You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Creative Arts Preview: How Epic Title Sequences Set the Tone in Type

Great shows often come with epic title sequences. They give audiences a glimpse behind the curtain, set the mood and the tone and prep viewers for (hopefully) undistracted viewing of the story that’s about to start.

From the early days of television, shows like “The Twilight Zone” and “Night Gallery” used some of the most visionary VFX, editing and cinematography techniques to capture their audience. Today’s title designers are using bleeding edge techniques to do the same.

Kyle Cooper met with Ryan Murphy and Alexis Martin Woodall to discuss the title sequence for FX’s “American Horror Story: Apocalypse,” but then was given a lot of room to work with ideas that fit the tone and themes of the show.

“We decided on the mushroom cloud because it’s iconic, and the snake played a big part in it,” says Cooper. “I like to do things practically with not a lot of 3D, and I do a lot of research to find things. Ryan and Alexis will give me notes on things if they want to add something or if something’s unclear. But I tried to scare myself with this because the way the end of the world is described in Revelations is scary.”

Robert Hack went straight to his own source material when creating the title sequence for “Chilling Adventures of Sabrina,” using images from the comic book series he illustrated and showrunner Roberto Aquierre-Sacasa wrote.

“We adapted what we did for the comic book, and then I came in to supply new likeness material for the actors and cast,” says Hack of the Netflix series. “I think Roberto really wanted to have that feel of painting through the book, and then going into the paintings and into the old fashioned-comic panels, the look of hand drawn 2D animation.”

Title design for Jordan Peele’s CBS All Access version of “The Twilight Zone” also borrowed from classic imagery. “The original is just iconic,” says title designer John Likens. “When that came out a lot of people hadn’t really seen anything quite like it. So, we needed to capture that but sort of reimagining it for the modern audience. We initially explored a lot of ideas but we realized that it had to be this perfect modernization, so we ended up picking the most iconic, visual elements like the eyeball, the window and the doorway.”

For Amazon’s “Good Omens,” title designer Peter Anderson used 3D and live action imagery showing an angel and a devil marching through time toward the end of the world. The title sequence for the Neil Gaiman show “is set like a fable that you’re following into the show,” says Anderson. “They were also clear that they wanted us to do something that they’d never seen before, so that set me off on using all of it — even hand-drawn animation — combined together so the audience would know this is special.”

More Artisans

  • Game of Thrones Iceland TV Incentives

    Iceland Offers Productions Majestic Landscapes, Stunning Architecture and a 25% Rebate

    Few places on Earth contain the natural majesty of Iceland. The Nordic island, nestled between the North Atlantic and the Arctic Ocean, holds some of the most breathtaking natural wonders on the planet: the fiery pyrotechnics of live volcanoes, steam curling up from natural hot springs, vertiginous drops from oceanside cliffs and waterfalls cascading into [...]

  • Schitt's Creek Wigs

    'Schitt's Creek': Inside Moira Rose's Iconic Wig Collection

    Moira Rose, the family matriarch of cult classic “Schitt’s Creek,” is known for several things: her pronunciation of the word “bebe,” her love for her TV family (and sometimes Alexis) and her countless vibrant wigs. Played by the always delightful Catherine O’Hara, each episode (and wig) is a joy to witness on screen. “I think [...]

  • Kira Kelly Cinematographer Queen Sugar

    'Queen Sugar' DP on How Ava DuVernay Encourages Creativity on the OWN Series

    Cinematographer Kira Kelly, who earned an Emmy nomination for her work on Ava DuVernay’s “13th,” feels that her time spent on nonfiction projects over the past two decades has improved her ability to cope with the demands of shooting narrative fare.  The scaled-down resources — often just Kelly and maybe a focus puller or a [...]

  • 'The Souvenir' Costume Designer Fashioned 1980s'

    'The Souvenir' Costume Designer Put a Decadent Twist on Opulent ’80s Style

    Set against the backdrop of London’s early-1980s cultural renaissance, British auteur Joanna Hogg’s exquisitely sculpted and critically acclaimed “The Souvenir,” which A24 has been widening in platform release for the past month, follows film student Julie (Honor Swinton Byrne) and her gradually destructive romance with the magnetic Anthony (Tom Burke). “We didn’t want a film [...]

  • Legion

    How Production Designer Marco Niro Created a Visual Climax for FX's ‘Legion’

    FX’s “Legion” has always drawn inspiration not only from the Marvel “X-Men” comics on which it is based, but also from the weirder corners of pop culture. When creator Noah Hawley cast “Downton Abbey” star Dan Stevens as the lead — David Haller, a mutant whose telepathic powers have been misdiagnosed as mental illness — [...]

  • Luciano Pavarotti

    Ron Howard Turned to Editor Paul Crowder to Make His 'Pavarotti' Documentary Sing

    Ron Howard is fast becoming a noted music documentarian: His 2016 film, “The Beatles: Eight Days a Week — the Touring Years,” released by Abramorama in theaters and Hulu on television, was a Grammy winner. His follow-up is “Pavarotti,” a doc about the man who became one of the most successful and beloved opera singers in [...]

  • Lesley Barber Film Composer

    How 'Late Night' Composer Lesley Barber Channeled Paul Shaffer for Talk-Show Theme

    When director Nisha Ganatra started planning “Late Night,” the new Emma Thompson-Mindy Kaling film about a failing late-night network talk show, she knew she’d need a house band and a theme for the program. Her first call was to composer Lesley Barber (“Manchester by the Sea”), with whom she had worked a few years ago on [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content