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C2E2 ’21: Exploring the world of MCU tech with Perception Studios

The Earth's Mightiest Designers panel dove deep on the technology of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

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By Cy Beltran

The first panel I stopped by at C2E2 on Saturday was a showcase of tech and design elements designed for the MCU by Perception Studios, a design company based out of New York and New Jersey. The jam-packed panel was hosted by Danny Gonzalez and Jeremy Lasky, who founded the studio at the tail-end of 2001. 

(L to R) Danny Gonzalez, Jeremy Lasky

The duo gave the audience a mini-history of the company before they began work on any Marvel movies, talking about how they designed graphics for broadcast networks and big name ad agencies for around a decade after their start. Their first work on a Marvel property was the title sequence for the animated movie Hulk vs. Wolverine (who, respectively, just happened to be Lasky and Gonzalez’s favorite characters), and they were able to complete that entire piece in a week (something that boggled my mind completely).

Their big break with Marvel Studios was in 2010 with their work on Iron Man 2. Lasky explained how they were approached by the studio to create a small animation sequence for the Stark Expo, which they eagerly finished.

But, after noticing that the studio was looking into designing a clear glass phone, rushed to Home Depot and built a mockup as fast as they could. After a long weekend designing it, they hurried to send their prototype to Marvel… and didn’t hear back for three month. Luckily, the team at Marvel loved the mockup and gave Perception the job of designing all of the tech interfaces for Tony Stark. 

The studio’s work on Iron Man 2 brought a ton of attention to Perception, not only from the film and TV worlds, but from tech companies looking to design powerful graphic interfaces for their technology. With the elevated profile came an elevated role at Marvel, who gave them the reins to design the majority of opening title sequences for live action productions at Marvel Studios over the past 10 years. The guys then showed off a reel of many of the things they’ve made for Marvel, including tech for S.H.I.E.L.D., Pym Tech, and Wakanda. 

Gonzalez explained that Wakanda was one of the greatest and most unique projects they’d ever worked on. Greatest because of the magnitude of the project and unique because of the way they went about creating the elements for it. While Marvel normally sends over their scenes after production ends, the incredibly advanced world of Black Panther meant that they asked to have the team working on designs prior to any filming whatsoever, employing them throughout the shoot. This was challenging for the team, as they needed to “create a new medium/visualization for how everyone communicated,” Gonzalez told the audience, but after a lot of trial and error, they got it to work out for everyone. 

Perception Studios also created the incredible opening sequence at the beginning of Black Panther, testing the way the sand particles would move by gluing sand to toy cars and bouncing light off of the vehicles. After creating the visualization and getting approval from Marvel, a larger studio used their rendering technology to finish the scene.

Audience questions were next, and when the first person asked how much about the story Marvel would tell them, Gonzalez joked that Marvel had cameras everywhere and security ready to electrocute them if they said anything. Another person asked what’s their favorite part of the movies to work on, Gonzalez said he liked designing tech the best and Lasky said he preferred the title sequences, but clarified that it’s an honor just to be able to do anything for the company. 

Gonzalez and Lasky also detailed who they thought was at the top and bottom of the Marvel tech food chain, with Tony Stark’s tech at the very top and Justin Hammer’s towards the bottom. They added that the year after Iron Man 2 came out, everyone at the Consumer Electronic Show in Las Vegas was making smart glass, which made them feel really good about the work they had done. The panel wrapped up after this, and while it was much quicker than I expected, it was still really interesting and informative, so I’m glad it was offered.

Miss any of our previous C2E2 ’21 coverage? Find it all here!

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