Spectre titles design: How Framestore combined explosions and octopi for James Bond's latest film

Studio works again with title sequence Daniel Kleinman for Sam Mendes’ James Bond hit

Framestore and Daniel Kleinman have collaborated closely on the title sequence for Spectre, the latest James Bond hit, directed by Sam Mendes

Creating it took four months, involving upwards of 30 artists and producers, who worked closely with Kleinman to define the images, style and tone of the sequence.

Klienman has six Bond sequences already under his belt, so knew exactly how to approach the work. ‘I don’t have any preconceived ideas, anything stored up or saved up from other things when I come to the job,” he said. “It’s important that the ideas and visuals are narratively driven. In most Bond films there’s a theme that runs throughout. That will be the thing that I take and run with, try to find the visual metaphors, and have some fun with the idea of it’.

The work kicked off in May. Once the script had been read, sequence director Kleinman met with Framestore to start concepting visual ideas - the start of an organic, evolutionary process.

Supplied with concepts of key elements, Framestore’s artists started to block out the initial storyboard, with some pre-visualisation work. “Generally with Bond titles, the motion and flow of things is key’, said executive creative director William Bartlett. “Plotting the sequence out with camera moves and segues really helps, even if only with the use of placeholder images - we start to see it, and get a feel for the piece’.

Primary elements included an octopus, and a focus on love and relationships, not typical of recent Bonds. Of course, there are the ‘staples’ - girls, guns, the occasional skull - to remind us of the heritage surrounding the film.

Bartlett explained, “People really want to see the familiar things, but feel they’re seeing them in a new way. It’s a challenge, but it’s fun, and those basic elements are really good elements.”

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Framestore attended the three-day shoot, in which to collect the many stylistic elements and special effects to be used throughout the sequence.

Fiery elements were supplemented with macro work in a tank, capturing high-speed droplets of ink in water, which would be used extensively, particularly around the dancing female figures and in the memory sequence.

The CG simulations were technically intricate, especially when paired with the challenge of using archived footage from past Bond films.

“It’s quite easy for it to look a bit stuck-on,” noted Bartlett. “The pieces come from different environments, were shot on different cameras, one of them is underwater - yet we needed to make them look like they were all shot for this sequence."

"We were able to use the song lyric, about shattering glass, to our advantage, stylising the sequence in a way that brings all of the past elements together’.

The glassy reflections and refractions also gave the artists an opportunity to use V-Ray in Nuke.

Otherwise it was ‘the usual suspects’ on software, said CG Supervisor Simon French, “Maya for animation, Houdini for a lot of effects, and Nuke of course for compositing."

"We intended to render through Maya and Arnold, but due to technical reasons moved to render in Houdini, the first time we’ve done so on a big project in integrated advertising."

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Bartlett said that the pace of the title song, Writing’s on the Wall, certainly impacted the work.

"It’s very important that the audio and visuals work well together,” he said. “It is tempting to put every single thing on a clear beat, but it would feel a bit obvious; we actually refrained from trying to cram things in, slowed it down and took out some scenes to allow the piece to breathe."

"It’s more interesting to look at fewer scenes, and work on blending them together well."

“The outcome is amazing, and testament to the artists’ work,” said head of production Helen Hughes. “Skyfall was quite a hard act to follow, but I really feel with this one that we have pushed the boundaries of what we can produce."

"In terms of standard and creativity of work it is up there with the best Bond title sequences.”