The Evolution of the Title Sequence
By: Jessica Smith
Even in the most classic films that we know and love today, title-sequencing plays a very important role in them all. Sometimes it’s how others recognize the exact film that you are talking about, by way of just mentioning the involvement and design of the titles that were used. This even comes down to the font design and even motion graphics which will be explained later on in this article.
How did Title Sequencing grow into the most important and essential part of filming? It all started with Silent Films! Most of the titles designs were in relation to the plot of the movies themselves. For example, if the movie plot was a romantic film, then the title designs would be made easy on the eyes by the use of curves and soft edged fonts. The majority of these titles in these types of films were created by Lettering Artists, who were responsible for collaborating with the scriptwriter and the director to create a continuity of narration throughtout for audiences to follow what they were seeing.
A very precise example of this process during the silent film era occurred in a film called “Intolerance” (1916) a Movie Director by the name of, D.W.Griffith. There is a copy of the main title that was used in the film that contained variations of his name before the film started. This was the standard process for the Silent Film Era mainly because there was an ease of production and artists favored mono-stroke letterforms or characters with small serifs.
As movies started to gain their popularity, title sequences took their form and began to evolve through gradually expanding budgets for the filming process. The reasoning for this was due the movie producers investing a hefty amount of money into giving their films an Inter-Title Makeover, and also by taking time to upgrade the film production.
During this time, there was a “Film Doctor” by the name of Ralph Spence, who was the highest-paid title writer in the industry, earning $10,000 a picture for his one-liners.
As the introduction of audio was introduced into movies, the titles in them didn’t begin to pick-up and become more creative until a German animator and painter by the name of Oskar Fischinger, began to take a look at visual effects and music in relation to one another. This concept took form beginning with his film “Studies” in other films as well, with the latest being from Susan Bradley in the Film, Monsters Inc. His practice of comprehending visual rhythm to audio drew inspiration following his work amongst title design and even motion graphics.
Around the 1950s, independent filmmakers gained popularity by doing things non-commercially with the title sequences in their movies. The began to try out different ideas when it came to title designs, and this was what influenced the steady process of film title design. Many films started taking on a creative role in the area of title design and it is noted throughout films like The Bond Series, and also The Pink Panther Series.
When imagery began to overshadow the titles themselves, typography seemed to somewhat lose its importance in the area of title design. I think the reasoning for this was that more attention was drawn to the images used along with the titles, than the titles themselves. But as the digital age came into play, computers and the software used for designing film titles greatly affected the way we view titles in film today. The filmmakers and the designers started to work in the opposite of one another when it comes to the design area in relation to the film and its plot.
Even more so, typography and digital graphics have opened up a whole new world of possibilities to the design of motion. The thought of having an animation to draw viewers into the story became a very intriguing and popular trend. Pixar & Disney set aside a great deal of time for their films to focus on title sequences alone. It’s a wonderful way to introduce the characters to your story and a very eye-catching way to capture the audiences’ attention for a moment before they get into what the film is all about. The anticipation it brings is what I would often view as a build up to make the viewer want to see the film even more. It kind of serves the same purpose as a trailer for a film does. It’s ran on different television networks for a few weeks even up until the day the movie is released in theaters, and if the film includes an animated title sequence with motion graphics, then that is the icing on the cake of film.
In the way that we’ve seen how technology has shaped and molded the design of titles and the production of a film, I definitely see it continuing to domininate the way we view and relate to films in general, but also innovatively. Where will technology take us when it comes to title sequences and film production? Time will only tell.