Saturday, February 04, 2012

Title Sequence: The Pacific

There have been several very powerful movies made about war over the past decade and a half.  Saving Private Ryan was the first in the new breed that honestly showed the brutality of combat.  That continued with the television mini-series Band of Brothers and, more recently, The Pacific.  My wife won't watch those kinds of shows.  I don't blame her.  But when the shows are well done, I'm riveted.

The title sequence for The Pacific was particularly meaningful for me.  This one featured charcoal drawings of soldiers in combat, blended into brief clips from the show, along with close-ups of charcoal being dragged over the paper, disintegrating as it went.  As an artist, and as a military vet, these are powerful images.  I watched the sequence closely every time it played.

A friend sent me a link last night to a site that described how this title sequence was created.  It's on the website ArtoftheTitle.com, a well-put-together site that discusses how movie and TV title sequences are conceived, developed, and executed.  For The Pacific, they had about 2 1/2 minutes to set the stage, establish the idea of ordinary guys caught up in a unbelievably violent world, and create an emotional involvement with the viewer.  That's a hard task.

Their use of "combat art" was unusual and very effective.  The rough charcoal drawings are exactly the kind of drawings that a combat artist would make - quick, unfinished, capturing a split-second in a violent world, or observing a soldier in a quiet moment.  I'm as moved by those drawings now as when I saw them on TV.

What is so valuable about this article is the description of how they put it all together.  Part was a team effort: lots of talented people bouncing ideas off each other.  Part of it was putting together an "inspiration sheet" with lots of images - photos, drawings, prints, materials, some from war, some not - of things that they thought might be included.  This, I think, is a wonderful idea.  When I'm working on a new painting, I put lots of ideas into my head and let them percolate; often I'll do a lot of drawings, or collect some images on my computer or mark pages in a book.  But I haven't actually put them all up on a board to look at all day long.  This is something that I'm going to have to try, whenever I get a studio again.  (That day is coming ... )

From the inspiration sheet they came up with three alternative approaches.  Once they and the producers (Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg - you don't get much heavier than that) decided which to pursue, they went to work: drawing, drawing, drawing, photographing, drawing, combining, recombining, and drawing some more.  Hundreds of drawings and photos.  In the middle of it, they made some posters as a way to look at it from a different angle, and in the process came up with the iconic image of the soldier carrying his buddy.  They combined the drawings with video clips, reworked them to flow with the music, drew some more, and finally locked down the sequence and put it into final production.  Just the description of it sounded like a dream assignment.  Man, I would love to be involved in something like that!

The site has similar pages for title sequences for lots of other movies and TV shows: Batman, Fight Club, Mad Men, Soylent Green, The Naked Gun, and Zombieland, to name but a very few.  I haven't looked at any of them yet because I'm still fascinated by the whole process of making the sequence for The Pacific.

Go take a look.  If you're any kind of a visual artist, you'll find something here of value.

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