors, but the directors and the writers and the editors to really kind of hone that story of what has HYDRA been up to the last 60-70 years.
But then in that same scene, we also designed the character of Zola, who appears on the screens. So now we’re getting into a little bit of character design, which kind of falls a little bit into what we do as “technology work” a lot on screens. So that was also a fun challenge of what is a character who is digital but digital on tape. Right? So I guess technically, it’s analog.
And also in the film we did, Nick Fury has HUD in his car, we did a bunch of SHIELD screens throughout the whole movie. So that movie came out a little bit of everything that we do going from technology to editorial to design work, it’s all in there.
JJ: Vivian, with the Miss Marvel title sequence, knowing that this was Jersey City, which obviously is a really important city to the character in the comics, how did you kind of conceive of putting these end credits together?
Vivian Amaro: So basically, I live in Jersey City now. I was watching the first episode to come up with a pitch, and then, just by watching that episode, I just got a sense that Jersey City is a big part of Kamala’s life and personality and all. I’m a very big fan of murals and graffiti. So just watching that got a big sense of street art murals, and I just decided to put this together in a way to visually represent her. We also wanted to make the murals kind of in a collage way to also represent the different layers of Kamala. And just in a very brightful way, showcase that in the title sequence.
JJ: You give that sense of the city with that artwork, in the end credits, but you have gotten a team together to basically put your own artwork in from the show, either replacing or adding on to the existing artwork that’s already there. Right?
DA: Yeah, I think that was an interesting part of this. Like Vivian was saying, the murals were very much an inspiration, but we can’t just go shoot someone else’s mural, and then put it in a Marvel movie, right? So it’s finding ways to, you know, get the feeling of these locations that have all these murals, but then make Marvel specific and you know, really Kamala specific artwork that goes in there.
You’ll notice that it’s filled with artwork from the comics. It’s filled with artwork that represents who she is as a person, who her friends or family are, and it’s all very specific to that character. Because we can go around Jersey and film all these murals, but they won’t be specific to who Ms. Marvel is.
VA: And we also wanted to kind of showcase the city through Kamala’s perspective and imagination. So basically, she’s like, walking through the city, and she sees herself on those walls.
JJ: Was this always a plan to kind of keep the specific locations to where Kamala would be living wherever that is within the city.
VA: We didn’t know exactly where she would be going in the show. I was just trying to kind of show through these locations, a little bit of cultural background to the city, going to Little India and places like that. And also showing the layers in between Jersey City and how you have like the Edgewater and having that connection between New Jersey and New York and how she’s like a Muslim girl, but she’s also from Jersey City. She’s not from Manhattan, so we wanted to show that contrast. They’re also showing the contrast between the Edgewater Jersey City and the suburbs of Jersey City.
JJ: So what were the difficulties for the challenges you had?
VA: So we did two days of shooting. I did all of my scouting through Apple Maps. And I just did basically kind of the same way you did, I assume. Just like trying to find these cool places that we could use, basically. Like different walls with different textures that could be interesting to see, but also trying to see different parts of Jersey City, and places that are recognizable. Because part of it, I really wanted people to get a sense like, oh, this was shot in Jersey City. We’re not trying to pretend that this is not Jersey.
DA: You’re gonna know that it’s Jersey, right? Like, we could find any wall in the world to put a cool mural on. But if it doesn’t feel like Jersey City, then what’s the point for the sequence? You know, I think that was a big challenge. Finding cool locations that feel uniquely Jersey City.
JJ: So you’re saying you shot all of this footage in two days?
DA: There are some long days. And then even to add to that, there’s a shot in Episode One, the time lapse– Bruno going into his apartment in the circle Q and going upstairs and starting to work and then there’s a time lapse of Jersey City and the skyline of New York in the distance and then like we cut back to Bruno. We actually shot that time lapse as well for the show. So that was like part of our shoot is waking up, and I didn’t have to wake up, but I don’t know when Mikko [Timonen] started shooting that.
VA: Yeah, so we all went there at I think it was like 5am, 6am. We woke up, we went there, we shot the time lapse and then straight from there we went to continue our shoot for the rest of the credit sequence.
JJ: So what’s the process for assembling the title cards sequence at that point?
