Have you ever noticed that as soon as the opening credits start at the movie theater, you all of a sudden realize that, yes…you really do want that jumbo-sized tub of popcorn with Paula Deen-portions of melted butter dripping all over it alongside an entire shaker of salt that could kill off an entire population of snails? It’s like a conditioned response we’ve all been trained to have. We’re just a bunch of Pavlovian dogs. But if you’re anything like me, you coyly look over at the person next to you…bat your eyes…bite your lip…and drop the bomb: “Mmmm, that popcorn smells sooOoo good. We should have grabbed some before coming in.” Cue: sad puppy dog face (which just makes you look like a dumbass…look at yourself in the mirror sometime). After a moment’s irritation wipes across your date’s face (because they actually suggested before coming in that you get popcorn and you polite fully declined because you don’t want to spoil your dinner), they quickly compose themselves and dutifully run out to the snack bar like your own personal genie to fulfill your every need (better hope they remembered the Diet Coke because you’d HATE to make them go out again and not only miss the opening credits, but the opening scene).
So while you patiently wait for their return, you get to watch the title sequences. Sometimes, it’s nothing special. Just your run of the mill colored background with a gradient if the designers were feeling adventurous and some names that may or may not cue in along with the musical track. But other times…the title sequences are just as much of a work of art as the entire movie…maybe even more so. How can I make such a ludicrous claim you might ponder? Just look at this or this and you get what I’m saying. Or think of the opening to Catch Me If You Can. In 2002, that was a modern day version of a Pablo Picasso masterpiece in digital form. You get an entire synopsis of the movie in the opening credits and you’re not even slightly annoyed you have to sit through all of it because the amount of time that must have gone in to creating that was probably equivalent to making the entire movie itself. Okay, I might be over-exaggerating, but after dabbling in my own little kinetic typography project…I have newfound respect for those who create title sequences and all the hairs they must turn grey trying to get it juuust right.
So why do some just captivate us and others don’t? I watched a few examples and here’s what I think:
- People get a perverse joy from making innocent objects freaking grim and creepy…it’s like Pica Towers all over again. And I love it. Does that make me weird? I’m starting to worry about myself.
- The dark, dirty, film noir vibe really helps to establish a certain mood – a creepy, psychologically disturbing one – but it works.
- The musical track, kind of dark and uneasy with a mechanical feel, helps to elevate the grim atmosphere and pairs perfectly with the factory/machine-like images we’re seeing on screen.
- The camera beautifully transitions from scene to scene, and with each new turn, a disturbing new nightmare or piece of the puzzle to process. The angular type used perfectly complements the image of a man’s head being smashed with a sledgehammer, as well the spectators watching a woman’s body being sawed in half. Don’t worry…it’s all just silhouettes of little mechanical objects. The only blood and guts you see are little wiggling slivers of red wires (that kind of look like meat coming out of a processor, but it’s really not that graphic I promise).
Into the Wild (unofficial)
- So this wasn’t the original opening credits used in the movie, but rather a student’s work who re-imagined them as part of a school assignment, which he did entirely in After Effects and I seriously applaud him for that.
- I really love the 3D affect he accomplished (through After Effect’s 2.5D style). The rotating globe really helps to give you the wandering feeling of a man traveling across the country as it spins from one place, like a bustling city, to another, like a forest by some remote mountains.
- The soundtrack also works well to give you the free spirit feel of someone traveling without a care.
- While I think he could have given more of an earthy, natural vibe by potentially playing with some colors or more rustic images (because when I think of Into The Wild, I think of a broken down bus in the middle of the woods…all dirt and no shower), I’m really impressed by what the designer accomplished as part of a school assignment.