July 30, 2014

This Love Letter to Typography Will Make You Think Twice about Your Titling

There are so many things to consider when finishing up the post production of your film. You're putting the final touches on the edit, mixing sound, creating visual effects, and a whole number of other small, but crucially important processes. Then there's titling, a process that many young filmmakers overlook, often adding off-white Times New Roman titles at the last second simply out of necessity. Titles, however, have the potential to be a tremendously powerful artistic asset to any film. Good title sequences -- like those featured on the fantastic blog Art of the Title -- are able to encapsulate the themes and subtext of a film through masterful manipulation of the art of typography. What exactly is typography, and how can it help you make the most of your titles? A new video from the video production and graphic design firm Parachutes provides a brief glimpse at the wonderful world of typography.

This video is a graduate school project from one of Parachute's founders, Thibault de Fournas. It looks at the function of typography not only on paper, but how that function translates beautifully to the screen, and how masters like Saul Bass paved the road for many of the tremendous title sequences that followed his iconic work with Hitchcock.

Of course there's so much more to titling than simply choosing a font. Titles should mirror the style and aesthetic of your film, and if you're able, the content as well. In order to make that happen,  you have to learn how to boil down the aesthetic of your film to its most basic concepts, then apply those concepts to the titles themselves. Titles can be static, in motion, or some unique combination thereof. Titles can be colorful and vibrant, or bleak and lifeless. The possibilities are endless. But when it all comes together, the opening titles should be able to inform the audience, in some way, on what they're about to see.

What are some of your favorite feature film title sequences?

[via Filmmaker]

Your Comment

22 Comments

great short film Thanks!

fav mission impossible

July 30, 2014 at 4:31PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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July 30, 2014 at 5:46PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Dom

Really enjoyed how Tony Scott used typography on Man on Fire.

July 30, 2014 at 6:44PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Ryan Sauve

So much more than just the opening and ending... In this case, it's the film itself!
Very nice piece of work.

July 30, 2014 at 11:23PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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I know this is contradictory to the url and name of the site, but this so rudimentary. If you're aspiring to be and/or working in film/video/graphic design and don't know who saul bass is.... you should give up

July 31, 2014 at 2:57AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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RYANNE

Hrmm... How come you didn't give up? I'm sure there was a time when you didn't know who Saul bass was either.

July 31, 2014 at 9:05AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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alex

Be nice. This site, and pretty much the world wide web, is for all skill levels. Don't be arrogant and think this is basics. Be grateful that someone is teaching those who don't know, improving our community.

July 31, 2014 at 9:14AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Yan Lee

NFS comments are always so encouraging! :D

July 31, 2014 at 9:18AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Olof

Really RYANNE? You should just give up? Nice.

July 31, 2014 at 9:18AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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AnnaM

My 14 year old son came up to me the other day, holding the digitial video camera he'd bought with the money he'd saved up from his paper round (cameras are surprisingly cheap these days). He told me he wants to be a filmmaker.

I said "Do you know who Saul Bass is?"

He racked his brains for a moment, mentally running through the list of directors he's heard of (i.e. Michael Bay, Steven Spielberg, and James Cameron) and then said "No. What films did he direct?".

I snatched the camera from him and threw it out the window. "Give up!" I said. "You'll never amount to anything."

A harsh lesson, but better that he learns now.

July 31, 2014 at 1:05PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Indiana Ford

Gosh ,if only I would have had a Dad like that. But No ,I was stuck with a Nice one.

August 2, 2014 at 1:28PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Dheep'

RYANNE try contributing something positive, it might help that poisonous little personality of yours. Anyway, great work, would have partnered really well with Ian's presentation on title design history at ProMax BDA this year.

July 31, 2014 at 2:25PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Tony

If that's your attempt at eliminating your competition, good luck. That says oodles about your level of self-confidence.

August 1, 2014 at 12:21PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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What a douchebag. Here's a quarter, go buy yourself a life ryane.

August 3, 2014 at 9:14AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Michael

Even if you do nothing else with your titles, change the font. Design is about making choices, and nothing says "I don't care" like using the default font. A few years ago, 9 of the 10 Oscar-nominated documentary (including feature and short) films were edited on a Mac, very likely in FCP 7, because they used the default Lucida Grande system font for their titles.

There are plenty of better choices, and lots of good free fonts out there too. Don't settle for Times, Arial, Lucida Grande, or anything that comes with Word.

July 31, 2014 at 8:35AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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I'd have to say that's not really the best advice. Many master strokes come from the basic fonts. Helvetica to name one that is still currently being implemented to great success. With anything creative, there are styles and preferences. I've witnessed white Times on black that can be just as impactful as a Mega 3D block of text crashing through a building. Yes I agree there should be some thought in font choice not just slap something down, but to stray away from some of the most uniform, well crafted fonts, is just not advisable on the merit of "just because".

July 31, 2014 at 9:28AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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seth

Agreed.

The choice of font and colour has a "mood" and a sense of "pace" - even the length of the fade transition gives a certain tension and feel that sets up what is to follow. It needs to match what the 'natural rhythm' of the opening sequence is, as well as the subject matter.

The point is not to choose a different font to be different - you are basically creating an animation that needs to fit the live action of the film, even if that "animation" is simply Times New Roman in a scroll at a particular speed.

July 31, 2014 at 11:20AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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George

I'm not saying that Helvetica is bad, or even that Times is necessarily bad. Almost any font can be justified by the right design in the right context. But if you're just making a simple title, choosing the default font doesn't look like a choice at all.

August 1, 2014 at 12:17AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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I am here because I am new to using a video camera. I am studying and reading about storytelling and find it very interesting. I wonder why there is so much snobbery on this site.....I just try to overlook it.

I did invest many years being taught Design by an award winning Graphic Artist. Oni taught me, amongst other things, design using only TYPE. I learned to choose the correct face to tell the story, then came size, leading and kerning. If you're going to set the type, then you'd better learn about it.

The toughest job was designing a series of five posters promoting Grief Counselling for a local church. It worked, and the program was a success........I don't know how they measured that.

August 2, 2014 at 12:30AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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You name it - Bass Fishing / "Filmmaking" / Camera Nut sites / Guitar Players & any one of a Thousand "Expert" sites. You can ask any question you may have ,at any Level and there are always plenty of Pro's who will exhibit their Superiority by Tearing you apart.

August 2, 2014 at 1:32PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Dheep'

Half-hearted titling can really damage the 'feeling' of a film. For instance, I re-watched Aliens the other day, and that opening feels really low-budget. The actual 'Aliens' text is great, but the font choice and layout of the white-letter-credits, and the fade-in-then-fade-out, is really "TV".

(I just realised that the music used for that opening is the same as the music used in 2001 when we first see the Discovery One and there's the jogging-around-the-centrifuge scene. How did I miss that before? Nice.)

July 31, 2014 at 11:25AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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George

Animated typography doesn't just have to be for titles, it can tell a story too. I made this narrative short film using only animated typography in 1994 for my RISD thesis. Still holds up pretty well today…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GxU6JGvhEjc

July 31, 2014 at 1:32PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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