Nailing the opening title of your film is important for a number of reasons. Usually it’s the first thing your audience sees on-screen that introduces them to your story, which means that it has to capture its tone and prepare your viewers for what is about to unfold. They don’t necessarily have to be intricate undertakings (Lars von Trier’s simple opening title from Antichrist is probably one of my favorites), but if you want to learn techniques that will help you create something epic, Aetuts+ shares some tutorials that break down how to recreate the titles from some big Hollywood movies.
Antonio Cerri takes us through each of the three tutorials below: title sequences for Cloud Atlas, 300: Rise of an Empire, and Gravity.Cerri utilizes After Effects primarily, but he also works in Illustrator, Cinema 4D, as well as a new script called Dojo Extruder, so if you’re not familiar with any of these programs then these videos might be a little difficult to follow. (Aetuts+ levels all three at “intermediate” in difficulty.)
But don’t let that stop you from taking a crack at it — or at least seeing how more advanced tools work. In each of the titles, I’ve linked to the original Aetuts+ article, which provides further information, as well as the source files. Enjoy!
Cerri starts out in Illustrator to prep the mask lines and logo before moving the project into After Effects where he demonstrates two really interesting techniques: animating the strokes from the Cloud Atlas title sequence and using a gradient wipe for the day/night transition.
To start, Cerri uses Cinema 4D to model and style the logo and the sky — in fact, most of the tutorial is dedicated to walking you through that process. Once the 3D model of the logo is completed in Cinema 4D, the project is exported to After Effects, where Cerri demonstrates how to color correct the sequence, as well as achieve the flash lighting effect.
If you were overwhelmed by the introduction to programs you’ve never used before in the previous tutorials, no worries — you’ll only need After Effects to recreate the title sequence for Gravity. One 3rd party tool Cerri uses, though, is a free script called Dojo Extruder, which automates the creation of pseudo 3D extrusion. (You can download it, as well as learn how to use it here.)
Cerri then walks us through creating the lens flares, which at first glance seem to be pretty simple and straightforward, but as he points out, the flare is created using an interesting splitting technique. He also explains that it’s possible on optical flares, to “add custom images that are automatically converted to lens objects.”
If you want to take on the challenge of other titles, Aetuts+ has an ongoing tutorial series dedicated to replicating Hollywood movie titles. You can check them out here.