From the roaring lion of MGM, to the genre defining appearance on screen of the words STAR WARS, the opening minutes of a film have come to set the tone for the movie-going audience; to whet their appetite to be entertained and to tickle the desire for total cinematic immersion.
Although technically acting as a practical device to introduce the main feature and credit the key talent responsible for its production, the movie title sequence is now an art form in its own right. What learnings can you take for your own ‘credits’?
The first title sequences were hand-painted glass plates, filmed and inserted into the edit to capture the imagination from the start. Looking at them now, they play such a key part in the mood and romance of that golden era of cinema that they already seemed to mark out the cinema experience as something to be celebrated. Relying on strong typography and a rich monotone palate, early Hollywood titles, accompanied by melodramatic orchestral score captured the zeitgeist of the time.
In the 50’s, once production technology, specifically animation techniques, were up to speed graphic design came to the forefront of packaging film. The same visual ideas used for creative expression in movie posters could be used within the film itself. With the ability to experiment with colour, tone and image, designers quickly became specialists in title design, directing sequences in their own right. The same way that composers and actors formed long-standing collaboration with Hollywood studios and directors, title designers became integral to the team behind the vision.
Famously, Saul Bass and his work with Hitchcock set the president of cinematic excellence and still to this day his influence is clearly seen in both print and animation design. A second cinematic style guru to set a clear visual for years to follow is Maurice Binder, who from his groovy 1962 titles for Dr No featuring the gun-barrel point of view, set the tone for all 24 Bond films! Unforgettable. Un-PC, but utterly iconic.
Today, with CGI and motion graphics, the title sequence is a production, and award winning visual feast in its own right. Prologue Films, and founder Kyle Copper continue to amaze audiences with their visual flair and style producing sequences for the entertainment industry – for both films and games. From the first time seeing the titles to Se7en, I knew that the film was going to be pretty dark – and every film in the genre has had to follow suit. They did it with Iron Man too, setting the standard for all graphic novel movie adaptations. Amazing!
My personal favourite? I’ve always loved a bit of Kubrick, so the opening titles to The Shining is a perfect example of how to set up the story, the tone and visual style. The odd thing is, the titles as such, are secondary. They’re almost an afterthought, a subliminal extra that sits alongside the glorious sweeping views following the Torrance’s family car. Sure, the great title sequence has a practical purpose, but its creative one is paramount. You’re left feeling completely on edge… Welcome to The Overlook Hotel!
Even TV, with it’s repetitive, episodic nature has managed to create visual treats that keep on engaging and gearing the viewer up for 27 or 55 minutes of pleasure. Just look at The Simpsons. With over 500 hundred episodes, you can probably guarantee that the titles still mark a special moment for it’s avid followers. It allows them 30 seconds to adjust their focus from a world outside The Simpsons, to one very much on the Inside! The stroke of genius with these titles is the inclusion of an ever changing unique final scene – the final reward for staying watching them all the way through…..again!
Here’s an absolute classic, that forms a narrative completely unconnected to the main story itself, purely just flights of fancy for the creators!
You’ve only got seconds to encourage your audience to keep watching your film; you have limited opportunity to persuade them that the little time they have to invest in you, is best they’ll ever invest! What comes in the first couple of minutes from when the lights dip, will be the difference between them watching or not – or coming back for more. It sets up the tone.
The creative team at Outlook work hard to get our clients, and their businesses noticed. First impressions DO matter, and whether it’s a pitch or promo you’ve usually got one chance to get it right! So let us help you to get your introductions right, and make sure that your credit is put where it’s due! Read more here
So what if the Video team here at Outlook were the stars of the new comedy sit-com, based in a boutique agency in Northampton? Here’s Ed’s very own sequence to keep you watching…