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Lesson 1

1. Analyzing Titles

  • instructor

- Ash Thorp

  • apprentice

- Jama Jurabaev

  • apprentice
  • learn squared

- Florian Aupetit

  • apprentice
  • learn squared

- Tim Zarki

What exactly is the function of a title sequence? To get things started, Ash will walk you through various examples and dissect what works and what doesn’t in title sequences. Study how the Greats are able to capture a unique glimpse of the story in a short amount of time.



Analyze one (1) of your favorite title sequences. Capture six (6) key moments from the sequence which you find to be purposeful.

Extra Credit

Analyze three (3) of your favorite title sequences. Capture six (6) key moments from each sequence which you find to be purposeful.

Student Gallery


The title sequence I chose to analyze is an old and simple one for the movie Gattaca. The reason I like it so much is in large part to the movie itself. I really connect with the idea that you aren’t defined by what other people define you as, especially if you have enough motivation and heart. My high school counsellor told me I would never go to college and would not get very far. It hurt, but it also motivated me to find my own path in my own way no matter what others or even society defines me as. This movie was an exact representation of that idea. The title sequence visualized and embodied that story in a detailed and prophetic way.

6 Key moments from the sequence.

1. Opening quote. Fr000

I’ve seen opening quotes done amazingly but also done poorly. The worst though is when they are vague and hollow, even if a good quote. What I like about this quote was that it was mysterious, but also provocative especially at the time when global warming and environmental awareness was ramping up. ‘I not only think we will tamper with Mother Nature. I think Mother wants us to.’ This goes against everything society has been preaching in a way. I was very intrigued.

2. Music & sound design.
At first, the only sound we hear is these booming thumps as these large objects hit the abstract surface we are looking at. Eventually, a very slow and peaceful score begins. When the violin kicks in towards the end of the sequence we reveal a close up of a man shaving. It goes from a deep and strong heavy mysterious feel to a more emotional and almost poetic feeling.

3. Imagery. Fr001, Fr002

Not knowing anything about the movie the very first time, the mystery of these epic and heavy feeling objects falling and hitting the ground made me think we were on another planet. Then it snows. Then a heavy set of logs fall, and little twig looking things. It is only later that it becomes more obvious that we are looking at something really close up. The surprise payoff is that the sequence ends with a man shaving his beard. We understand this has been him shaving and getting ready for work the whole time.

4. Typography placement. Fr003, Fr004

The placement of the titles is very deliberate on multiple levels. First off the compositions definitely seem to work within a centred 4 square grid. But what is very interesting and thoughtful to me is the difference of placements between the different titles. The studio, Ethan Hawke, Uma Thurman, and the GATTACA title itself are all centre-placed on a centred grid. But secondary characters like Alan Arkin and Jude Law are placed on the left and right sides very symmetrically using a thirds grid. It is clear they are not main characters. The final few characters are placed off-centre both vertically and horizontally which to me called attention to Ethan and Uma as characters I really need to pay attention to in comparison.

5. The mixed Typefaces. Fr005

The titles themselves mixed what looks like Trajan, a very traditional film title font, and what I think is interstate. A bold modern Sans Serif font. Uniquely, the only letters in Interstate are G, T, C, A which feel like both an abbreviation of the name of the movie. But they also read like some sort of code. Later in the film, it is revealed how DNA plays a defining role in who excels in society and who does not which adds the distinct meaning to these letters. They represent the four DNA bases (Guanine, Thymine, Cytosine, Adenine).

6. Negative Space & Color. Fr006

While not an exact replica of what is to come in the film, there is something to the blue emptiness of the backgrounds that feels both futuristic but also empty and mysterious. It feels kind of relaxing to watch but also a bit mysterious. Our minds want to assign meaning to everything and I kept wanting to understand or assign meaning to what I was looking at but could not. I simply came away with a mood. The colour and emptiness we soon find out are similar to the same sterile and empty feeling at Ethan Hawkes job.

