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How Title Sequences Affect How We Watch Movies and TV

Mad Men
Weiner Bros./AMC TV

Everyone knows Alfred Hitchcock’s name. But do you know Saul Bass, or what he’s famous for? If you do, this video’s right up your alley. (And if you don’t, now is the perfect time to find out!)

Bass, of course, was an iconic graphic designer and eventual filmmaker who came up with a number of legendary title sequences for films like Hitchcock’s ‘Psycho’ and ‘North By Northwest,’ as well as ‘Grand Prix’ for John Frankenheimer and a number of Martin Scorsese classics like ‘Goodfellas,’ ‘Cape Fear’ and ‘Casino.’ Bass’ influence over the art and craft of title design can be felt on such modern television shows as ‘Mad Men,’ and Steven Spielberg definitely borrowed from Bass for both ‘Catch Me If You Can’ and ‘The Adventures of Tintin.’

But Bass wasn’t the only visual genius working in the medium of film and TV title design, and you can learn plenty more about the process that goes into some of the more memorable opening montages, why they’re so important to how we process them as viewers.  In a new video posted to PBS Arts’ OFF BOOK series, this informative clip runs through so many recent examples, from the brilliant ‘Zombieland’ opening to the films of David Fincher and a handful of contemporary James Bond thrillers – which historically have been known for their inventive title treatments.

It is an underappreciated art, one that’s commendably celebrated in this behind-the-scene featurette (as one artist says, “It’s a movie within a movie”). PBS Arts is a web-only series that tries to give viewers a look into the creative process. This video on title sequences is a must watch, particularly if you find yourself watching visually stimulating opening sequences for films like ‘Blue Valentine’ or Fincher’s ‘The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo’ and wondering, “How did they do that?”

Here’s the clip, courtesy of PBS Arts:

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