Title Sequence Positioning (Title Sequences: Function With Form) (Motion Graphic Titling)

You now have a client. You have a movie or animation to create a title sequence for. You have a creative brief and have started brainstorming or even storyboarding. Let’s spend a moment thinking about how your title sequence could weave into the movie. The positioning of a title sequence within a movie or animation is an important factor to keep in mind and will affect the execution of your title sequence. A title sequence could be positioned:

•    At the beginning of the movie (an opening title sequence)

•    In the middle of the movie (generally after the first scene)

•    At the end of the movie (a closing title sequence)

•    At the beginning and at the end of the movie (an opening and closing title sequence)

1.    At the beginning of the movie. This is a situation in which the movie or animation is short and does not include many credits, so the end credits are omitted and opening titles are created. Typically this is the case for early silent films, independent short films, and homemade movies. Other mainstream directors, such as Italian filmmaker Giuseppe Tornatore, also prefer adopting this approach; right after the main title card, they prefer to jump-start to the feature film instead of entertaining the audience with an opening title sequence.

2.    In the middle of the movie. At times the opening title sequence could be placed in the middle of the movie, generally after the first scene. When the scene reaches its conclusion, that’s generally when the opening titles begin. This is the case for the title sequence made by Big Film Design for Intolerable Cruelty (2003), directed by Joel and Ethan Coen, and the title sequence of Delicatessen (1991), directed by Marc Caro and Jean-Pierre Jeunet.

This approach creates an unusual, unexpected, and direct beginning. The audience is not eased into the movie but is instead presented with a stark beginning. Only after the first scene has accomplished its goal of setting up the premise of the movie or introducing the main character can the audience relax, take a breather, and enjoy the title sequence.

3.    At the end of the movie: the main-on-end titles. In the absence of an opening title sequence, the closing title sequence, also called the main-on-end titles, has a slightly different set of functions. In this case, the designer/animator will have to create such an engaging end title sequence that it will encourage the audience to keep watching instead of leaving the theater or turning their TVs off. The imagery and sound are not intended to introduce the movie but rather to create a closing statement. An effective main-on-end title sequence pulls the threads of the movie together and offers the audience a moment of reflection while keeping them engaged and entertained. This is the case of the title sequence for Iron Man (2008), designed by Prologue.

4.   At the beginning and end of the movie. This is the most common format. The opening sequence generally includes the main title and the names of the director, director of photography, various producers, and lead actors. The lengths of these titles vary depending on the movie; they could be as long three-and-a-half minutes, as in the opening title sequence made by Pic Agency for Peter Berg’s The Kingdom (2007), or as short as the 30-second opening titles for Paul Thomas Anderson’s Magnolia (1999). Opening title sequences for TV shows are generally shorter, catering to a shorter-attention-span audience and the tight limitations of airtime. The end title sequence generally includes all the credits from the opening titles plus the names of the rest of the cast and crew.

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