‘Ad Astra,’ ‘Game of Thrones’ Credit Designers Explain How to Create the Perfect Title Sequence

Zoe Hewitt

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Credit sequences may seem like a time for viewers to grab some popcorn before the show, but enjoying the complex packages — carefully fashioned to transition viewers into the world on-screen — will add to the enjoyment of a movie or a TV show, or even a video game.

Richie Adams, founder of River Road Creative, whose most recent credit work was on the Brad Pitt starrer “Ad Astra,” says part of good design is ensuring the credits reflect the production’s narrative, themes and style. While watching an early cut of the project, Adams picked up on the repeated use of camera flares in the cinematography and pitched the idea of setting the credits to an arrangement of those flares. “At times, that offers an unsettling feel,” explains Adams, “and at other times, they’re just beautiful.”

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Adams used a typeface that reflected ancient Rome, since the movie draws its title from Latin, and the unusual red hue he added was meant to feel a bit unsettling while bringing viewers into the world of the film. The color was designed to appear linked to the flare, “as if you’re seeing something in that world that it’s connected to,” explains Adams.

Credit sequences can be tied to projects in various ways, such as the Emmy-winning titles from “Game of Thrones,” which changed with each episode. Angus Wall, founder of Elastic and a four-time Emmy winner for main title design, is the creative director behind the show’s extraordinary look.  

The credits were conceived of as a way to provide information about the geography of the world, as a map might appear at the beginning of a novel. “You wouldn’t want to get that narratively,” says Wall, “because it would be very expository and boring considering the show, but there is a need for it because the world is so elaborate.”

The sequence morphed each week to reflect the locations visited in the episode. The elaborate look involved modeling, surfacing, design and animation, a process that took about a year initially, a time frame that Wall, who also has two Oscars for film editing, calls “luxurious” and well beyond the typical weeks or months credit teams usually have.

For video game “Gears 5,” the latest release in the “Gears of War” franchise, Noah Harris created a credit sequence that supported the names and narrative in the form of a nightmare with a photorealistic look. That made it more abstracted from the game, going from dream to reality — from one state to another, he explains.

Harris notes that video games themselves are far more cinematic these days, with a look that blurs the boundaries “between what high culture is and isn’t.” He adds that credit sequences in all these mediums are now recognized as an art form aside from the projects to which they’re attached.  

There was a “fine line to tread” between creating something that was abstract enough to support the credits roll and something that was also able to tell a story, says Harris, who explains he had 90 seconds of time to blend a narrative with imagery “passive enough to accept the titles and be beautiful as well.” 

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