VA: So we basically start grabbing all of those clips that we shot, and then we try to build an edit with it. And then kind of like having some variety between the shots. And from there, we start, like, populating these walls with murals. And also, we need to have specific walls. They don’t work the best with the specific murals that we have. So we need to do a mix and match to eventually find the best shot for this specific card or for this specific mural.
DA: So it’s really kind of two things are happening at once. It’s making the edit of all the footage that we have. And you know, like Vivian saying, we don’t want to have three blank walls back to back, right? So we’re trying to build an edit that feels like oh, we see a wall, we see some cars, we see people, we see a building, and making that edit work. And then once we have that in a good spot, it’s then picking out the murals that fit on each one.
So, we might have a bunch of murals that we’ve made just in the process of building this. And we put them together and like oh, well, this one doesn’t really fit on that blank wall. So maybe this one will fit better on this alleyway over here. So let’s swap the order of those. So there’s an edit that gets built a few times in the process as we’re going through. And then you run into things that there’s no accounting for. Where the person whose credit is on that card actually likes someone else’s card better. So let’s just swap those because the order of the names has to stay the same, but the image behind it can move. So there’s a lot of reshuffling going on.
JJ: And it feels in some cases, the imagery might have also been picked to match the person whose card you’re doing. The production designer or the costume designer, for example.
DA: That’s really important to us as well is to make sure the imagery matches not just the characters, but when we can match the executives that are working on it as well. You know, there are times (not so much in this sequence), but there are times where definitely, you know, we know that, oh, this producer really likes the color purple. So let’s give them a purple card. Or the director should have something that feels like a director. The writer said something that feels like a writer.
VA: I can’t think of two examples for that. One is the Kevin Feige card that we picked for the post office shot that is a more serious location and more like it would fit better for for an executive producer like Kevin, and also the dresses shot the one that you couldn’t find a location for, we put it for the costume designer to tie that in.
JJ: I’ve noticed, looking at more than just the first episode, is that there are some title cards that go blank in some episodes and other than they get filled in for later episodes. Is it once the sequence is locked, you kind of then just fill it in or remove the title cards from the different scenes?
DA: From the beginning, when we were doing WandaVision, the blank cards started off as purely a practical thing. We can’t make six different edits, or 10 different edits of the sequence for every episode. So it ended up being blank cards. In Episode Seven, we know there’s a new actor that shows up, so we’ll put them on this spot. And so it started off very practical, but now it kind of turned into–people know, if there’s a blank card like, oh, we haven’t met someone yet. Someone’s gonna be here. You haven’t met them yet. What does that card mean and who’s going to show up later on? And it’s been a bit of a puzzle. It’s a lot of fun.
JJ: You know, fans in their conspiracy theories, so Mephisto confirmed. Maybe?
DA: Yeah, I’ve been trying very hard to throw in some, you know, wild goose chases and put, like, I want to put Mephisto graffiti all over the thing and feel like we probably shouldn’t do that. But we should do it. You know?
It’s also a lot of fun that we have the fans that dig through the stuff that, you know, we spent so much time working on, and it’s how we found your website. Because we’re also people that worked on this. So we want to see what people are saying about the things that we worked on. So it’s fun, you know, circular feeding itself, where we make things that people will talk about, so we can look at things that people are talking about.
JJ: I think that’s great. And that’s fan community, at the highest level, right? Where it’s just everybody wants to talk about the things that they enjoy.
DA: Yeah, I mean we’re fans of this. Like legitimately fans of this stuff, you know? Before we first started working on it. So the fact that we get to work on these things, and then still be fans of it is incredible. And it’s huge! It’s quite an honor to be able to do that.
JJ: So when it comes down to building the animation for these murals that pop up on the sides of the buildings, what sort of program and process do you use to go about doing that?
VA: We use just After Effects. I think basically, the entire sequence was done in After Effects besides the bulk of the edit was made in Premiere
DA: So we may do some designs in Photoshop and Illustrator, but all the animation, all the compositing, all of that work is done in After Effects.
JJ: What would you think about somebody taking one of these murals and putting it on that particular building? Because a lot of these buildings don’t have something on them at this point, at least from what I can tell from Google Maps.
DA: I feel like I can speak for both of us. That would be the coolest thing in the world.
VA: Oh, yeah.
DA: I think if someone did that, I would get in my car and drive down to Jersey City right now.
VA: I think that Jersey City needs a Ms. Marvel mural. Like independently, if it’s pulling from the title sequence or not.
