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TITLED

an homage to title design

ABOUT

Titled is a tribute to classic film titles from 1920-60. Before title sequences became a moving art form, a title existed as static typography that spoke for itself. These older designs inspired me to tell a new cinematic story of my own, using 3D to bring life and dimension to historic works.

HISTORIC MOVIES

TITLE DESIGN

Titles used to exist as static typography, known as title cards. I had a chance to see some of these titles myself, on a giant projector, and the sight of them was awe inspiring. They had a distinct presence unlike anything I had seen before. The style and treatment of these typographic forms inspired the creation of Titled.

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I WAKE UP SCREAMING
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SHADOW OF A DOUBT
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DETOUR
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I KNOW WHERE I'M GOING
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CRIME OF PASSION
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NIGHTFALL
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HIGHLY DANGEROUS
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THE AWFUL TRUTH
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FURY
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SUDDENLY
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VIDEO

TITLED MOVIE

Inspired by Film Noir, Titled is told by a deep voiced protagonist with a rather dark view on life. 3D rendering software was used to bring life and dimension to these historic film titles. The circular motion of the titles represents the circle of life: as one thing dies it gives life to another. The dramatic camera angles and single key light, emblematic of Film Noir, are strategically placed to demonstrate the mindset of the protagonist.

As the story begins the words are obscure, backwards, in darkness, yet as the story develops the titles start to face forward and become illuminated with light. Titled pays homage to the art of title design by using contemporary practices to shed light on a time when titles existed as pure typographic forms that filled the screen.

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ESSAY

Click, click, click. The sound of the remote made a rhythmic beat as I searched for something, anything, to watch. I lay on my couch shuffling through the hundreds of channels on cable, Netflix, and HBO, yet found not a single movie I wanted to watch. The sound of the remote button pulsed in my ears. I leaned back and closed my eyes. I absorbed the silence for a second. All I wanted was a night of relaxation, but instead I felt hopeless, because regardless of the excessive amount of options there was not a single movie that I wanted to watch.

I remember the first time I went to the movies. I was five years old, and the mall was crowded with people carrying shopping bags as holiday music echoed through the stores. There were lights wrapped around pillars and giant bells hung from the ceiling. In the center was a giant tree that seemed to stretch all the way to the glass ceiling, three stories high.

We rode the escalator up. I made sure to hold on tight the handrails in fear that I might fall. As we reached the top, I was hit with smells of tangy spice mixed with hints of garlic and fried food. The food court was filled with parents balancing trays of food as they frantically tried to find tables with enough chairs. From the corner of my eyes I could see bright red flashing lights. High above was a board that stretched the entire wall. It was filled with lists of titles with numbers next to them. We went straight towards to the roped off area and got in line. I counted down the people in front of us; eight, now four, then two, then us! When it was our turn my mom spoke to the woman behind the glass window. I stood on my tippy-toes and strained to see what was going on. My mom stepped back with a handful of little white papers. She picked up my youngest sister and I grabbed my brother and sister’s hand as we walked through the giant glass doors towards the young boy standing at the top of the steps. She handed him the tickets, he tore them in half, and he gave the other half back to her. She put the stubs in our pockets and told us not to lose them.

I wanted desperately to look at my ticket stub, but I was afraid of losing it. I kept it safe in my pocket. We walked into a huge area filled with groups of people talking and laughing amongst themselves. I can still hear the sound of popping as the popcorn popped and spilled over the silver cylinder and into the giant box below. When the teenager working the counter opened the box and pulled out the shovel, the sweet smell of freshly popped popcorn wafted through the air. My mom ordered one giant bag for all of us to share.

I reached into my pocket to make sure my ticket was still there. I felt the ripped edge of the paper and smiled. We found the door with our number and entered the darkness.

I reached into my pocket to make sure my ticket was still there. I felt the ripped edge of the paper and smiled. We found the door with our number and entered into darkness. It took a second for my eyes to adjust. There was a sea of people sitting in rows. We couldn’t find five seats together, so we sat on the right of the theater - my siblings and I took the row of four seats, and my mom sat behind us. She told us each to grab a handful of popcorn, which we put in the unfolded napkins in our laps. I chewed as slowly as I could. I didn’t want to eat all my popcorn before the movie began.

The room was noisy with sounds of talking, and crinkling from popcorn bags. The lights dimmed and the room went silent. The curtains pulled back, the room was black, then suddenly the music started. The movie began and illuminated the theater. I had never seen an image so big before. The narrator told a story as visions of a beautiful forest turned to stained-glass windows. A single rose glowed bright pink as the castle turned dark and scary. Letters made of red satin ribbons swished and curved around big blocky letters: Disney’s Beauty and the Beast. I was mesmerized.

Since that first magical moment, movies had played an important role in my life. I remember weekends with my dad. The excitement of going to the local video rental store searching for that one perfect video tape to watch for our family movie night. My siblings and I would each get to pick our own candy and I always picked Mike and Ikes because there were so many pieces in the box.

When I was in high school, I would wake up early so that I could blow dry my hair before class. However, my hair was very long and thick. It would take me so long to blow dry my hair that I would put the captions on the DVD and watch the movie while I was getting ready for school. The movie made it worth the effort to have straight hair.

