Territory Studio Delivers Stunning Motion Graphics on the Silver Screen with Red Giant
When your job is to create motion graphics for the intergalactic landscapes of Guardians of the Galaxy and the futuristic world of Ex_Machina, there are no creative boundaries. And for the London-based Territory Studio, they couldn’t work any other way. Experts at constructing a world that never before existed, these creatives bring to life extraordinary concepts that leave audiences wanting more. Trusted with some of Hollywood’s most challenging graphics projects, Territory is known for making the inconceivable believable.
Led by David Sheldon-Hicks, Nick Glover, and Lee Fasciani, Territory has been churning out world-renowned work since they opened shop in 2010 with their first on-screen graphics project, working with the legendary Ridley Scott on Prometheus. Sheldon-Hicks recalls the trajectory that established Territory as a “go to” for professional motion graphic work: “Within the next year, we were asked to work on Fast & Furious 6, Zero Dark Thirty and Marvel Studio’s space adventure Guardians of the Galaxy, which really established our reputation as screen graphic specialists delivering on-set and to post, and proved our capability to handle large scale film projects.” From there, the work just kept rolling in: Jupiter Ascending, Ex_Machina, Avengers: Age of Ultron, Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation, Hitman: Agent 47 and the team’s second Ridley Scott film, The Martian.
The continuous stream of projects is a reflection of the team’s passion for exceptional design, and this passion has carried them into new territory. Sheldon-Hicks explains, “In addition to the incredible feature film projects, we also create graphics for games and brands, and I think what ties it all together is a love of craft and creative, and the belief that UI concepts for near future and science fiction technology can convey emotive depths that connect technology, entertainment, and emotional engagement.”
In Territory’s world, tools like Red Giant plugins are critical to bringing their creative concepts to life. Nik Hill, a motion graphics designer at Territory, states, “I’ve used Red Giant plugins since day one. There’s a wish list of plugins that any motion designer will want in his or her tool set. For me, Red Giant Trapcode Form, Trapcode Particular, and Magic Bullet Looks were high on that list. Red Giant has a reputation for delivering a high-quality output when in the right hands.”
For their work on the film Agent 47, Territory was approached by the film’s editor, Nick de Toth, who asked them to create screen graphic elements that would support the film’s narrative continuity and clarity.
“We had a great relationship from the start, and once Nick realized how we could contribute, he extended our involvement and we were able to provide his team with a ‘designer’s eye’ across the whole film,” Sheldon-Hicks says. “We helped to join story arcs more seamlessly through specific VFX ‘vision’ elements that form a key plot device in the story, and we created a title sequence that acts as a prologue, setting a narrative context for the unfolding action. Finally, we crafted the logo, designing and animating a sharp brand for the film that ties in with the Hitman game franchise that the film is based on.”
Overseeing the art direction and lead animation on Agent 47, Hill explains how Red Giant tools played a crucial role in Territory’s involvement on the film. “Trapcode Form and Particular were our go-to plugins for several shots, both in the main titles and for 2K plates during the movie. We created several CRT-inspired footage treatments to make certain shots feel archival. Form allowed us to create a bespoke look and feel on a per shot basis and enabled us to achieve a level of finesse and detail far greater than any other combination of effects or plugins.”
They also used Trapcode Form to bridge together two shots, with a graphic transition through Agent 47’s phone. According to Hill, the displacement parameters helped them create a great sense of digitized depth once they fly a camera through it in 2.5D.
“So often the thought process is ‘What’s going to give me the best results in the least amount of time?’ It’s this thinking that leads us to plugins like Form and Particular,” says Hill. “When I was working on the phone transition shot for Agent 47, I literally had a matter of hours to get it out the door, and I knew instantly that Form was the perfect tool for the look I had in mind. I was able to feed in the live action shots that feature either side of the transition, displace them and fly a camera through. With a little peppering of some vector graphics the shot was good to go. And the client loved it. That was one of the few shots that didn’t change from preview to final.”
For Peter Eszenyi, 3D artist and lead on CGI for Agent 47, it was all about Red Giant Magic Bullet Looks and LUT Buddy. When preparing the style frames for the various rendered 3D sequences, these tools for color grading and applying Lookup Tables enabled him to experiment very quickly with various looks and narrow down the shot candidates for the final visual aesthetics of the sequences he was assigned.
“I use the plugins often when we are churning out style frames and iterating them very quickly. LUT Buddy allows me to quickly establish a base visual for a project,” Eszenyi states. “When these tools are used on a beautifully designed project and treated as the little final flavor enhancement to a great dish, that’s when they work the best for me.”
From the super heroic to the futuristic space age to sci-fi thriller, Territory has the chops to create stunning and believable on-screen graphics that allow the audience to fully immerse themselves in the fictional world they are viewing. And it’s thanks to a talented team of artists and motion designers that they are able to push the envelope when it comes to what software is capable of these days.
Hill elaborates, “We have a couple of 2D motion designers that barely do a day’s work without using a Red Giant plugin. They bend and use the plugins in ways you would never consider. Like creating comps of custom sprites and emitting those to create some intricate glutting pattern. Generally speaking, though, we work a lot with Cinema4D and After effects, so sometimes we’ll use Particular to add an extra layer of atmosphere and depth, then run that through looks for a final grade. All in all, the Red Giant plug-ins are always in a tool kit to grab at whatever point we need them.”
More than just using Red Giant tools, Territory Studio even recently teamed up with the crew at Red Giant Films to create the end credit sequence for their latest short film, Go Bag. The team used the latest tools from the Trapcode Suite to create the graphics, including Trapcode Form to generate 3D objects and Trapcode Tao for the geometric interference patterns/glitching. “Plug-ins from Red Giant Trapcode Suite are an essential part of Territory Studio’s weapons of choice,” says Sheldon-Hicks. “Our clients expect high caliber creative in very short timeframes. The Trapcode Suite allows our designers to test ideas quickly, but with detailed controls for a high level of craft.”
For Territory Studio, it’s all about quality, so they are sure to use the best tools to continuously elevate the standard. And they are not slowing down anytime soon, with the award-winning film The Martian making headlines, and plenty more “top secret” projects up their sleeve. Sheldon-Hicks sums it up perfectly, saying, “It’s an incredible privilege to work with so many talented individuals in the industry and exciting for the whole team. I’m really proud to have been part of all these amazing projects—to see our work on the big screen with the actors is a real rush that I never tire of.”