DA: They should have had one like four years ago. They should have had a Ms. Marvel mural right now.
JJ: Is there anything else that goes into the creative process that maybe I hadn’t touched on that you want to mention specifically about Miss Marvel or any of your other work?
DA: I mean, there’s a lot that goes into the creative process. I think one thing that’s really important to us is that it’s a collaboration. It’s never, we show up and say, here’s our ideas, take it or leave it, you know? That is not an incredibly successful way of building these things. We find that it’s a collaboration, not just between the members of our team, not just between Vivian coming up and saying, Hey, here’s my idea, and then us all building on that. It’s a collaboration between us internally and Marvel, and trying to build something together
Actually, this one is pretty close to what the pitch was. But oftentimes, what the actual winning pitch idea was, is not what you see on the show, or in the movie, because it evolves and changes so much through us talking with Marvel and working together to come up with the story or with the visuals. It’s one of those things like, you know, it takes a village kind of thing is very true with this. It’s never just one idea that gets in. It’s a whole team, and it’s our team and their team and working together to build these things.
JJ: I think that’s a great point just for life in general. Collaboration is kind of the way to move forward with a lot of things. Make a jump off of another’s idea that you put together. And that’s why I feel that a lot of Marvel projects work well, because of that collaboration, right? It’s not just a producer that’s like, well, we spent a lot of money, and we need to show this. And we have to go do it this way.
DA: What we kind of learned in our years of working with Marvel is that they are incredibly collaborative and open to hearing the best idea whether that idea comes from the top executive over there or comes from, you know, someone on our end, who’s just chiming out on a phone call. Like, it’s the best idea that almost always wins.
JJ: So I want to ask one final question. I’m not going to ask about anything you may be working on, because I’m sure you can’t talk about that. But if you had like a kind of a dream project to work on for–not even Marvel–just kind of any film or television show with this kind of work. What would you two like to work on? What would that be like?
DA: I think we just talked about this last week?
VA: Yeah. And it wasn’t movies or television shows either? So what I said was, I would really love to work on fashion shows. Like runways, those big LED screens that just make the mood of the show and everything. I don’t know, I just think it’s so cool. And then something that I’m really interested in, you know,
DA: One that’s been on my bucket list for a while, is I’d love to work with the Disney Imagineers on an amusement park ride. I just think that’d be so cool. And you know, it’s 10 years ago, it’s like, well, what can we offer Thunder Mountain doesn’t need UI or motion graphics or anything. But now you have Avengers Campus, which is opening up. You have them working a lot using projection mapping. And I feel like there’s things that we could bring to the table and working on in any of the Disney parks. For me personally, Disney World because I grew up in South Florida. And so we went to Disney, you know, twice a year until I was a stupid teenager that thought Disney wasn’t cool anymore. And now that I’m an adult, I think Disney is cool again, and I really want to, you know, work on Disney stuff. But yeah, I think working at theme parks would be awesome.
JJ: That’s cool. Yeah, I was a stupid teenager. But I did think Disney was still cool. I grew up in Southern California. So two to four times a year I was going to Disneyland and having fun with my friends.
DA: Yeah, well, it wasn’t that Disney wasn’t cool. It was that Universal Studios had opened up Islands of Adventure. So I was like, well, that’s where the rides are. So I want to go there. And I still hold that the Spider-Man ride at Islands of Adventure is the greatest attraction in the history of the world.
JJ: Thank you so much for taking some time to talk to me about your process and your company and the work on the Ms. Marvel end credits here. This was very enlightening and super fun.
Immediately following this initial interview, Episode Four of Ms. Marvel aired, with an entirely new End on Main credits sequence. The end titles for the next two episodes featured footage from Karachi, Pakistan applied with the same animated murals that had been shot in Jersey CIty. What follows is a brief follow-up with Vivian Amaro about the additional work that Perception did for these episodes, including the combination of imagery in the end titles for Episode Six.
JJ: Vivian, with the introduction of Episode Four the characters traveled to Pakistan. And so that switched up the end credits a little; a surprise for all of us. They were following along with a very similar feel, but using images of Karachi City instead of Jersey City. Did the Perception team actually travel to Karachi? And what kind of challenges did that create for the team?
