Pro Tips, Trends

Opening Title Sequence Trends and How to Replicate Them

Opening titles sequences are important not just because of the fact they they give credit where it’s due, but also because they’re designed to capture the essence of the TV show or film’s story. The style, music, imagery, typography, and text animation of the opening sequence all work together to create a brilliant fusion between graphic design and filmmaking.

Today, title sequences are much easier to make with the advancements in After Effects CC. In fact, there are now libraries of AE templates from which video editors can simply replace the text and images and have a complete new title sequence in about 60 minutes, instead of months of time.

Here are some of my favorites types of modern-day title sequences, along with some similar After Effects templates that will enable you to (re)create each style with ease.

The Ink Title Sequence

The Marco Polo opening title sequence is comprised of what appears to be paper and traditional ink Chinese paintings. As the ink touches the paper, it morphs and transforms into scenes from the show, such as Kublai Khan’s face and the armies of men. The beauty of this title sequence is that the ink creates such dynamic movement, which sets the stage for the period of the TV show, during the Mongol empire.

A sequence like this took much thought, care, and time. The creators experimented with many different ink fluids and papers before they discovered that sumi ink with dense paper stock was their best medium. As the team hand-painted the images, everything was filmed at a high frame rate, then composited and graded in post.

If you don’t have the budget to film your own ink fluid designs, however, you can try using this Ink Display After Effects Template or this Inspiring Ink Slideshow Template, which reveals scenes within ink. Simply edit the text and drag and drop your own images.


The “Titles” in the Film Sequence

Other films take a more minimal approach by embedding simple title credits within the film’s opening scene. The Gattaca opening titles are animated onscreen using a simple blur-in and blur-out effect. The titles are interspersed throughout a film montage depicting the film’s main character.

While it appears to be minimal compared to some of the more elaborate illustrated sequences, it was also carefully crafted. The extreme close-up shots of fingernail clipping, shaving, and blood samples, all slowly reveal the complex life of our main character. It also raises key questions that will be answered throughout the film: Why is this guy so carefully grooming himself? Why does he have urine and blood samples in a fridge?

Today, Netflix binge-watching encourages people to fast forward through opening title sequences, de-valuing the artform. This is why integrating titles into an opening scene or perhaps creating new, yet similar opening titles, for each episode (if it’s a TV series) may bring more value to the viewer. Take, for example, the documentary series on artists Abstract: Each episode integrates the artist’s work within the title sequence. If one fast-forwarded, you would be missing out.

You can easily (re)produce opening titles like the ones from Gattaca using something like this Defocus Title After Effects Template. Simply remove the lens flares from the template and replace with your own film footage.


The Double Exposure Title Sequence

There is also a current trend of blending two or more videos together to produce what is called the “double exposure” effect. As we’ve seen in the extremely memorable True Detective opening sequence, within the silhouettes of characters are videos of manufacturing buildings. There is also a moment where half the character’s head is a the factory building itself. As the title sequence evolves, we see the use of fire and the cross throughout as well. Using this double-exposure effect you can show a lot of complex imagery.

This effect can be created in After Effects using track mattes and a variety of blend modes, but you can also use templates that enable you to simply drag and drop in your own content. Here are two templates you can use to create your own double exposure opening title sequence: Detective Titles Templates and Double Exposure Template.


The Illustrated Title Sequence

There are, of course, entirely illustrated opening title sequences that no template could ever replace. The Jessica Jones opening title sequence was painted and digitally animated. Most of the sequence was composed to come from the main character’s point of view. For a living, she is a private investigator, taking photos of people in their private lives. Thus, there are lots of silhouettes within this mysterious and painted New York landscape.

You do not, however, need to be a painter to replicate this. Using some silhouette graphics and video from the Pond5 collection, you can apply Premiere Pro Effects, such as the posterize, turbulent displace, and brush stroke effects, to achieve this effect. In this YouTube tutorial, I show you how to recreate this effect in Adobe Premiere Pro:

Explore media used in this tutorial:

Need more info on how to work with After Effects templates? Get started here.

What are your favorite title sequences and approaches? Let us know in a comments below! In the meantime, check out more tutorials on my YouTube channel to learn more about video editing and production techniques.