The opening titles sequence of a film or television show is meant to set the mood for the audience and establish a tone for the presentation to follow. Depending on the budget of the production, this sequence may be very elaborate or quite simple. Distinctive titles sequences can also establish a cohesive brand among several products of the same family, as with the very similar style of all Marvel films or epics like Star Wars, Indiana Jones, or The Lord of the Rings.
The titles designer is the artist whose responsibility it is to create the opening titles sequence, as well as intertitles or title cards in the film or television show. He or she also creates the end credits. This artist is typically hired toward the conclusion of principal photography and begins work by meeting with the director and editor to discuss the show’s style, period, and themes. The director may bring to this creative meeting already-formulated ideas about the title sequence, or he or she may give the titles designer plenty of room to offer suggestions. This meeting is only a launch pad for further discussion and revision. One variable that should be nailed down immediately is whether the titles will require animation or shooting of additional live action footage. It may be the designer who is responsible for directing the additional footage.
The titles designer must submit several versions of possible sequence designs for the director’s approval before moving forward on a final composition. The process generally begins with paper-and-pencil sketching and evolves into the creation of original fonts, rough motion graphics, and animatics. Preliminary storyboards or animatics are presented to the director, and if given the green light are refined and built upon to arrive at a final finished product. Of course, this is all much easier said than done; the development process may take several weeks (or months) to complete. The titles designer’s finished work is transferred to digital files on DVD and sent to the editing department to be cut and composited into the film or video.
Skills & Education
A formal education in fine art, graphic design, film and television production, or computer animation is highly recommended. Coursework should be supplemented with courses in digital art, where the individual can become familiar with software applications like Photoshop, After Effects, Maya, and similar products. A titles designer should be as skilled in traditional drawing and painting as in 3-D art and digital techniques. Proficiency with match moving, compositing, and rotoscoping is especially beneficial.
What to Expect
There is no standard path to work as a titles designer, but there is a great deal of variety in the career field. Some designers may work as freelance artists who pitch their ideas to directors via a show reel (or whose agents do so); others may be employed full-time at a visual effects company that caters to the film and television industry. If operating as a freelancer, he or she should possess the necessary expertise to independently complete designs involving animation, graphic design, and the production of live footage. Employees who are part of a larger VFX staff may only be responsible for one facet of the creative design and art, while other specialists on the team will contribute to the project. As stated above, the titles sequence is only part of this artist’s mission—compiling the end credits and captions can be a tedious task that stations the titles designer at a computer for hours. The person in this role should be immensely patient and prefer the backlight of a monitor to the natural light of the outdoors.
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