Blur Talks: “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” Titles

If you haven’t seen Blur’s opening titles for David Fincher’s rendition of Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, now would be a good time to climb out from under your rock and check them out (above).

In addition to listing the top-billed talent in a film, the role of a good opening credit sequence is to mentally prep the audience for the ensuing film. In that regard, Blur’s titles are an exemplary specimen — perhaps the best from 2011. When the final frame flickers past, your heart rate will have doubled and your pupils will have fully dilated. Consider yourself ready.

Blur’s Tim Miller was kind enough to give us some background on the titles and share some making-of videos with us. Make sure to read on past the jump for all the goodies.

I don’t typically think of Blur as a designer of film title sequences, but it seems you guys are making a push to be regarded as much for your design chops as for your animation skills. Is that a fair assumption? What’s the plan?

We’ve always had an inhouse design group, it’s just not a large as the animation/FX side. So we’ve always been in the game. As for movie titles, I would say this was more a project of opportunity than part of some uber-plan. We’ve done other projects with Fincher in the past, and we have several on-going film development projects with him. For what David had in mind for this title, we were just a natural fit.

But with that said we would like to capitalize on the work. We enjoyed the process, and we like to mix it up and do different styles of work. So hopefully there will be other opportunities for us like this. It’s nice to do something that doesn’t have a big explosion, aliens or gunfire for a change. Though, of course, we love all that stuff!

How did you you guys get this gig? Was it a competitive pitch scenario, or did Fincher or the studio already have you in mind?

David came straight to us. As far as I know, he didn’t talk to any other companies, and we didn’t pitch ideas. We developed it with him from scratch. As I mentioned, we had a pre-existing relationship, so it was a very natural thing.

How closely were you able to work with Fincher?

Very closely. He came down to Blur five or six times during the production, but they were very informal check-ins — not hardcore “reviews.” Lots of e-mails and, when we had something specific we wanted to show him or get feedback on, we’d post to PIX (the system he uses for checking in on all aspects of the production). He’s great to work with. It was pretty much, “Show me when there’s something you want me to see.”

What was your inspiration for the sequence?

Our first task was to pull together an enormous bag of reference. Videos, stills, fine art — anything that could apply to the “tell the story of all three books in 2.5 minutes” concept. From that grab-bag, certain things began to catch David’s interest and ours. People covered with paint or liquids was particularly interesting. There’s some great black-on-black photos and fine art installation. At some point, all of this came together and David said, “I want everything to be black, none blacker and covered in dream-ooze.”

At what point did you know that Trent Reznor and Karen O’s interpretation of “Immigrant Song” would be the track? Did that change your approach to the sequence?

Right from the beginning, so it didn’t change it so much as inform it. And I mean everything, right from day one. To have this piece of the puzzle in place was huge and it answered a ton of questions on pacing and the kind of imagery we could produce. For instance, we didn’t waste time coming up with ideas that needed some kind of slow, dreamy progression. We needed some hard-hitting shit. We needed some visceral concepts and imagery. Plus: That song is amazing. Truly, it never got old.

What was your production timeline? Intense? Relaxed?

It was about 3.5 to four months of intense work. The schedule wasn’t too bad; none of the artists had to kill themselves to get it done. Credit for that goes in large part to David being a great “client,” who knew what he wanted. He allowed us the freedom to explore productively and was very open and flexible with ideas, changes and all the vagaries of production. Because of all the fluid there were some big technical challenges but all-in-all it was very smooth. Our biggest fear was simply being able to make it great enough to live up to what we knew the film would be.

Which software packages were primarily used?

3dsmax (modeling, lighting, rendering), Softimage (rigging and animation), Digital Fusion (compositing), Real Flow (fluid dynamics), Sony Vegas (editorial), Zbrush and Mudbox (organic modeling), and VRAY (rendering).

Did you guys consider doing any live action or did you know you wanted it 100% CG from the beginning?

Fincher said in his very first e-mail he wanted it to be all CGI. He wanted the control and, I believe, he knew that the all-CG approach was really our strength.

What technical difficulties did you hit along the way?

None really, just the sheer number of shots — more than 250 — and the huge amount of fluid FX was challenge enough!

Do you plan on possibly doing a full length feature film someday in the future?

Most definitely. We have several all-CG films in development. The Goon with Fincher, Seasons with Mike Deluca, The Automatic Detective, Hatch Wagner, Rockfish, and several live action films in conjunction with the film studios, like Deadpool which I’m directing for Fox.

What else is in the works for Blur?

More cinematics, more design work, more visual FX, more feature film development, more commercials and — hopefully — some more film titles. We love what we do and want to do more of it. We’re very grateful for the chance to work on great projects like Girl With the Dragon Tattoo and with amazing filmmakers like Fincher.


Creative Director
Tim Miller

CG Supervisor
Jerome Denjean

Editor & Layout
Franck Balson

Animation Supervisor
Derron Ross

FX Supervisor
Kirby Miller

Design & Type Animation
Jennifer Miller
Onur Senturk

Tobin Kirk

Executive Producer
Al Shier

Production Coordinator
Jean Ho

Jeff Fowler
Douglas Lassance
David Nibbelin
Derron Ross
Nick Whitmire

Character Modeling
Shaun Absher
Mathieu Aerni
Alessandro Baldasseroni
Chris Grim
Zbyneˇk Kysela
Desiree Lunsford
Laurent Pierlot

Rigging Lead
Enoch Ihde

Steven Alley
Chris Boylan
Justin Callanan
Ben Durkin
Jennifer Hendrich
Brent Wiley

Kyle Gaulin
Warren Grubb
Jason Hendrich
Jeremiah “Izzy” Izzard
Oliver Parcasio
William “Rocky” Vanoost
Jon Vener
Brian Whitmire
Nick Whitmire

Cloth Simulation
Steve Guevara

Hair Sim
Danny Young

Prop Modeling
Zack Cork
Jinho Jang

Lighting & Compositing
Chris ‘Bedrock’ Bedrosian
Colin James
Tom Nemeth
David Stinnett
Onur Senturk
Daniel Trbovic
Dan Woje

Daniel Chamberlin
Ian Clemmer
Seung Jae Lee
Johanes Kurnia
John Kosnik
Ole Lemming
Matt Radford
Brandon Riza
Brandon Young

Additional FX Supplied by
Fusion CI Studios
Spatial Harmonics Group

Concept Design
Jason Felix
Norn Jordan
Sean McNally
Jared Purrington
Onur Senturk
Joshua Shaw
Tom Zhao
Motion Capture TDs
Anthony Romero
Brian McKee
Mocap Talent
Derron Ross
Sheila Atkinson

Programming and Systems Administration
Jeremy Donahue
Paul Huang
Matt Newell
Duane Powell

Peyton Kirk
Tess Masters

Scanning Services Provided by
The Nicholas VFX Group