Stanley Kubrick Season: Promotional Title Sequence

Stanley Kubrick Archive

The third Motion Graphics project at the NFTS involved becoming engrossed in the work of acclaimed film-maker Stanley Kubrick. The brief called for a 40 sec introductory sequence for a hypothetical film season on Film 4, along with relevant branding.

In research and development stage of this project we were lucky enough to visit The Stanley Kubrick Archive in London and have the opportunity to examine first hand a large collection of props, early design work, sketches and correspondence from the making of his classic films. Examples included the original typewriter with the original ‘All work and no play’ pages from The Shinning, special effects tests from 2001, prop masks from Eyes Wide Shut, and possibly the most exciting (especially for designers) original poster concepts, title sequence designs and letters from Saul Bass.

My approach to this project was to design a sequence with a modern aesthetic mixed withart deco influences to suggest classic cinema. An artistic, sophisticated design that suited the craft inherent in all of Kubrick’s films.

I decided to take the titles of my selected films (we had to pick a minimum of four) and break up the letters into abstract shapes and details that would move across and behind each other intermixed icons to represent each film. Abstraction was the plan. I didn’t want to present anything that was too obvious or predictable. The simple shapes of the letters also suited the block like branding of Film 4.

My first draft storyboard presented this idea with notes about camera moves and the use of depth of field, plus textures and some ideas of possible icons I could include. The logo designs that followed offered an opportunity to test out the designs and how far I could take details before things started to feel too busy. Stage 01 below presents all of my ideas together, resolving to a version with just clean white text.

My next storyboard further develops the compositions of each scene, how all elements move against each other and how they transition from scene to scene. At this point I also decided on the icons that would run through the sequence to represent each film.

Using stills from my colour storyboard I assembled an animatic set to music from 2001 which gave me a good idea of how the movement and timing was working with the music, all of which I had to keep within 40 seconds.

Then working in Illustrator I created two key scenes in a more developed visual style that represented how I wanted to the finished film to look. From here I created all of the assets (again in Adobe Illustrator) and set up the scenes using a parallax technique in After Effects, shot with cameras using a very shallow depth of field to recreate that layered and out of focus feel.

The cameras were deliberately set up to draw attention to specific elements, requiring maybe two or three viewings to catch every reference that might be in a scene.

A good example of this are the shadow shapes of the bomber during the Dr. Strangelove sequence or the subtle suggestion of the spinning bone from 2001.

The only scene that I struggled to find a place for in the final animation was the sequence for Full Metal Jacket. This was partly due to a composition that I never felt happy with, plus squeezing it in resulted in a whole that felt too fast for the music. So I decided to cut it, but here is an example of where it was heading.

One of my favourite projects at the NFTS so and my first proper use of After Effects cameras for an entire sequence. Also a lesson in how using cameras and depth of field greatly increase render times, reaching around 6 hours for the final piece.

Selected Stills >