Recently, Andrew Kramer did a posting about research he did on retro-tv shows and their titles as part of the work he did for the opening of Fringe a while back. Now that got me to thinking about all the cool old cheesy trailers for movies that I remember as a kid. Stuff like “The Bat” and all those bizare old AIP and Corman movies from the 50’s and 60’s.
Like so much stuff that Andrew does it really gets you to thinking about how the guys from those days did so much with so little… in fact, as cheesy as those title screens were to get the same effects today isn’t as simple as it looks.
Sure, about 90% were nothing but letters on a card – but some of them actually were pretty cool in their cheesy animation. Today we just load up a copy of After Effects or Nuke and 20 minutes later you have something but if you want to actually get the feel of those old grainy films from the drive ins and Creature Feature Friday nights, you really need to just dive in and well… do one.
So I took a bash at it. For those interested we’re using some blur effects, several layers of 3d text with lighting, blurs, turbulent displacements, and a basic grain/old film look to the background which is
just a still photo on a 3d Layer we pull into. Not bad – still missing something and it’s not… quite cheesy enough yet. I’ll keep playing with it but we’re getting there. Keep in mind… the goal here is to match that campy creepy horror from circa 1960. Anyone can do a “Saw” or something like in fact there are plug-ins that allow you to pretty much type in the basics – click a button and instant title. There honestly isn’t a lot of art to it – in fact – if you click the youtube link there you’ll see a score of “Horror Title” links across the bottom when it’s done and the number of them that are just endless repeats of the same 12 effects over and over, grainy wavy tv, flickering – jerky over exposures, blood floating in water… it’s pretty dry compared to the old stuff where they didn’t have a computer to do all those effects. They had cardboard, lenses and paint – but they’d play around with it.
Now I used a computer obviously. I’m not a purist who goes out and hand carves the letters from matte board and then shoots them over exposed … I have some sanity left in me. And because I’m not a purist… I did it all in about 30 minutes total time – but the effect is very different from what you see today which is what I wanted. I wanted the whole cheesy grainy retro thring (yes it’s a new word I just created). The point of doing stuff like this is that it’s not just for fun – it gets you thinking about how things were done, the look, the feel, and it forces you to be different to try something new – weird – even if it doesn’t work. In fact, it’s got me thinking about modern variations I can do and new things to come up with that haven’t been tried 100 times before.
We’ll see – it’s a start – and that’s half the fun.