The Art of the ‘Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World’ Title Sequence
The reliably amazing The Art of the Title blog has published an uncommonly in-depth feature on the opening credits of Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World. Directed by Edgar Wright and created by design/animation outfit Shynola, the sequence is just the first in a memorable series of seamless mash-ups of graphics, film and animation that beautifully translate the spirit of Bryan Lee O'Malley's graphic novels to the screen. The Art of the Title talks to Wright abut Quentin Tarantino's suggestion that Scott Pilgrim employ an opening title sequence and why he chose to pursue its particular aesthetic. Also interviewed is Shynla's Richard Kenworthy, who discusses his research for the Scott Pilgrim credits and early test footage, which includes what he described as "an 8-bit epileptic eye-fight." And of course, concept designer and head storyboard artist Oscar Wright talks about the brilliant low-res version of Universal Pictures' logo animation and music.
Despite being such an integral part of Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World, the opening titles were not part of Edgar Wight's original vision of the film. Indeed, he'd never employed such a thing before, and only did so on the suggestion of filmmaker Quentin Tarantino.
He felt we needed a title sequence at the start to let people settle in and hint more about what we were about to see. We did a very rough mock up of this in the AVID with white on black titles along with waveform graphics. Even this temp sequence did the trick of giving the film more of a sense of occasion and a very distinct break between the prologue and the first scene moving the story forward. It also helped to have Beck's loudest soundtrack song blasting for two minutes straight. So we knew even with our mock up that the front titles made a big difference to the movie.
The scratched-film/animated look of the Scott Pilgrim titles was already in Wright's mind when he approached design film Shynola about taking on the assignment.
My brief to Shynola was for it to be like 2001 meets Sesame Street; a marriage of the mindfuck of the Stargate sequence with the early childlike animation of the Children's Workshop. I also showed them the titles ofFaster Pussycat, Kill, Kill as I adored that use of the optical track in the opening. I had also done one video myself for Charlotte Hatherley which was full of syncopated scratches and film dirt. They had a whole bunch of references too that were all on the same page as us.
As the final product demonstrates, the collaboration was a both fruitful and fun, but also technically challenging for Wright and Kenworthy's team.
Edgar's involved in every bit of the process, and that's why his films are the way they are. He cares about the tiniest of details and pours over every frame. Once we'd settled on the idea of having a visual representation of each character, he was wetting his pants about having the right number of x's scratched onto the screen to indicate the order in which that ex appeared. He's completely living in that world.
We cheated a little. Scratch film is a little unpredictable, and what we needed was control over what we were seeing on screen as we had to finish the sequence really quickly. So firstly we doped out the entire sequence on the computer, so we could accurately synchronise to the music, then make micro adjustments to be sure of what we were getting. Instead of scratching directly onto film we then set up up a system of scratching onto sheets of acetate, which is much the same thing really. We could get about a second of film onto one sheet.
More powerful for some viewers is the Universal Pictures logo that prefaces the film, recreated for Scott Pilgrim as an old school Nintendo-style animation with thrillingly low-fi music. As concept designer and storyboard artist Oscar Wright told The Art of the Title, the idea was simple, pure, and just as satisfying to the filmmakers as it was to the audience.
The original idea was to treat the logo like some crappy low res, low frame-rate fmv you might find at the start of some of those games. We didn't really budge much from that concept. We explored a few more elaborate 3D orientated ideas, but eventually came back to the very simple take on it that appears in the film. With the letters separated from the official logo, and a 3D spinning globe supplied by VooDooDog, I constructed this basic animation sequence along with the transition into the first shot of the film. I then applied the pixelated look and brought the frame-rate down to 4's so it became very steppy. The excellent 8-bit music really seals the deal and every time I've seen the film with an audience it gets a laugh. Very satisfying for such a simple idea.
Fans of Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World and film design in general would be well advised to visit The Art of the Title for more of their Scott Pilgrim coverage, which goes far more in-depth than we could reasonably excerpt here. The full feature includes test versions of the title sequence, storyboards and other precious little materials that will only enhance your appreciation of this truly awesome movie.