Hollywood’s “Starring” Title Sequences
March 29, 2012
If you own a TV and/or DVD player (I mean you’d have to own a TV in order to watch said DVD’s, but to each their own) then you’ve been exposed to the title sequence. Sometimes it’s that really annoying bit before your show starts where some text pops up onto the screen and let’s you know who plays the titular character and who the executive producer is. BUT, if the title sequence is done correctly, then it can act as its own little piece of beautiful design.
Game of Thrones
Let’s start off small, before moving to the big screen. HBO’s Game of Thrones is one hell of a TV show. It’s like Lord of the Rings meets Desperate Housewives, but only in the best possible ways. One of the things that sets Thrones apart is it’s opening sequence. Designed by Elastic, this sequence plays to the shows medieval roots. Pairing stark landscapes with cities made of cogs and gears, this sequence is really a work of art.
Dexter: Morning Routine
Another example on the silver screen is the opening to Showtime’s Dexter. Starring Michael C. Hall the titular character Dexter Morgan who is a forensic specialist for the Miami Police Department by day and a sociopathic murderer who literally needs to kill by night. The show opens with Morgan’s morning routine, but shot in such a way that’s almost pornographic to watch. Creative director Eric Anderson is quoted as saying “I say creative process because I’m not a designer I’m a filmmaker. I think like a filmmaker. It’s been my experience that designers can get caught up in self-indulgent details foregoing larger issues like the piece’s story, how it fundamentally relates to the show, how will this prepare a viewer’s mind for the show, how will it build excitement, anticipation, its overall impact on an audience. This will be the opening scene for the series, an honor above most. To me these issues are everything.” That’s not to say in any way that a graphic designer can’t execute a successful title sequence, because as you’ll see in a few minutes, one of the greatest designers made his way into title design.
In 1995, one of the most intense crime drama ever was released. Directed by David Fincher and starring Brad Pitt, Morgan Freeman and Kevin Spacey, Se7en opened to critical and commercial success. What makes this movie even more appealing (other than the fact that David Fincher directed it, and the man is a genius) was the first two minutes and eight seconds. The title sequence, designed by Kyle Cooper, features imagery relating to the decaying and destitute environment created in the film. Those images paired with sampling of Nine Inch Nail’s Closer and the eerie hand-drawn type cement the fact that this movie is going to be anything but normal.
Fifteen years later and Cooper is still trucking away on amazing titles. In the 2010 blockbuster Tron: Legacy, Cooper seamlessly blends a modern street with a computer’s motherboard. The electric blue circuit; blending into the dark, streetlight city is visually pleasing as is, but when camera angles start to move and the quintessential Tron typeface is added, these credits really resonate as a well put together piece of art.
Anatomy of a Murder
To end, let’s revisit the past. When there was no AfterEffects or Final Cut to make beautiful sequences. When a designer had to rely on projections, and moveable parts to get motion across. Saul Bass is one of histories most celebrated designers, and one of his most well known sequences is the 1959 court room drama, Anatomy of a Murder. Starring James Stewart, George C. Scott and Eve Arden, Anatomy of a Murder gives a first-hand account at a defense attorney defending a murderer. The opening sequence is in typical “Bass style”, with black cut-out shapes set against vibrant backgrounds. These visuals paired with a score that follows the theme of the movie to a T, really creates an amazing visual and audio experience.