Title sequences are usually the first things we see when we watch a movie, setting the tone for what's to come. I'm a huge sucker for a good title sequence -- Lars von Trier's films have some awesomely weird ones. But, I've always been drawn to those from the 50s and 60s for their playful, jazzy, minimalist aesthetic -- come to find out that many of those title sequences were made by "movie title master" Saul Bass, who frequently worked with filmmaking legends, like Hitchcock and Scorsese. Check out this 55-minute documentary entitled Title Champ, which explores the art, the filmmakers, and the world inside a world that Bass came to know so well.
It's easy for the uninitiated to write off a title sequence or end credits as nothing more than a necessary, bland convention to inform the audience that, yes, they're watching a movie, it was made by the following people, these are the stars to get excited about, and here's what the movie's called. To be fair, this is how most early films did title sequences. (Do we all remember the "page turning" title sequences from the 20s and 30s?)
But really, a good title sequence should act as an extension of the film itself -- setting the tone, warming up the audience for the headliner. Some can even be considered short films, or a film within a film. Having a capable artist helming this part of a film project is something the greatest filmmakers in history, like Hitchcock and Scorsese, knew to be important -- so important that they frequently collaborated with the great Saul Bass.
Getting his start in graphic design, Bass moved into creating the titles for films after he designed a movie poster for Otto Preminger's Carmen Jones. Preminger was so impressed, that he asked Bass to do the title sequence for the film, and later on for The Man With the Golden Arm, which started him down the path to title sequence success.
For Saul Bass, it was about "creating a climate" for the film to unfold in -- setting the mood.Check out the documentary below and see how he turned title sequences from a stodgy informational tradition to an all-out artistic expression.
Video is no longer available: vimeo.com/69152572
Video is no longer available: www.youtube.com/watch?v=sS76whmt5Yc
And here are a few of my favorites that are in the same vein as Bass' early and most recognizable work:
Susan Bradley: Monster's Inc.
Kuntzel and Deygas: Catch Me If You Can
Bob Kurtz: The Pink Panther
What do you think about the art of designing title sequences? If you have any experience in it, how do you approach it? What are your favorite title sequences? Let us know in the comments.