VA: Yes, that was pretty cool. We didn’t get to travel to Karachi to get that footage. But, you know, doing the sequence here in Jersey City, it’s so close to our office that we were able to do that. But for the Karachi clips, we had to get in contact with the DP and the crew that worked on the Karachi episodes for Ms. Marvel, and we were very lucky. We were able to talk to them, and show them our progress for the Jersey City clips, and what we’ve been doing, and what types of shots we were looking for.
So from there, they were able to go on their own and shoot whatever they wanted, based on what we were looking for. So shots that we were focusing on a wall, where we would put a mural there, and then clips, almost like one to one that we can create these comparisons and have something that feels like it’s part of the same show and the same concept. That was basically how we pulled that off.
JJ: For someone like myself, who’s really paying super close attention to these, I really enjoyed the similarities between certain images, like the traffic light. One that you even used again, in Episode Six as a transition between the Jersey City image and the Karachi image, which was really cool.
VA: And that was like one of our challenges, just like keeping these recognizable similarities between these two very different sequences. But at the same time, making them new and interesting, you know? We want it to be kind of the same. We want it to be fresh and new. So that was also like a challenge that we had. And to overcome those, we try to say, first let’s bring all of these murals that we have in Jersey City, and let’s put those in, in Karachi, and let’s see how that feels. And then from there, they kind of just don’t fit and they don’t kind of feel like it’s in that type of environment.
So while we did that, we try to play with the color palette of those same murals. Because for the Karachi sequence, we do use some of the same designs we use from Jersey City, but we also introduced new murals that we created from scratch just for this new sequence. Utilizing, of course, the comics panels.
JJ: Like the red daggers aspect on the one wall.
VA: And basically like for these new murals, we tried to pull from the comic panels. From the issues where Ms. Marvel travels to Karachi. So like, that would also tie in to that. The ones that we grabbed from Jersey City to Karachi, we play with just changing the colors and making them feel a little bit more Pakistani and also the patterns. Because we played a lot with patterns for these murals. Grabbing the geometric pattern into, a very Pakistani, like Muslim pattern made a huge difference there.
JJ: Were you able to make any requests of trying to get something because, you know, even camera angles matched very well. And whether you just kind of had to work with what you were given or you had some input into that. But it sounds like it was kind of a mix.
VA: It was a mix. Yeah, exactly. We were able to give some input, and tell them basically what we wanted and what we needed. And then after we got those, we were kind of like, okay, we need to make these work, which was also a challenge of just basically creating a new edit, and playing with these clips that you have and seeing. Oh, this is a, this is a close up, and then you move to a drone shot. And then also the textures of the buildings kind of changed so that it feels a little bit interesting, you know? So that was also a challenge there. But well, everything that we got from them was so good and beautiful. And we were able to come up with that great sequence, you know?
JJ: The match of the pigeons in the park, to the pigeons on the rooftop that you guys captured in Jersey City was a nice one to one comparison shot as well.
VA: So the train shot that we got from them was also like we were like, Yeah, let’s go! Thank God, we got that. It looks super cool. And for the last episode, where we got to glitch those in between Jersey City, and Karachi and see like these two different trains because they just feel so different, you know?
JJ: Yeah, it is. But it feels like it’s all cohesive, right, it all comes from the same inspiration. And I think that’s what’s great about it, because I totally thought you guys had sent someone over there that had worked on the Jersey City stuff. Obviously the people you’re working with, they have a very good eye on that.
VA: Yeah definitely
JJ: With Episode Six you, you changed up a number of the cards with different names. And I’m just wondering, was there a reason for that as you were working through it, or is it just kind of that’s the way that it worked best?
VA: You mean like the order of the clips and which ones we decided to do?
JJ: Yeah, so for example, in the original Jersey City clips, I think Freddy Syborn got the train image but I believe that goes to the costume designer or somebody else in Episode Six.
VA: So first, I wanted to say that everything that you said, it’s great to hear because it is exactly what we try to do, you know. You just described this so well, and it’s basically like doing this, we had the idea of like this girl between two worlds. So we try to show one world in the, in the Jersey City sequence, and then the second world for the Karachi sequence. And then for the last episode, we blended the two, which essentially makes who she is, as a person, she’s trying to find herself. And then she finds herself in between these two worlds. So that is basically like, super cool to hear you explain how you saw that.
JJ: And also the Noor world as well. But obviously, that would have been cost prohibitive to go there and get shots, I think.
