Five-and-a-half-minute Sequence Rendered on the Cloud with Conductor
In “Marvel's Spider-Man 2,” Peter Parker and Miles Morales return for an exciting new adventure as their iconic foe Venom threatens to destroy their city and loved ones. Developed by Insomniac Games and published by Sony Interactive Entertainment, the recently released action-adventure game culminates with a five-and-a-half-minute end title sequence created by futuristic design lab Perception.
Having created more than 1,200 projects since its inception in 2001, Perception’s digital handiwork has been featured in countless feature films, episodic series, and commercials. However, the “Marvel’s Spider-Man 2” end title sequence marked the studio’s first foray into video games, as well as its most ambitious project to date. Only after players complete the entire game can they view the sequence, which serves to cap the experience and recognize the hundreds of artists that spent years working on the game in an interesting way.
“Since this game is a sequel, it already had a set look. The development team was looking for ideas that would fit within this established world and felt unique to the game. We got the opportunity to pitch the project based on our previous work with Marvel, which includes several title sequences for Spider-Man features,” noted Eric Daly, Perception Director of Production.
The Perception team presented four different ideas, with the final sequence resulting in an amalgamation of them all. A typical end title sequence for Perception clocks in at around two-and-a-half minutes with around 35 people credited; the end sequence for “Marvel’s Spider-Man 2” was nearly double in length and credited nearly 800 people.
“Spider-Man is one of my favorite characters of all time, so this was such an insanely cool project to get to work on but one with an ambitious timeline. From the beginning, the scope of the project influenced the way that we went about building the sequence from a practical standpoint,” said Doug Appleton, Perception Chief Creative Director. “Creatively, the sequence carries through broader themes from the game to visually convey this idea of infestation, transformation, and liberation. We used color in various ways to highlight this as well as contrasts between good and evil, and light and dark.”
“Marvel’s Spider-Man 2” was released as a digital download and physical console game. This meant that all game elements – including the end sequence – had to be completed well before the game’s October 20, 2023 launch so that it could be pressed to a disc and shipped to stores worldwide.
“Even though this sequence was nearly twice the length of our typical project, we had to find ways to build it in our normal time frame – usually three months or less. One way we were able to achieve this was by creating scenes that could be viewed from multiple perspectives; we could move the camera around that would change the story. This approach effectively enabled us to turn 30 shots into 90 shots,” Appleton explained.
Over the course of the production, 13 Perception artists worked on the project. Posing animation was done in Autodesk Maya, then assets were brought into Maxon’s Cinema 4D to finalize the look, and Adobe After Effects for compositing. A technical artist developed a system that enabled the team to log each of the game’s credited talent in a spreadsheet that linked to After Effects and automatically updated names. This ensured that the entire project didn’t have to be re-rendered for inevitable updates. Along with its local resources, Perception used Conductor for rendering the project on the cloud in 4K, ensuring it had the compute resources to meet deadlines.
“Once we had a look dialed in, we did some early tests to compare times of a shot rendered locally and with Conductor. From there, we could project our timelines. If we needed to accelerate our return times, we could send work up to the cloud with Conductor and get it back fast. This allowed us to work more and iterate more,” said Daly. “Conductor was increasingly important in the time crunch; we could turn shots around in hours instead of days.”
In developing and fleshing out the sequence’s story beats, Perception collaborated closely with game production teams. The Perception team met with the Insomniac narrative team to discuss the game’s story arc and receive additional background, a relationship that continued throughout the sequence’s production.
“When we’re creating end-titles for a feature film, we watch it and know everything there is to know about it in about two hours. With a game that can take 20-40 hours to complete, we can’t play through the whole thing to learn the plot points, so the information we received from the narrative team was super helpful,” Appleton shared.
Perception’s storyboard artist would draft up the team’s ideas and proposed camera moves, making sure each prompted a narrative shift and made sense within the context of the game aligning with character motivations. The initial sketches were roughly edited together with temporary effects to provide a general feel for the sequence. As shot concepts were approved, artists worked on creating high caliber 3D versions as replacements, with the rough cut slowly becoming the final, polished version. “We could probably put together a whole other five-and-a-half-minute sequence with the ideas that weren’t used in this one,” mused Appleton.
For a peek at the sequence, check out this teaser, or play through “Marvel’s Spider-Man 2” to view it in its entirety.