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.”

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