Our newest TV obsession, Stranger Things, features one of the coolest title sequences we’ve seen in a long time. Watching it repeatedly got us thinking about all those credit rolls that burn themselves into your memory. From the handwritten simplicity of La Belle Et La Bete (1946), to the seizure-inducing Enter The Void (2009) credits, these works of art establish the feature ahead. The combination of sound design, music, and imagery during the sequence can put audience members at ease, or on the edges of their seats. (The intro to Se7eN still gives us chills.)
So, we have to tip our hat to the folks behind the Stranger Things sequence, Imaginary Forces. It’s a beautiful thing when the intro of a show is so downright awesome that it makes you want to watch every ’80s Carpenter and Spielberg film out there. If you don’t know the Imaginary Forces name, you probably know their work: Marvel’s intro identity, Pacific Rim, Boardwalk Empire, and a slew of others, covering everything from small to big screen (including the above-mentioned Se7ven). To pay tribute to their great work, we took a crack at the sequence ourselves (with a Pond5 “Create Things” twist). Here’s how we did it using Pond5 assets, along with some plug-ins from our friends at Red Giant.
Preparing the Text
As we started analyzing the text and font for the sequence, we noticed three main components that were necessary to create the look of Imaginary Forces’ piece: the right font, the right texture, and that quintessential ’80s film glow.
Using the Benguiat font, we composed the text in Photoshop. We got our color relatively close, as well as our texture overlay.
After we got our text layer in order, we moved over to After Effects to animate and add effects to our text. The first thing we needed to do was isolate the letters so we could add individual motion for the final reveal.
After we got the text layers in order, we started adding in our first keyframes for the animation. Since we were going to be scaling the composition and doing various camera movements, the focus here was mainly on the ease-in/out of the letters so they all came to their final position at relatively the same time.
For the closeups, like the beginning of the Stranger Things titles, we created close-up versions of a few of the letters. This way, we could still get the detail and texture without AE blurring it if we were to scale within the program. Remember, vectors scale cleanly (with Rasterize on) but bitmaps can get blurry. We added some light motion to the big letters and then brought those Pre-Comps into our effects composition.
After we tackled the keyframes and motion of the letters, it was time to start putting the final color and effects to the animation. We separated the animations into a few different “slates” and then created duplicate layers to add various effects and motion to recreate the glow and twitch seen in the show’s open. The top layer was used as our base, to show off the texture and color. The two layers below have a Wiggle Expression placed on the Position, and Red Giant’s Shine effect to recreate the glow. We threw some Gaussian Blur on the lower layers to help soften the effects.
The above image is with the Shine effects turned off, and the one below is with them on. The difference is subtle, but refining the glow and shine of the letters created much better results.
There’s definitely something to be said about not being quite as good as the original, but it’s a valiant attempt to recreate a piece that we have definitely been fawning over.
Note: If you want to up your Stranger Things game even more, check out this Quicktip from Seth Worley at Red Giant.