Title Sequences – The Theory Behind Them and How To Make Your OwnReading Time: 6 minutes
Anybody who has ever watched a TV show or a film will know of at least one title sequence. Many will recognize the first few seconds of the opening theme to the Simpsons. Just two seconds can be enough to brand an entire TV show. It’s phenomenal.
Although the theoretical essay is written below, it is highly suggested to follow video as it offers real-time visual examples, along with tutorials on how to make your own title card and title sequence.
What Is A Title Sequence?
A title sequence is not just an intro to a TV show or a film to display credits. They are an opportunity to set the tone; you get to invite your audience into the fictional world and give them a taste. Title sequences can reinforce brand identity and provide instant recognition. The end section of Mad Men’s title sequence has now become its signature logo, and in turn, has influenced popular culture with a series of imitations.
So the question remains; as a DIY or no-budget filmmaker, do you need a title sequence for your short film or web series? If you have a short, which is 15 minutes or under, you only have a limited amount of time to tell the story you want. Audiences can comprehend that a short film is not going to provide deep character depth or an immersive story that is found in 15 episodes of TV. They will, however, expect a quick fix of entertainment then move onto the next short video. Anything over 30 seconds, and you’ll start to lose your audience fast.
On average, only 1.9% of a feature film’s length is designated to a title sequence. If we calculated that percentage into a 15-minute short, it would only be 1.8-seconds long. You can see that it doesn’t translate well. A title sequence is essentially a movie inside of a movie, but you do not have a paying customer. If you want to work with a title sequence within your short, you are going to have to work quickly.
In recent years, as TV has moved into the so-called Golden Age of TV, title sequences have often been replaced with a title card.
A title card usually lasts no longer than 12 seconds, and it will often just consist of the show’s logo and a brief sound clip. This will allow for a longer airing of the show, sometimes an extra minutes worth of story can make all the difference. A new device for the title card is to design the logo around the tv shows the current narrative theme within that season. Although this is also used within films, it is more common to find it on the small screen because of the progressive nature of television series.
In the IndieTips video, there’s a short tutorial that shows you how you can make your own title card. Following this link will take you to 3:18 in the video where the tutorial starts.
Montage Title Sequence
The most popular way of working with a title sequence is to have a montage of symbolic shots. If you are making a title sequence for a 15-minute web series, then a 25-second title sequence would be sufficient and help establish your shows identity.
Montage title sequences often work best when you do not have a direct relation to the show itself. For example, the title sequence to True Blood and The Walking Dead do not feature the actors from the show, the locations and sets are loosely absent, in fact, most core elements from the actual show itself are missing. Instead, we often presented with a series of symbols and themes that will be present throughout the series or film. As mentioned before, a title sequence can be a movie within a movie. You can connect with your audience on an entirely different level. If you studied or are studying media in school, you would have often deconstructed visual imagery.
Analyzing True Blood’s Title Sequence
As an exercise, we will take 10 seconds (starting at 00:10) from the True Blood title sequence, and see what we can learn about the series.
Instantly, we can see the series is set in rural America.
There’s a heightened sex sequence with full nudity; this is going to be an adult series with themes of sex.
The subject of religion is present. A church scene is juxtaposed to a rundown liquor store. This could be an indication that characters in the show see religion as a concept in ruin. Or is it something people turn to when times a hard?
There is a civilian, a possible protester, being carried away by the police. He is outnumbered 6:1. Does this suggest that the bad guys will outnumber the main characters, or does this say that the establishment will not protect you? From what looks to be the same film roll, we have many white, middle-aged men looking directly at us, the audience, as outsiders. Almost as if we are not welcome. It proposes the question: who is not welcome?
The period of the film stock looks like it’s from the civil rights era—a period where those of a different race fought for equality. Presumably, one would know from the trailers or show information that this show revolves around vampires. Does this implication mean that Vampires have to fight for their rights? We quickly see a few gravestones, which are a direct symbol of death. Then, finally, we are brought back to another clip with sexual associations, which reinforces the notion that yes, this is an adult series with sexual themes.
If we look at the actual style of the sequence, it’s been processed to look like it was shot on an 8mm camera or very old film stock—a lot of grain, light leaks, and film burns. Of course, this is a dated tool so does this suggest that the geographical setting and people who reside there have dated ideologies. All of this was from just 10 seconds of footage. Is some of it a reach for a conclusion? Sure. However, that’s the point. The audience is given respectable media to look at and analyze.
To create your own title sequence, you can find tips in the video at the starting point 11:30. A title sequence is not just let the audience know who is in your film. They will be aware of that when they watch the show or film themselves. A title sequence is a moment of prosperity where you can invite your audience to a foreign world, and you are going to want to make sure that their first experience in being there is going to be amazing.
3D Logo Reveal
The third option which has become popular over recent years is the 3d logo reveal. Andrew Kramer of Video Copilot has an excellent tutorial on how to create your own.
The 3D logo reveal is often instead of the title sequence and plain text animation. In recent years, Television Networks have had much fun with 3d intros when an episode has had a particular theme. For example, above is Arrow’s 3d logo, and below is the Flash’s.
Then in season three, there was a crossover between the two shows, and the 3D logo was changed to represent that.
Remember to check out the video for the full breakdown and tutorial. If you have made a title sequence yourself, post it in the comments below.