The paradoxical evolution of titles


SCREEN AFRICA EXCLUSIVE: Tim Horwood, channel director at
MTV Base, believes that in recent years there has been somewhat of a paradoxical
evolution in terms of the visual quality of television shows and title sequences in
particular. He shares with Screen Africa his thoughts on the ongoing developments
within this content genre.

In the last few years there seems to have been an increase in the quality
of television programming. How has this affected the production of title sequences?

Certain sectors of the TV industry have seen a massive increase in budgets and
resulting high-end output rivalling even feature films. Conversely, in other areas,
budgets have decreased considerably and yet some of these less expensive
productions are commanding the lion’s share of viewership. No matter what budget
you are working with, the effectiveness of a production – be it a TV show or a title
sequence – remains in its relevance to the audience and its ability to tell a story,
making “quality’ a very subjective term.

How much importance do South African producers place on the title

It really depends on the channel and the producers, but I think overall not enough
attention is placed on the opening sequence. Generally, SA producers have smaller
teams than our international counterparts and the reality is that priority is often
given to the content of the show itself versus the actual opening sequence. Often,
the responsibility for the titles is put onto the editor who is expected to slap some
highlights together, sprinkle on a few graphics and voila!

Often title sequences are given less consideration within a budget – do you feel this is the case and has there been any change in this over the last few years?

This is pretty much the standard situation all over the world; very often the title
sequence can be treated as a bit of an after-thought when it comes to the budget,
even by some of the biggest productions. It is often up to the creatives working on the sequence to work within quite tight budget limitations and yet still come up with
something brilliant. It is often within these confines that some of the best work is
achieved. At Viacom International Media Networks (VIMN) Africa, we have been recognised for full 3D big budget title sequences but have also won awards for work shot for virtually zero budget using innovative techniques like stop frame animation.

How intensive is a brief when creating a title sequence? Is it very specific?
Are you given some room for your own ideas and creativity?

Again, this varies considerably based on who the producers of the show are and
what kind of level of production you are looking at. Some producers have a very
specific vision of what they want the titles to look like, others really do give the
creative team the freedom to interpret and conceptualise the piece. It is always
important for the creatives to intimately understand the essence of the show, the
nuances, the vibe etc, and that process can take quite a lot of time and alignment.
Often the creatives will spend time on set with the writers, directors and cast and
immerse themselves in the production so that they can truly reflect the nuance of
the show in the titles. Other times you are just given a few days to work it out and
deliver something effective!

How important a role do music and animation play?

The use of music and animation are important editorial choices that can contribute
to the atmosphere and overall success or failure of the title sequence.

What role does a title sequence play in the mind of the viewer?

A great title sequence should act as a tease, contributing both information and
atmosphere to the viewer, and encouraging them to engage with the programme.

Has audience viewing behaviour (like time shifted viewing or access via
digital platforms) played any role in the increasing quality of title sequences? Is it
more important to grab a viewer’s attention in our multiplatform consumer choice
driven world?

There has been a movement in some sectors to shorten the title sequence and to
get right to the point. With the introduction of digital media, and the resulting fight
to hold the audiences’ attention from the so-called “second screen’ there is a much
shorter attention span particularly within the younger demographic; brands like MTV
have consequently evolved content like promos and title sequences to match the
shorter, bite-sized content that our audiences are consuming on an hourly basis.

Any personal favourite title sequences?

I really like the work that Hugo Moss (UK) does. He works on some really big
international productions, but often has very small budgets to work with. He is
forced to think of inexpensive and yet effective creative solutions.


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