James Bond is back in Casino Royale, which opened in the UK on November 16 – and UK-based Framestore CFC has revealed it has collaborated on Casino Royale's stunning title sequence, working with director Daniel Kleinman, but also provided the film's full digital mastergrade.
Casino Royale is the 21st Bond film to be produced under the auspices of Eon Productions, in a series that began in 1962 with Dr No. The introduction of a new Bond - Daniel Craig - was the perfect opportunity for a top to bottom spring clean of the franchise.
"Casino Royale is the first of the Bond novels - it came out in 1953," says title designer, Daniel Kleinman, "And although this film is set in the present, it really takes Bond back to square one - to his action-agent roots. Going back to this source material signals the start of a new Bond era."
"The titles have been a defining element of the Bond films for decades," continues Kleinman, "And a defining feature of the titles has been the girls. Given the spirit of this new film, that simply no longer felt appropriate. In addition, the script sees Bond falling in love, so even on a sub-textual level, having a parade of anonymous beauties wasn't the way to go."
Kleinman decided that a back to basics approach was best. "I wanted to simplify the look, give it a harder feel than the hi-tech ultra-glam with which the titles have become identified. Graphic design seemed a good way to go in this direction."
Contains graphic scenes
The film's title and subject matter were deciding factors in Kleinman's approach to the graphic elements.
"Martin Campbell (Casino Royale's director) mentioned that he liked the idea of a card motif - and I took that and ran with it as far as possible," he recalls, "One starting point was Ian Fleming's own design for the first edition of Casino Royale, which used the hearts from a playing card. I also remember that a puff of gun smoke stylised into the form of a club symbol came to me early, and I sketched that."
Kleinman brought his ideas and sketches to William Bartlett, head of inferno at Framestore CFC Commercials, and frequent supervisor of Kleinman's commercials. The two had also worked together on three previous Bond title sequences.
"The previous film, Die Another Day (2002), was almost the apotheosis of the old style," says Bartlett, "We'd taken it pretty much as far as it would go - the glossiness, the focus pulls, the fiery transitions - and I was delighted to be taking a new approach. Danny took the essences of the casino world - playing cards, roulette wheels, and the patterns on money itself - as his lead design elements."
"We wanted to include fight sequences as part of the visuals, but we didn't want to wander into censorship territory with the violence. By using an animation-like technique - rotoscoping - over real footage of fights, we could create something that looked fantastic, but which also acted as a cushion or protective layer to the violence. Another reason we liked this so much was that we realised that you could have really quite crude - almost abstract - shapes that, because the movement was so real, were still intelligible."
The look of the rotoscoped actors also tied in well with the work of another key influence on the titles - legendary designer Saul Bass. "If you look at Bass's work on titles such as The Man With The Golden Arm or Vertigo," Bartlett elaborates, "The shapes he used were pretty rudimentary - basically paper cut-outs. By applying computer technology to this basic material, we could create something that was simultaneously retro and ultra-modern."
Joining Bartlett in the Inferno suite was Framestore Design's Adam Parry, who both contributed ideas to the creative pool, and worked on their implementation. Bartlett and Parry would come up with suggestions and forward them to Kleinman, who would select ones he liked for further development.
Work was, naturally, cut to the film's title song, You Know My Name, by Chris Cornell. To avoid potential confusion, rather than doing an edit in PAL and then converting it, the whole thing was cut in Flame and the team worked at 24 frames throughout.
Initially, the Inferno team appeared to have, in Bartlett's words, a "slightly luxurious deadline extension." This was because, elsewhere in Framestore CFC's Noel Street building, the company's Head of Digital Grading, Adam Glasman, was working with cinematographer Phil Meheux on the film's digital intermediate. This meant that transport and set-up issues to do with delivery of the completed titles would not be a problem. In the event, however, Bartlett was taken away from the titles for two weeks by another delivery deadline - the birth of his first child. He and Parry ended up working six weekends in a row, with 7.00am starts, in order to create the necessary time for the happy event. However, coming back from his paternity leave was, Bartlett says, "a great chance to look at the details with a fresh eye."
Casino Royale, www.sonypictures.com/movies/casinoroyale/