Movies proved to be the perfect remedy to homesickness when I first got to college. I thought I would walk onto campus exactly as I had left High School and immediately be friends with everyone. However, it seemed as if everyone had already known each other for years, yet I didn’t know a single person. I admit it took awhile for me to adjust to this new life. Eventually I would find my way and make friends who, to this day, are still a part of my life, but those first initial weeks I discovered how important movies were to me. I would curl up in my tiny twin bed, pop in one of my favorite movies, and forget that I was far away from home and loved ones.

Fall semester was about to start, and I was in my second year in graduate school. Graduate students had the option to work as assistant teachers of undergraduate classes, and because I was interested in taking an undergraduate History of Film class, I saw this as the perfect opportunity to become an assistant teacher. I applied for the position, expressing my desire to learn about films. While I have a background in art history, I never learned about the history of filmmaking. Movies had always meant a lot to me, and I figured now was the best chance to learn more about this medium that I loved. The coveted position was mine. I was to sit alongside Professor David Sterritt as he taught the history of film.

Being a graphic designer, I appreciate the title sequences of movies. In fact it is one of my favorite parts of a movie.

Being a graphic designer, I appreciate the title sequences of movies. In fact it is one of my favorite parts about watching a movie. In my motion graphic design class we studied the art and designs of Saul Bass’ title sequences. In Otto Preminger’s The Man with the Golden Arm (1955), Bass was able to use geometric elements mixed with typography and the perfect music score to convey the theme of the movie, drug addiction, without creating discomfort for the audience. Bass went on to create a plethora of title sequences, as seen in films such as Alfred Hitchock’s “North by Northwest” (1959), and “Psycho” (1960). Other great title designers soon followed. Maurice Binder, creator of the James Bond sequences, and Stephen Frankfurt who did the sequence to Robert Mulligan’s “To Kill a Mockingbird” (1962) all serve as inspiring examples of magnificent title design. Saul Bass revolutionized the title treatment by turning the title into moving images. From that point on the title sequence has evolved into an art form of its own.

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With the advancements in technology, sequences now use 3D rendering software and motion graphics to tell the initial story at the beginning of a movie. Knowing that this was my passion, I was determined to learn the 3D rendering software, Cinema4D, in order to push my own skills as a designer. This was what I thought title design was. This was all I knew.

It was a couple weeks into the semester, and I was doing my job as an assistant teacher in the class on the history of film. I got to class early to draw the curtains to make sure the room was completely dark. The screen was pulled down and the projector was on waiting for the movie to start. The lights went off and the screen lit up. These giant black letters filled the screen: G-I-L-D-A. My eyes widened with awe at seeing the giant letterforms projected on the screen. While it didn’t animate and move like the titles I was used to seeing, the sheer scale of the letters sent goosebumps down my arms. The words faded to a dramatically lit game of dice, where the camera was positioned on the ground so it looked as if the dice were being thrown at me. A voice with a wiseguy attitude started to tell a story as the camera panned up to meet the eye level of the men crouched around a pile of money on the floor. The high contrast black and white images, interesting camera angles, and stylized frames (figures going in and out of darkness) were so fresh and new to me. I had never seen anything like this before. This was Film Noir. I felt like I was five years old with a handful of popcorn in my lap. I was completely mesmerized again.

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After class I got into my car and immediately downloaded the song “Put the Blame on Mame,” that Gilda, played by Rita Hayworth, sang in one of the scenes. The whole way home I had it on repeat. I envisioned the dramatic letterforms followed by the beautiful imagery that flowed throughout the movie.

I wanted to learn everything about Film Noir. I renewed my Netfilx account and started checking out three DVDs at a time. I read articles and books, anything I could get my hands on. What was fascinating about Film noir was that it is not a genre, but a style, and a blend of a variety of genres—romance, crime, and drama. Film Noir thrived during the ’40s and ’50s. Inspired by German Expressionist films of the ’20s, Film Noir employed low-key lighting and unbalanced compositions to create a style that departed sharply from the gentrified Hollywood movies of the era. The morally ambiguous characters and pessimistic storylines, symbolic of Film Noir, was in tune with what was going on in the world during this time - coming out of the Great Depression and ending of World War II.

I looked at other historic movies of this era. The title treatment was breathtaking. While the letters themselves could be comical and, in some cases, awful, the full screen scale of them was so inspiring to me. The title treatment of these movies spanned across multiple genres - romance, crime, and drama, just like the style of Film Noir. As I examined all the different movie titles, I noticed that they told a story of their own.

I used the actual title of the movies and wrote a script emblematic of classic Film Noirs. The story is a dark tale of a lost soul, a pessimistic protagonist who is seeking redemption for losing the love of his life in a car crash. Narration is a key feature in Film Noir, and I knew that I wanted my story to be told by a deep voice filled with regret and sadness. My brother, who was there with me during my first movie experience, and who is also a movie fanatic, always does impressions of different characters (you should hear his imitation of Christopher Walken). I explained to him what I wanted for my story, and after some back and forth discussion, he finally nailed it. It was such a reward for him to be a vital factor in my thesis project. This gave us the chance to connect over something we both love - movies.

The entire thesis process has been a fascinating journey. Through this exploration I was able to tackle a multitude of disciplines: writing a script, creating hand-designed letters, 3D rendering, lighting, animating, and even sound editing. I have gained a newfound respect for designers, sound editors, and especially the film industry. It took looking back in time to find admiration and inspiration in something I had lost hope in - the magic of movies.

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EXHIBITION

Projecting into a corner.

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Perspective

The view of the movie changed depending on where you stood in the room.

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Left Angle View
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Front View
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Right Angle View
© 2014 Jamie Carusi