Marvel’s ‘Inhumans’ Title Sequence Producers Reveal Tricks to the Trade

Photo Source: ABC/Marvel

As one of the first things audiences see, title sequences are paramount in setting the tone for any television show. Creative director William Lebeda and designer Cecilia De Jesus, who produce the title sequence for Marvel’s “Inhumans” on ABC, break down their craft. “Marvel’s Inhumans” airs on Friday nights at 9:00 p.m.

Title sequences help establish a series.
William Lebeda: “Title sequences really set the visual and stylistic tone for the rest of the show. You get the sense of these [characters] that you’re going to see as you go through the show.”

Cecilia De Jesus: “A title sequence can be as simple as type over a picture, or it can be a whole involved sequence that can be something relating to the show. It can also be some interpretation of the show.”

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Actors have a dual role in opening credits.
WL: “There’s usually no dialogue in them. It ends up being very much about pantomime. There’s this funny line where actors in title sequences are often both themselves and their characters. You’ve got to walk that line of being in character, but maybe you’re doing something out of character because we need them to do a certain movement or gesture.”

Marvel’s title sequences are their own attraction.
WL: “For things like Marvel shows, they become known for their title sequences. It’s become a real signature part of what they’re doing. There’s a lot of care and affection for them as part of the show now, as opposed to the thing that gets done two minutes before.”

Production is highly specific.
WL: “One thing about title sequences is they tend to be a little more technical in terms of production than regular scene acting. Like, ‘I need you to take three steps and then count to two and then walk again.’ And we try to be really clear and show the actor lots of things and get them really comfortable with what’s happening [so they] still have room to bring their own energy to it—which is also part of the fun of working with actors: to have their energy coming back to us and letting us respond to it and taking that back to editing. When we get to work with actors for titles, it’s a joy.”

Establishing tone can prove difficult.
CD: “Finding the right tone is the big [challenge]. When we’re just thinking of ideas for the title sequence, nailing that right tone is the initial challenge, because sometimes we don’t get that much information and they do want to keep [details under wraps]. With ‘Inhumans’ in particular, Marvel was pretty hush-hush, so it was really open to interpretation. [It] was a really big challenge right at the front.”

WL: “Most of the time we have a conversation with the show’s creators and writers and sometimes we’ll get to read a draft of the script or see a pilot, and sometimes we don’t. At that point, our process internally is to get the team together and brainstorm and start talking about some ideas.”

As TV has evolved, so have title sequences.
WL: “Because of the world of binge-watching, shows live in different places now. Every bit of the show has to be interesting. Especially in television, we’ve evolved way past the expected head-turn kind of television titles of the 1970s and ’80s. Now there are elaborate visual effects sequences or elaborate design sequences or very clever sequences shot with the actors for the shows. Audiences are more sophisticated, and technology has gotten more sophisticated.”

Title sequences tell a story on their own.
WL: “They are an interesting combination of a lot of things: design; typography; there’s levels of computer graphics; there’s writing. It’s one of the things where, if you’re interested in doing it, it helps to look at not only other title sequences, but at movies and shows and think about telling a story. Even if it’s an abstracted story, it’s still a story and it has to hang together and it has to take you to something and have a beginning, a middle, and an end. It’s not just picking pretty type. You’ve got to be able to tell a story and capture the whole of the show in that short sequence.”

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