It was interesting how close this particular shot of the hair follicles got to the more complex of the three grids, especially given it seems like they shot this.

7. What it all means.

Upon the first watch of this sequence into Ethan shaving, it communicates he is getting ready for work. But why? Why does that even matter? Later in the film, we reveal first that he goes to work to work towards becoming an astronaut and is frequently DNA tested to ensure that he is physically gifted to do so. But the twist is he is not physically gifted and is faking his identity. To not leave a trace of his DNA, he cuts his nails, shaves his body and face with near OCD precision, and cuts his hair so perfectly to not leave a trace of himself. Later in the film, we understand the importance of this ritual as a means of him fighting for his dreams but also fighting this parsing of humans without giving them a chance he is looking to overcome.

Aspect ratio of the opening is 16:9, which is I suppose for the purpose of Westworld being a TV show displayed mainly on television and on screens (via online streaming services), so no reason to go to more "cinema-like" image. We want to use the full screen for the vast majority of viewers.

The overall color scheme feels mainly as monochromatic, mainly using colors like white, grey and black, but with a small amount of dark blue tint and a bit of brown to some of the scenes (eg. real image of mountains). The chosen color scheme emphasis the technical and unnatural, yet clean and sterile process of creating an artificial beings

The whole image is covered by a tiny amount of grain, somewhere maybe even a small chromatic aberration, which adds just a bit of natural feeling to the camera.

The font chosen for the titles is very clear and simple with big spacing between the letters. Somewhere it feels like Helvetica Neue, but it's something more modern - eg. "Q" letter is very simple and stylized.

Chosen moments:

1. An introduction to the world. Looks like a sun rising over a mountain or desert at first, but something feels more synthetic over the time. The overall framing respects rule of thirds, name of the actress is displayed on the top.

2. The lighting of the image is driven by the moving light panel underneath the horse, which reveals the silhouette into the more complete looking artificial animal. Interestingly, the two "3D-printing" arms are still operating and finishing the horse, but previous shot suggested that left arm was moving away from it. Maybe a way to express that the whole animal needs a complex fine-tuning and adjusting before it's finished.

3. The whole image is very simple, minimalistic and aesthetic, I like the usage of two name titles revealed on the path of the needle. The needle itself moves from a left to right within an arc, which is very beautiful movement and a great way to maintain nice-looking composition in overall. It's one of the biggest details of artificial tissue creation.

4. In this shot, it's beautiful and unexpected as the image plays along the music literally. It also suggest that the artificial beings will be able to play on a piano, so therefore interpret art pieces (made by human). The title is displayed nicely in the top center.

5. For the first time, we can see that (not mentioning piano) those robot arms/machines are not limited to creating the artificial creatures, but also another, well, "machines". Which is clearly a gun barrel - a new element that adds an expectation of danger and artificially created conflict. I love the clear framing and another example of printing needle moving on a arc.

6. We can now see now more clearly lit image with the dangerously looking woman on the horse. Both woman and horse are for the purpose of stylization still unfinished, the scene looks like a test trial. The woman is wearing black uniform, which makes her more distinct from the horse, but she also feels like some dark and dangerous character - which is supported by the gun. There is also no title on this shot, which is due to complex image and to support the whole importance of the shot.

I think the title sequence of Akira teaches a masterful way to tell the prologue of a movie.

1. The sequence starts with a view of Tokyo in 1988 (Present year when the movie was released).
2. An explosion engulfs the entire city. This is the catastrophic moment that sets the world of the movie.
3. The screen is filled with a burst of pure energy and the name of the director appears.
4. After the explosion we move forward to a cenital view of another city 31 years in the future, this is when and where the movie actually takes place.
5. Where old Tokyo used to be, a massive crater, a void.
6. The movie title appears in a red monumental typography (a trimmed version of Impact according to my research). Red is the main color for the main characters and I think its used to communicate power and chaos.

Finished the Mindhunter series and thought that before I continue watching something else, I should at least work on my homework for Main Title Design.

