Prior to the exclusive streaming debut of Marvel Studios’ Echo on Disney Plus and Hulu on January 10, Executive Producer and Director Sydney Freeland made it clear that the series would offer a unique perspective on the Marvel Cinematic Universe: the fate of a family.
The first series under the Marvel Studios Spotlight banner, Echo follows Maya Lopez as she faces her past, reconnects with her Native American roots, and embraces the meaning of family and community in the hope of moving forward. The series stars Alaqua Cox, Zahn McClarnon, Vincent D’Onofrio, Devery Jacobs, and more. It is directed by Freeland and Catriona McKenzie alongside Kevin Feige, Brad Winderbaum, Stephen Broussard, and Richie Palmer as producers.
For the creatives and producers from one-stop cross-media production company Sarofsky, this opportunity to create Echo’s main title sequence became a momentous challenge. With Creative Director Stefan Draht and Producer Kelsey Hynes leading the project on Sarofsky’s behalf, their captivating 90-second sequence is scored with the anthemic track “Burning” from Yeah Yeah Yeahs.
In conveying the main title’s storytelling foundation, Freeland and the series’ producers emphasized the need to establish a strong sense of place, emotionally connecting Tamaha, Oklahoma, and New York City. Next, for the introductions of Maya, her ancestors, and Kingpin, the briefing addressed themes of duality, tension, danger, and featuring Maya’s deafness and use of American Sign Language (ASL) creatively.
“One of the first visual themes we explored was using magical reality to express duality – using imagery that was sometimes consonant and other times dissonant,” Draht began. “By blending various footage sources into visuals that stand outside of literal reality, we were able to bring a sense of mystery to the images.”
Working with an ultra-talented team of designers and animators including Ariel Costa, Matthew Nowak, Jens Mebes, Dan Moore, João Vaz Oliveira, Mollie Davis, and Andrei Popa, Sarofsky’s design team also developed a second visual theme: using hands and shadows in their storytelling.
“Hands play an essential role in the series as Maya’s means of communicating using ASL – and in the telling of the creation story of the Choctaw Nation, which is told using shadow puppets in the series,” Draht continued. “Developing these visual motifs amplified the core story and characters while allowing us to add meaning and tone. We use shadows to express history, danger, and Maya’s ancestral connections.”
Given Sarofsky’s extensive track record of bespoke contributions to Marvel Studios blockbusters, studio designs always come to life through a pipeline involving cutting-edge visual effects, color, and finishing. For Echo’s main titles, the team is especially proud of its innovative use of Adobe After Effects with Maxon Cinema 4D (C4D).
“Because the meaning and structure of shots was so specific and carefully designed, we leaned quite heavily on intense compositing and reconstruction of images using Adobe After Effects,” Draht confirmed.
With most shots consisting of a combination of show footage, stock, and original designs, C4D was used to recreate scenes in three dimensions, projecting 2D imagery against CG elements. Draht added, “This approach aided in building shots with camera motion and a dramatic sense of depth.”
As the final touch, Davinci Resolve was used to align the color palette across every shot and apply a signature look to the sequence.
“This is one of my favorite types of projects, where it exists somewhere in the middle between pure design and visual effects,” Draht concluded. “This groundbreaking series has been produced with so much attention to detail. Being allowed to explore and create something so fantastical to introduce it is a great honor.”
For Sarofsky, Echo credits also include Executive Creative Director Erin Sarofsky, Managing Director/Executive Producer Steven Anderson, and Senior Editor Tom Pastorelle.