The Visual Language Of Cinema Essay

1579 words - 6 pages

In the 1950s, the movie and broadcast design industries incorporated traditional graphic design with the dynamic visual language of cinema. Today, the creation of film titles and television graphics are mainly created by motion graphic designers.

The first pictures that the viewer experiences is a film’s opening titles. Opening titles have grown as a style of experimental filmmaking in motion pictures, since the 1950’s. In films, the opening credits make the context of a film and establish assumptions about its tone and atmosphere.

One of the first designers to use the storytelling power of the opening and closing credits of a film, is Saul Bass. He used a variety of styles to design credits for films as distinct as Casino (1995) and It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (1963), including animation, live action and type treatments. Saul Bass created opening credit sequences that did not just simply show the credits and open the film, but the sequences were considered short films in themselves that prepared the viewer, for what was to happen.

“We love doing titles. We do them in a nice, obsessive way—we futz with them until we’re happy and do things that nobody else will notice but us . . . There’s a Yiddish word for it, ‘meshugas,’ which is ‘craziness.’ I admire obsessiveness in others.”- Saul Bass (Krasner, 2013: 20)

One of the iconic film sequences created by Bass is Psycho (1960). Even though this title sequence looks vividly simple, the coordination of image and sound is very strong and impressive. On a solid grey background, flat black lines enter the screen from the right hand side, which created a structured pattern and bringing with them uniform sections of cut up type. With a delicate play on foreground/background visual illusion, the flat lines leave to the left hand side of the screen making a plain black background and showing with the first title card: “Alfred Hitchcock”. A group of grey lines come into the screen, but then leave to the right dragging with them and leaving the cut up type of the main title card: “Psycho”.

After a number of entirely synced activity of the main title that highlighted their cuts, the type exits the screen and new lines are brought in, which are vertical. The sequence additionally changes with exchanging horizontal and vertical lines, first bringing the type on to the screen but then pushing it away to make space for the next title card. The result is a rapid and intricate articulation of these innocent looking, but also very jittery and nervous, lines that control the screen. The lines are said to represent a number of different things like prison bars, cityscapes, order, and structure, their behavior and motion while on screen show jitteriness, nervousness, and irregularity. This seems to hint at the fact that appearances can be misleading and confusing. After watching the film then taking a look back at the title sequence, we see that the type is a huge symbolic interpretation of the psychological...

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