Project Page

narrative title sequenceIn this assignment, you will create a set of images for the title sequence of a ficticious television series of your own devising. You will put these image together in an online slideshow that will serve as a storyboard for that title sequence.

The sequence should comprise between 12 and 30 images.

You will compose the images or "shots" in Photoshop, and sequence and time them in iPhoto (in the Mac labs) or Photo Story 3 (in the PC labs). You will include background music/sound to the slideshow. We will learn how to edit music and other sound files to fit the short timeframe of a title sequence.

An Original Premise or an Adaptation

The premise of your TV series can be entirely original, or can be adapted from a published book, short story, or other non-visual narrative. It may be something in between.

Whether original or adapted, composition of your title sequence should be informed by a critical understanding of the characters, plot-generating conflicts, settings, themes, and tone of the original.

Note that--unlike movies, novels, and stories--the essential conflicts in a television series are usually never resolved until the series ends.

Story and Montage

This one- to two-minute title sequence should be "narrative" in one of two senses (or perhaps a combination of these two):

1. it may diachronically tell a story that takes a character, characters--or perhaps the viewpoint/camera itself-- from one place, time, or situation to another ("this, then this, then this..." or something that happens to a character)

it may use editing or montage synchronically to make something happen to the viewer by arousing tension, anticipation, curiosity, or a sense of discovery, and then either satisfing or overturning it ("this, plus this, plus this" or something that happens to the viewer). This combination of story and presentation is also called "narrative."

We will discuss a number of sample title sequences in class and read Scott McCloud's book Understanding Comics to learn techniques of narrative and montage in visual texts.

Two Models to Avoid

  1. Telling a simple backstory.

    Instead, your title sequence should introduce your series/movie's essential tensions, themes, and tone using a combination of narrative and montage.) See the Gilligan's Island title sequence as a negative example in this regard.
  2. Following the style of title sequences that survey the characters or actors without any any narrative intent.

    Non-narrative title sequences are common and perfectly successful, but won't serve well as models for this particular assignment. As an example, see the title sequence for "Arrested Development," which begins with eight seconds of voiceover narrative--the premise of the show--but which, for the most part, is a visual list of characters/actors.

Technical Visual Criteria

As a storyboard rather than a finished product, you will not be expected to produce shots that realize exact realism in rendering human figures and other visual details. Your characters can even be represented by silhouettes created in Photoshop.

Instead, this assignment will emphasize the composition of shots, backgrounds, and the techniques of sequencing visual images for continuity and other narrative effects.

Another criteria is that your shots be composed to accomdate and highlight textual titles and credits, as well as to work with the kinds of panning and zooming you do without revealing the image edges.


In addition to fulfilling the requirements of excellent commentaries, your Narrative Title Sequence commentary should:

Two Commentary Formats
The commentary should be turned in on paper as specified on the schedule, as well as being posted as a plain HTML file in the same web folder. I will provide you instructions on creating this HTML file.



Snow White (student project example)
Mad Men Title Sequence (narrative and montage)
The Beverly Hillbillies Title Sequence (backstory)
Gilligan's Island Title Sequence (backstory)
Sopranos Titile Sequence (narrative, mise-en-scene)
Art of the Title Sequence
The TV Writer's Vault/Scripted Projects
Writing Loglines that Sell (Writers Store)
About log lines from The Inside Pitch.
Twin Peaks Title Sequence
Compare title sequences for To Kill a Mockingbird and Almost Famous
See also the distiction between diachronic and synchronic structures
Examples of storyboarding: Taxi Driver, Sara Conner Chronicles
the mise-en-scene (pronounced "meez-on-sen")
Camera Work 1
Camera Work 2
Film Analysis: Visual Style
A Personal Appreciation of Title Sequences (GeekingOutOn...)