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Long time user, first time poster, thought I'd share some stuff and get involved with the community here.
I looked at a ton of title sequences but seeing as there's some common favorites up already, I settled on Godzilla (2014), also Rubicon and Man in the High Castle are pretty good. Peace!

NORTH BY NORTHWEST (1959) 1,85:1
Directed by Alfred Hitchcock
Title design: Saul Bass

This title design is elegantly simple. The name of the film dictates the direction of the lines, that run from the north and northwest to create a perspective grid. The grid then distorts the names of the cast and crew.

Before the green background fades and the building with the reflection of a city traffic appears, we don't even realize that type is situational, which was a new thing at the time.
The movement fo the text is rapid, machine-like and together with Bernard Herrmann's score creates a feeling of suspense and anticipation.

A significant change in the storytelling comes with a cut to a building entrance (which may very well be the same building we see before, so the viewer is following an ordinary city life in a chronological order) and we finally abandon the graphical master shot to establish the viewer in the film and it's tempo.

A set of 7 shots of the city and the rush hour follows. The type keeps it's movement and emphasizes the hive-like movement of the people in different corridors and in the streets. In this space of around 30 seconds we only see two names (associate producer and the director at the end) and a text claiming names are fictious, coincidential etc.

The Crown: Opening Title Sequence by Elastic

This title sequence takes the viewer on a macro focus journey through the formation of the crown of the British monarch. We are introduced to the crown in its most basic elemental form as gold mineral nestled in a bed of rock. As the gold forms and reveals itself as a branching liquid, themes such as the family tree, the royal bloodline and antiquity and the passage of time are introduced. Over time the molten forms the shape of the crown which is revealed through various camera angles detailing its many ornate intricacies.
The serif typeface appears to be from a roman family – possibly Garramond or a close variant.

Frame 01:

Gold lead forms from ancient mineral rock nestled in the mists of time. The frame is composed along thirds with diagonal movement from the lower left third to the top middle.
This is countered by a second strong diagonal from the forming gold forming an X. Matt Smith’s name title sits just above the bottom left third helping guide the flow of movement from left to right

Frame 02:

Molten gold continues to form an arc from the bottom left of frame to the tip of the top right third. The name title floats comfortably and balanced in space on the right horizontal third. The next frame symmetrically counters this one by using a similar arc form running in the opposite direction. This counter movement helps establish a gentle rhythm throughout the piece.

Frame 03:

A simple but beautifully composed frame with the arc of the crown formation sitting on the left third of the frame. The name title sits just below the upper third on the right and becomes the focal point. The shape of the arc is also echoed in the previous shots camera move that rotates on its z axis which serves as a gentle geometric echo of the previous movement in this frame.

Frame 04:

A centred composition featuring the crown band. This shot trucks backwards in z space and is an echo of the previous shot which has the same movement. Interestingly in the shot before frame 04 we are focussing on a different section of the band. When we cut to Frame 04 the camera has shifted right so that we are centred around a different section of the band geometry which smoothens the transition between the shots.

Frame 05:

Another centred composition framed around a blue jewel of the crown. The shape of the jewel forms a descending V which along with the other dominant ornaments creates a powerful X shape. The name title sits in the centre top third

Frame 06:

The final frame before the show title “the Crown” featuring a silhouette of the fully formed crown rotating in a circular turntable motion. The composition is centred. The crown is backlit through mist throwing light rays from the silhouette. A visual metaphor here could be that the crown is a lighthouse - the monarch acting as a beacon to the British people during tumultuous times, for example World War 2.

Lessons in this Course

Software Used: 
Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator, Adobe Bridge
Optional Software: 
Font Explorer, Mind Node, Adobe InDesign, Cinema 4D Studio R16, Octane Render, Marvelous Designer

Im very thankful that we have lifetime access to the class! Work has been insane lately and I've had to put my classwork on the backburner. Thanks for looking out for us dayjob slaves!!!

Thank you for sharing.