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How did they do title cards before digital?


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#1 Alex Flowers

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Posted 12 May 2013 - 04:36 PM

Something I've always been curious about. How did they do titles before digital, like the text and colour blocks etc. 


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#2 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 12 May 2013 - 05:55 PM

Generally it was just backlit transparencies / hi-con kodalith art of clear lettering against black -- color could be added by gels on the light box / animation stand or with camera filters or it could be colored in the optical printer step.

 

To overlay it over a picture was a bit more complicated because it couldn't be a simple double-exposure, you had to use hold-out mattes in an optical printer.

 

You took your background image shot on 35mm color negative usually and made a 35mm color interpositive from it.

 

You took your title artwork and photographed it to make one 35mm hi-con b&w copy that had black letters against a clear background and another copy with clear letters against a black background (or colored letters against black, depending on the technique and stock used).

 

The hold-out matte (black lettering on clear film) was run in bi-pack (sandwiched) in front of a color interpositive of the background plate in the projector side of the optical printer.  As the interpositive image was rephotographed onto a new color internegative, the black letters on clear film kept the area occupied by the lettering unexposed to light.  If you had then just developed the internegative, you would have the background image with black letters over it.

 

Then the positive titles (colored or white over black) were exposed onto the internegative.

 

The artwork for the hold-out matte may have incorporated a drop-shadow effect in the lettering so that the final composite with the colored or white titles may have had a drop-shadow effect over the background.

 

There were a number of variations on this so someone who actually did this for a living could probably describe a more accurate workflow.


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#3 Gregg MacPherson

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Posted 12 May 2013 - 06:46 PM

I'm really relieved that David gave a good description of optical titles.

As an indie in the 80s trying to make a 16mm film, at least in NZ, I remember this.

Photo type setter made some high con copy on paper, which I then cut and pasted with glue. Then a litho company made me high con B&W transparencies that I mounted into special cardboard frames. The lab shot high con 35 from these (back lit) so they could then make the mattes. Hey presto (thanks David) the opticals were produced with titles supered over picture.

I also shot some titles for black screen for other projects. Using the same mounted B&W transparencies. Once on a rostrum and another time mounted on a carboard box, with diffusion, a lightbulb inside.

I'm not sure what technology was used in the analogue video era. People shooting on film for TV paid a fortune to dop in titles or product shots in 1" analogue suites. Commercials were often taken to answer print before they got there. At leat they were here.

Edited by Gregg MacPherson, 12 May 2013 - 06:47 PM.

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#4 Gregg MacPherson

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Posted 13 May 2013 - 05:01 AM

 

..... paid a fortune to dop in titles or product shots in 1" analogue suites.....

 
That should have been "drop in". Sorry, terrible typos sometimes.
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#5 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 13 May 2013 - 11:15 AM

Titles for old TV shows were often done on film using an optical printer just like for features. "Character generator" hardware was used in TV studios to put live text over a video feed. See:
http://en.wikipedia....acter_generator
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#6 Alex Flowers

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Posted 13 May 2013 - 02:04 PM

Thanks for your responses. A lab near me has an optical printer, thinking of giving this a shot seeing what I can come up with.


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#7 Brian Drysdale

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Posted 15 May 2013 - 06:08 AM

Before character generators video TV shows used white Letraset lettering on black card, then they'd crush the blacks on the CCU remotes.

 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Letraset


Edited by Brian Drysdale, 15 May 2013 - 06:10 AM.

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