Creating FUI for Netflix’s “In From the Cold” image

Creating FUI for Netflix’s “In From the Cold” How Madrid-based CG Onset used C4D, Unity and more to deliver 150 FUI animations for the spy thriller’s tech devices.

Margarita Levieva plays Jenny, a former Russian spy posing as a seemingly boring mom in the US, In the Netflix series “In From the Cold.” But everything changes when the CIA figures out who she really is, and like any good spy drama, there’s plenty of tech involved.

We recently spoke with Juan Garsen, creative director and founder of Madrid-based CG Onset about how the studio used Cinema 4D, Unity and Insydium Fused to create 150 fantasy user interface (FUI) animations for the devices used by the series’ actors, as well as multiple screens on set.

Garsen: I graduated from Animum 3D with a master’s degree in CG architecture and visual effects. I’m a freelance creative director and motion designer based in Malaga, Spain, and my studio is called CG Onset. I work with global brands like Netflix and HBO, specializing in concepting and creating FUI elements for film and television.

Garsen: I got started by meeting with the series’ writer, Christopher Barbour, and director, Ami Canaan Mann, to begin shaping the direction of the FUI production technically and creatively. I supervised and guided the team through all stages of creation, from concepting to programming.

Once each sequence was finished, I worked with the writers and directors to get final approval. And I facilitated the technical steps needed to have the graphics ready for shooting day.

For the graphics, I concepted a specific aesthetic, keeping in mind the show is set in the present. To help make that clear, I researched the user interfaces of actual software systems of police stations, train stations, Interpol, tracking devices and phone apps.

Garsen: I always start by creating a mood board, just as I would for a client’s branding project. Then, I work with artists to create concepts and wireframes, striving to develop a consistent style and get a clear idea of the final look.

Once the creative direction is set, various user interface elements and patterns are created as building blocks for all the graphic sequences, allowing us to have a system that can represent any screen or action that is called for in the script. Pushing the FUI design concepts in the hero sequences to create an exciting visual story is where the whole team collaborates and has more fun.

Garsen: I've been using Cinema 4D since I started in motion design. For this project I used it for interface design, modeling, texturing, lighting, animation and rendering. I used a similar workflow when I guided the FUI development for Netflix’s “Warrior Nun,” as well as for several music videos and commercials.

I also use Procreate for concepting, Illustrator for 2D design, After Effects for animation, Photoshop to edit images, 3ds MAX for some modeling and Unity for interactive graphics.

Garsen: The budget for FUI sequences in this project was limited, so it was a big challenge for our small team to create 150 graphics. Writer/Producer Christopher Barbour helped us make it happen by working with us creatively and technically during the entire five-month production run.

Also, we do screen graphics on set, we usually run into two issues. First, because decisions about what screen graphics are needed for each sequence aren’t made until the day of the shoot, we often have a really short time to develop them.

The second issue is that the devices using screen graphics on set are managed by another department, so we often get devices that differ from what we were expecting. To deal with that, we create the designs so they can be adapted to different resolutions or screen sizes, and we maintain an inventory of rental equipment that can be used to solve these issues.

Garsen: I've experienced a really competitive environment in the film industry. It is crucial to stay in touch with all your contacts and to keep going, even if you can't find the next project for a while.


Logan BakerWriter - Denver, Colorado