Academic Writing

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Art of the Title

Every movie and TV show has it: a title, or opening, sequence.  This video, put together by Art of the Title for SXSW this year, is a montage of the history of cinematic (and eventually TV) opening titles.  The opening to a film has long been a site of artistic potential, and a spot which often allows the director to set the tone for the entire film.  Psycho’s opening title is broken and disjointed; Juno’s is free-spirited and whimsical.  Despite it’s prevalence, in the world of cinematic criticism and has traditionally been overlooked as a place where meaning can be drawn.  This montage, putting so many iconic opening sequences together, shows that in-fact it’s an important part of the film. 

Furthermore, the presence of television opening sequences is interesting in this montage.  TV openings have always been a big part of the show (just think about how All in the Family or Friends’ openers became so iconic of their eras).  However with the advent of DVR, for many TV shows, there has been a move from extended opening sequences.  Shows today often try to grab the viewers’ attention quickly by giving them the information they need while also not really giving them enough time to fast forward through them.  Interestingly, the television opening titles that are highlighted here are a mainly from shows which air on premium cable and therefore DVR fast forwarding is relatively a non-issue (Six Feet Under, Dexter).  They are also of high artistic value.  Take Dexter for instance.  The show runners decided to use the opening sequence to introduce audiences to Dexter’s character and the dark side of his personality by showing him during his morning routine, doing things anyone else might do.  The direction of the opening however, alerts the audience to a much darker side of him. 

This montage is a fun and interesting way to honor and respect this rich aspect of our film history.  Enjoy! 

A Brief History of Title Design from Ian Albinson on Vimeo.

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