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Forget the Film, Watch the Titles

31 May 2009 Posted by Courtney Taniguchi in Design, Film, Animation

img_5837.jpgTitle Designers Garson Yu, Kyle Cooper, Jamie Caliri, Karin Fong and Danny Yount getting their favorite superhero poses on

Macro shots, concrete poetry, good music, an interesting life story and innovation. These are some of the essential ingredients to a good opening title sequence for a film. At last Wednesday’s Flux Screening at the Hammer Museum, Flux hosted five of the leading title designers today–Kyle Cooper, Karin Fong, Jamie Caliri, Danny Yount and Garson Yu–to present their work, their inspirations, personal journeys and exclusive never-before-seen pieces in the art of title design. The evening was presented in collaboration with the Dutch online channel, Submarine, and their microsite Forget the Film, Watch the Titles, which chronicles title sequences as an art form.

img_5856.jpgFilmmaker Danny Yount of Prologue

img_5540.jpgFilmmaker Jamie Caliri of Duck

The evening began with an immensely compelling and personal story from the self-taught and Emmy-award winning filmmaker Danny Yount who recounted his journey of some 35 jobs before landing in the world of title design. Along the way he shared how his mother’s amateur family photography growing up inspired much of the context and imagery that drives him today. Yount’s presentation included behind-the-scenes clips from RocknRolla, which was inspired by UK street artist Banksy tags layered with art inspired by graphic novels, and also animated unlayering explosions of robot parts for Iron Man.

Following Yount was Jamie Caliri of Duck, one of the freshest designers on the scene. Caliri’s animated and stylistic opening for Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events was the benchmark that put him on the title design map. Caliri opened with an anecdote about his childhood and his early fascination with the arts. He consequentially shared his adoration for animation, as seen with his stop motion film. One of his feats can be seen in the opening for Showtime’s United States of Tara where he used pop up books in stop motion.

img_5602.jpgFilmmaker Karin Fong of Imaginary Forces

The enticing pull of a good title sequence makes an audience not only want to see the film but also sets the stage for the narrative of the story. Karin Fong of Imaginary Forces was the next presenter and the sole female of the group. Her range of work showcased inspiration from the classic 1963 Pink Panther cartoon that later obtained its own television show after its popularity in theatres. Fong designed the main titles for Pink Panther 2 and shared the evolution of how her storyboards came to life with each title card “traveling”the world. Fong also unveiled her latest design, the opening sequence for Terminator: Salvation and revealed how she developed the “machine vision” technique used throughout the film. Fong and her team used the same video camera that NASA uses on Mars to detect not only shapes and colors but also distance, illustrating objects through long and short streaks.

img_5685.jpgFilmmaker Garson Yu of yU+Co.

img_5767.jpgFilmmaker Kyle Cooper of Prologue

Garson Yu appeared to be the “intellectual” designer of the group with his studied sense of perspective. He opened with a brief history of art and how it has been perceived over time starting from the Impressionists and ending up in his world of motion graphics. Yu’s artistic reflections were then presented in manifestations throughout his work with such stunning scenes from 300, An Inconvenient Truth, Matchstick Men, The Italian Job, and The Terminal.

The final designer of the evening was Kyle Cooper (who came directly from the live taping of American Idol finale with his young daughter). Cooper holds the distinction as the only designer who has worked with all of the previous designers at some point in their careers and is considered to have changed the face of title design with his work on the film Se7en. He presented his work through a computer program that listed his projects in a nebula where it could lead to either what inspired him as a child (the minimalist To Kill a Mockingbird sequence) or to his new and never-before-seen work. Over the course of his presentation we saw technique (Gattaca) and then simplicity (Wimbeldon) and later the range of amazing pieces he has done over the past 15 years. Impressive is an understatement.

The art of the title sequence demonstrates beauty, form, function and possibility. The evening itself was a special reunion of sorts for the filmmakers but even more special for us, the audience, to have seen the many directions that this art form has taken all of them.

img_5517.jpgRemco Vlaanderen, Femke Wolting and Tommy Pallotta of Submarine

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