VA: Yeah, but with what you were asking. We try to see which ones we liked the most. First of all, which ones we want to keep. We also try to balance between the edit. We don’t want to make the first half too heavy, and then the second half, you know, not have as many in betweens, like glitches. So we try to keep that balance.
And I think we just started with, first of all, the Jersey City and Karachi mural. Because they are, well, we need to run the beginning [of the credits]. Explain that we are going to be doing this. What we try to do is we are nailing Jersey City for this sequence, and then we kind of glitch from Jersey to Karachi, and come back, you know. It was basically trying to find these moments where these things aligned. And the ones that we really wanted to keep, for example, like, some of them really lined up like the basketball shot where it’s like her profile with some graffiti by her. And the transition between that one and the one that we put in in Karachi was also pretty, pretty nice. And then also seeing the last shot, like how that one also lines up pretty well.
JJ: Yeah, the fading or the glitching, between two similar cards…like the streetlight one, seems to match up really well. There’s another one with a balcony. I think it was the side of a building and you cut to a balcony. It was the one that Kevin Feige is executive producer card in the original Karachi ones, but it had a balcony and you know, you jump to a different location, but you’re keeping that same mural, in the same motion going through the mural. So it really works.
VA: We try to continue that motion, and try to line up the mural as much as we could rather than the footage. And there are also moments where instead of like, showing the same mural. So for example, the swing mural where she’s swinging on the moon…so for that one for Jersey City, we had a close up shot and then a wide shot. So for the last episode, what we decided to do is show Jersey City and then Karachi and rather than use a close up, and then a wide. So we play like that as well. And then there is one where we have a panels mural where you have like three stripes and then it’s like a drone shot. We also did the close up shot in Jersey and then the wide shot in Karachi. So that way we are also adding the variety there.
JJ: Yeah, I also noticed there was a new drone shot in Jersey City of the City Hall, which I’m assuming you would have probably captured that during your initial shoot.
VA: We did yeah. And then I tried to play with the transition between the drone shot to the mosque in Karachi. Yeah, I love that moment.
JJ: Again, I hope that fans of the show watch this. You know, I was telling my son, he should watch it again, because there’s an after credit scene in Episode Six. And he’s like, Yeah, but I could just skip it too. And you know, people will sit through this kind of stuff in theaters, but they don’t necessarily do the same when they’re at home. So I would hope that fans do watch this and just kind of appreciate the artisticness that you guys bring to the project. You’re not just making a title card just to fill the time and show who worked on the show. You’re adding to the story like you’ve done in all the other title sequences that you work on.
There’s always that creative element. And I just hope that you get a little more recognition now, because I’ve seen a lot more people talking about this sequence than some of the previous Disney+ ones. Even the Hawkeye one, which I know got a lot of attention online.
VA: Yeah, I’ve been loving the feedback on this so I’m so grateful just to go online and see what everyone is talking about. And I just feel like the music in this also played a big part. And I’m thankful for it. Because before like, I’m so excited for the next episode, because I want to know what the song is going to be for the end credits? And I’m like, yes, please go watch it. I keep watching every episode, you know?
JJ: And to get the whole family dynamic, of the characters, which I think you, you bring out all of that in the credits when you do the character credits, and are showing the elements of the different characters. Whether it’s Kamala, like you said, swinging on the moon, or the card for her father, where he’s dressed up as Big Hulk, or, you know, just all those little elements that fit in there for the character cards.
VA: Yeah, we try to grab the friends and family and give them custom murals. Because they’re just like such a big part of her life. And it’s just such a joy to watch the dynamic between those characters in the show. To me that was the best parts of it.
JJ: I’m looking forward to seeing what you guys have going next. And thanks again for joining me.
MCU: Location Scout would like to thank the staff of Perception, including Doug and Vivian for their generosity to sit down and talk a little about their work. Another big thanks goes to Abbey Zollo for helping to arrange this interview and providing answers to many questions over the course of the last few weeks.
You can discover more about the process Perception uses to craft their footage, which includes behind-the-scenes footage, the design process, and alternate versions, at their website: https://www.experienceperception.com
Find the locations for all the Ms. Marvel credits shots, plus locations from the show itself, at the Ms Marvel Season 1 page here on MCU: Location Scout.
Listen to a portion of this interview on the July 28, 2022 episode of the Superhero Suite podcast, on RetroZap.com.
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