Brooklyn Based Filmmaker

Making a First Impression: How to Create An Amazing Opening Title Sequence for Your Film

This post was originally published on KitSplit’s Viewfinder Blog.

The opening titles for your film or show can be vital for setting the tone of what the audience is about to get themselves into. And a great opening title sequence can have a life beyond the core material. The title sequences for the James Bond films are infamous and often parodied, including in last year’s opening title sequence for Deadpool 2. The Simpsons couch gag opening has been used as a vehicle to highlight talented animators. Depending on when you grew, up a group of 20 somethings dancing in a fountain in central park or a series of vintage black and white images of crowds celebrating in bars bring back memories of a favorite sitcom. A great opening title sequence sets the tone and stays with us. 

So, how are you going to grab us with the amazing opening title sequence for your masterpiece? You’ve got a lot of options today, many of which you can accomplish yourself, if you’re on a tight budget and want to put in the time. With easily accessible tools for Motion Graphics like Adobe After Effects or just a camera and some markers, you can bring just about any idea together. 

Before you dive in to making your titles, check out Art of the Title for inspiration. It’s a website dedicated to the phenomenal work that has gone into creating titles for film and television. A few personal favorites include the posts on Stranger ThingsHalt and Catch FireTank Girl, and Pee Wee’s Playhouse

Clean Opening Titles

If you have something like a straightforward, lean indie drama on your hands you might not want to get too complicated with your titles. Choosing simple white text on a black screen can make a statement on what kind of film we should expect. There will be no frills to this film or show. If that’s the case, exploring the wide range of fonts available to you can help give the film an identity even if you are keeping it simple. Adobe’s library of fonts are available to you if you are a Creative Cloud user. Google Fonts is another great resource for fonts for your titles. 

Keeping it clean doesn’t mean it has to be plain, though. Try these Corporate Title methods from Premium Beat to add a bit more to your clean titles, this animated text stroke method, or this clean typography method from Sonduck films.

Be wary of the font you choose, though, as the wrong choice could seriously distress Ryan Gosling:

Genre Opening Titles

You don’t want to keep it simple, though, do you? No, you have an exciting film and you want us to get excited as soon as those credits roll. We need to get amped from the get go. If that’s the case, it’s time to learn After Effects or another motion graphics program so you can create dynamic titles with just a few images, the right fonts, and a lot of patience.

There’s a lot of tutorials out there for different kinds genre film titles. A lot are designed to replicate famous films’ title sequences. Some offer amazing looks if you download the right sets of plug-ins and others focus on keeping the workflow only to what’s available in the motion graphics program out of the box. Here are some examples divided up by genre including interviews with title designers for films in the genre. 

Action Titles

Fantasy Titles

Science Fiction Titles

Horror Titles

Retro Opening Titles

Retro is always in, though what particular decade you’re referencing does tend to shift as time moves forward. Perhaps someday prevailing tastes of today will be retro? Nonsense. What’s cool now will always be cool! Whether you’re doing a period piece or something else that would benefit from giving your film a retro vibe trying to recapture that vague remembrance we have  of styles past can be a bit tough. Here are some helpful tutorials on designing retro 1980s style titles: 

Create a Handmade Opening Title Sequence

Maybe you don’t want to make digital titles and you’d much rather shoot something. You shot your film on a camera, why not do the titles the same way? You can create some really unique and fun titles for your film making them by hand and shooting them. 

There are a lot of different ways to approach this. You could do something like the original Star Wars opening crawls from the 70s and rig the camera over the printed titles and slowly dolly over the printed text. Grab a white board and write your titles on the board one at a time and video or photograph it. Also, you can print it on sheets of paper you shoot. You could have the credits tattooed to your body and capture each one. Maybe don’t do the last one.

One popular way to do it is to utilize stop motion animation techniques. Whether you’re using clay to make a Gumby-like animation, the aforementioned white board, or taking every day objects and having them move, stop motion can give you some really interesting options for shooting your opening titles. 

If you want more inspiration for creating Opening Titles, try these 5 Easy Tips from Premium Beat or this break down ofOpening Title Sequence Trends and How to Replicate Them