Sunday, 7 June 2015

Screen Titles and Style Guides

A few notes on filmmaking practice that may be useful thought fodder to start-up independents.

When adding text to title sequences, one may want to pay some attention to the white space on the screen. White space is the relationship between text and imagery and it can radically determine the composition being aimed for by simply adjusting the x and y coordinates of where text and imagery sit in relation to each other. Two particular adjustments regarding the text itself you will might want to focus on when determining how your text sits within any given space is leading and kerning.

Kerning determines the spacial values between each grapheme (little squiggle we call letters) and leading will adjust the spacial value vertically. Observing these factors in design decisions hones visual awareness. Any individual who understands design concepts learns to speak their own visual language as well as being able to translate and use universal ideas to communicate to others also.

Ho w w o r   ds are placed w ill de term ine mean

White Space is an important function in these design decisions and should not just be an empty area to fill up, if you examine the Gestalt of a design, one will notice that the asymmetrical or symmetrical area of your image has its own shape also. Have a look at this image below by Edgar Rubin Gestalt, the Danish phenomenologist.

Verso, Recto and Gutter are also three areas that can assist with determining title layouts. These terms are traditionally used for page structures of books but using the idea of the "rule of thirds" I am using it to describe the horizontal spread of a screen. Verso is the left area of your screen, gutter is the centre pillar, and rector is the right area. All these nuances are useful to consider when creating titles, I find there are so many mimicking generic title sequences out there, it makes all the difference, if you have a difference. Once all these nuances are brought together with a style that pleases you, the next step is creating a 'style guide' in order to pass on to any post-production staff you hire for the next job. Even if the work is different from the last, it is good to have a uniform set of values you can transfer over, saving time and possibly money.

And lastly a word on not aiming for innovation and originality.

What is a style guide? A style guide is a manual to assist teams systematize approaches to layout and essential design features of a company, group or project. A readily accessible and comprehensive style guide might be the one used by Mac which covers pretty much everything there is to do with outputting material under the 'Mac' brand. For a more simplistic and visually stimulating example of a style guide, have a look at the Western Australian Tourism style guide for their WA Brand logo.

If you have a read of the Mac style guide you will notice that even the tiniest detail is covered to ensure that any document produced under the banner of Apple Macintosh assimilates exactly with any other corresponding document produced. It is by using these style guides that the individuality of enormous companies and especially so companies like Apple that are recently burgeoning with an Open-Source and GNU License like attitude (See Dashboard Gadgets, Widgets, and iPhone Developers) are maintained in a soft-environment. However, it can be used in any output of media, such as digital video, especially if you are a start-up video production business.

It should have a specific colour palette but it should also cover content as well. A style guide is mirror template of all that is included or can be included in your project. A starting point to mapping out a style guide might be to designate specific font type to the project. What kind of font might be used for credits, titles, etc.

Also you might want to consider navigation if you plan on shipping your films via DVD. Where do specific navigation buttons sit? What size are the "Return to Menu" or "Exit" tabs? How do we identify a link in your interface? Do you use arrows or something other for linear navigation?

Style guides must also factor in sounds and music so it is important to define these also.

Terminology in the style guide is a big factor in making sure your project retains its identity as a whole. The way that one person writes a sentence or a word can be radically different to the way someone else might. Consider how certain words are spelled or used. For instance words with CamelCase or CamelCaps are a big one to watch out for, as an example the word CinemaScope might be broken up by another person as Cinema Scope if they were unfamiliar with the term. Be aware of words that might have room for hyphens such as any Compound words, you might think that writing "Up to date" will be translated by everyone that way until you Beta Test your project and you see "Up-to-date" popping up everywhere.

Your style guide may want to give a few paragraphs to the objectives, themes and philosophies behind the project and the team. Or a general overview of the this behind your filmmaking practice.

Make sure you include a check-list of the most essential rules in your Style Guide so that any further development can be easily accounted for. A list of Verbs (Doing words) may also be useful when creating a Style Guide particularly for an Interactive Interface.

For a neat over-view of compiling your style guide have a look at the slide-show developed by Janice Gelb from Microsystems Inc called "Developing a Company Style Guide".

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