Sunday, 30 January 2011

Opening Sequences and Font Explained.

How many of us have ever bothered to wonder why the titles appear in the places they do? And why the director chose that certain font in their movie? I didn't pay much attention to either until we learnt about why they did what they did.

Let's start with the opening credits. There are actually different types of openings, believe it or not. The most popular movie opening is a narrative opening. Don't know what that means? Neither did I. It's basically when the beginning of the story is rolling and the titles appear on the screen at the same time. It doesn't interrupt the film at all, it kind of blends in with it. This is used in tons of movies like 'The Stepfather' and 'Panic Room'.

Another type of opening would be a discrete title sequence. Lost? This is when the story and the titles are shown at separate times. For instance in 'Se7en' a short clip is shown from the movie is shown before the the screen changes and the names of the actors of directors are shown. Still lost? Watch the clip below. It'll make more sense.

A movie could also be opened with the titles on a blank screen. Surely thats self expanatory. This is completely unoriginal but is used in quite a few movies. The audience have to watch the opening titles then and it gets pretty boring. It doesn't bring much excitement but it makes the movie feel a little (just a little) eerie. An example of this would be the film 'Donnie Darko'.
The final type of opening would be a highly stylised edit. Are you thinking 'what?' This is where the beginning of the movie and the credits are also put together but it has a music video sort of thing about it. Does that make sense? Action movies normally have this. Like 'The Taking of Pelham 1,2,3'. There is a music track in the background which is matched witht he actions on screen. Alot of editing is done with these types of openings. In my opinion, these keep the audience most hooked.

Moving on to font. Have any of us really taken a second to think about the font? Not really. I mean why would you, right? In actual fact, we do notice the font, it's just the main thing we see. Its' noticed in the back of our minds. And seeing as we will eventually make our own opening sequence the font will be a major(ish) thing for us to consider even if the audience won't talk about it.
The font we use could be:

a) Serif. As you can see in the picture a serif font has a sort of flick type thing at the end of the letters. They look quite formal and pretty old fashioned. This is a font you would use when typing a letter or something to make it look professional. For a title sequence? Somehow i don't think so.

b) Sans Serif. The 's' at the end of sans is silent. I think. The term comes from a french word 'sans' which means without. In this case, the letters are without the flick type thing at the end of letters. This gives the words a more informal look about them and I think they look way better than Serif fonts.


But a font represents much more than just presenting you with the title. They, or in fact anything, has a connotation and a denotation. 
A denotation is the obvious. So if you look at the font, it would be the size, colour, shape etc. 
A connotation is in between the lines. So in a font, it could symbolise what the movie could be related to. If your thinking 'How can a font tell you what the movie is about?' You should be surprised by stuff I'm about to tell you. Hopefully. 


Take a look at this font that James Cameron used for Avatar. Does this font look familiar to you? No? Yes? It is in actual fact, Papyrus.


They don't really look the same do they? The conclusion I sort of came to was that James Cameron paid the makers of the font so that he could change it to make it look the way he wanted it. Because this font is one of the orignal fonts in all word processing software. Did you know that? Probably not. So why did James Cameron use such a common font? My first answer? He couldn't afford a fancy font. My second answer? He could just get any old font and edit it with his magical editing software and make it look even more amazing. It went something along those lines.
If you look at the Papyrus font, it's pretty thin, stick-like and ancient looking. These would be the denotations. The things you notice straight away. The connotations could be that it symbolises treasure maps, old movies and not much technology around. Papyrus is the paper Egyptians used to write on. It's made from layers of thin tree bark compressed with water.
The Avatar title connotations are that the letters are all capital letters. They are all evenly spaced out and are a blue-ish silvery metallic sort of colour. The denotations to all this are that it looks sort of alien-like, stepping into the unknown or undiscovered.
Mix the connotations and denotations of both fonts...and that gives you the reason why James Cameron chose this font.

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