October 08, 2018

Free Solo

Film Design

Free Solo was rated 100% on Rotten Tomatoes and hit the top of the indie box office for 2018, surpassing many others and marking the best theater average ever for a documentary.

Original Main Title Design by Carol Cai and Ivan Viaranchyk

Earlier this year, Little Monster Films called on us to create the main title and overall graphic look for National Geographic Documentary Film's, Free Solo -- a documentary about the most famed and accomplished free solo climber, Alex Honnold, and his ascent up the 3,200 ft wall of El Capitan in Yosemite National Park.

We were stoked to be part of such a monumental documentary and work with directors, Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin. Together, we collaborated to create the main title, lower thirds, location IDs and archival sequences--drawing inspiration from Alex’s journal entries and his life as a climber.

Passed Climbers Design by Ross Henderson & Ivan Viaranchyk / Animation by Brian Landisman & Ivan Viaranchyk
Magazine Design by Ivan Viaranchyk and Ross Henderson / Animation by Ivan Viaranchyk and Brian Landisman

Once we had designed, animated and delivered the primary film elements, the scope of the project continued to expand and we were asked to develop a fully rendered 3D version of El Cap. While Jimmy and the crew had captured extraordinary shots of El Cap, there was a need to visualize Alex’s climb through seamless transitions as he met each pitch point during his training and ultimately, his successful climb of the mountain’s face.

We worked with Google Imagery to create a pixel-by-pixel rendering of the exact image of El Cap’s structure. Through this partnership, we were able to zoom in extremely close to our model of the mountain and maintain the most finite details--as well as scale back wide enough to show the enormity of El Cap in relation to Alex’s location. This gave our 3D team all the advantages they could dream of and the rare opportunity to create an accurate, minutely-detailed final result.

Ultimately, we created seven unique scenes with precise mapping of the route from every angle, lighting and time-lapse effects, delivering an authentic model that would visually pinpoint all the pitches Alex had to meet and defy on his way to the top.

3D Mountain Design & Animation by Liu Chia-Lung, Jun Lee, and Brandon Sugiyama

“Free Solo,” National Geographic’s exhilarating adventure documentary about the first free solo rock climb of Yosemite’s El Capitan, notched the best screen average of the year to date. - Variety

The style and rendering of the mountain, archival treatments, font choices and bespoke moments gave the documentary a sealed look, and we’re thrilled to be part of a story that will live on for ages. The film was rated 100% on Rotten Tomatoes and hit the top of the indie box office for 2018, surpassing many others and marking the best theater average ever for a documentary. Thanks to National Geographic Documentary Films & Little Monster Films for allowing us to be part of the journey.

Go to www.freesolofilm.com for ticketing and showtimes to see the film - in theaters now!

Main Title Animation by Ivan Viaranchyk and Brian Landisman

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