Next time you watch a movie, pay close attention to the opening credits. Chances are Kyle Cooper probably had a hand in its creation. Producers have been clamoring for the “Cooper touch” since his debut with 1995’s Se7en. Graduating from Yale’s graduate program in graphic design, Cooper always had an interest in film production. He started working on title sequences as a creative director at the advertising agency R/GA, and it quickly became something that brought it all together for him: type and design, motion and film. Today he has over 150 flawlessly animated film titles under his belt, introducing audiences to movies as varied as Across the Universe, Curious George, Dawn of the Dead, Eurotrip, Sherlock Holmes, Spiderman 2, and Tropic Thunder.
Before Se7en, title sequences seemed dated compared to what was happening visually in other motion-based mediums like music videos and commercials. Cooper shook things up in much the same manner as designer Saul Bass’s legendary intro to The Man With The Golden Arm in 1955. Bass and Cooper reminded the industry that title sequences could do more than just list the names of the actors and the title of the film. In the case of Se7en, Cooper’s title sequence became the first scene of the movie, setting up the villain in a way that is crucial to understanding the rest of the story.
Making a good title sequence, even if it might only last a few minutes, is not something Cooper takes lightly. He has to watch the film, read the script, collect any other materials that might be useful. The research doesn’t stop there. For The Mummy, Cooper ended up creating his own typeface from hieroglyphics to superimpose on other ancient Egyptian inscriptions collected from research. This process, aesthetics aside, might very well be the thing that sets him apart. According to Cooper, he often finds himself competing in the field with title designers who don’t even read the script. Sometimes a sequence will have the pressure of summarizing the story that came before, as with Spider-Man 2. After a year’s worth of scanning vintage comics and motion editing, Cooper created a sequence that shows, in a matter of minutes, the whole story from the first movie.
Cooper’s sensitivity is unrivaled. He goes through each sequence frame by frame, making sure everything from the composition to color correction is flawless. As OCD as this attention to detail sounds, he still maintains a grasp on the bigger picture. It’s this gestalt factor that takes Cooper’s title sequences to the next level. He works with advanced software like Cinema 4D, Adobe After Effects, and Maya. However, Cooper does not neglect “tried and true” old school techniques. He likes to bring bits of reality into the digital realm and use hands-on processes, like using a blowtorch on daguerreotypes. Even Se7en is surprisingly analog. Although it’s animated with Avid, Cooper shot live action and type on film as a traditional film optical.
In 2003 Cooper left to blaze his own trail with a company aptly named “Prologue.” The split from R/GA and the company he co-founded there in 1996, Imaginary Forces, came from his desire to have more of a hand in the actual work, and spend less time managing. He continues to work on opening titles, but has added commercials, network branding, video game and other visual effects sequences into the mix. Aside from expanding his reach, Cooper doesn’t have any crazy goals for the future. He has no qualms just continuing to make good opening sequences. Still, there is no doubt the bar will continue to be raised.
Prologue. N.p., n.d. Web. 27 Apr. 2010. <http://www.prologue.com>.
Imaginary Forces. N.p., n.d. Web. 27 Apr. 2010. <http://www.imaginaryforces.com>.
Andrea, Codrington. Kyle Cooper. London: Laurence King Publishing, 2003. Print.
Gibson, Jon M. “The Dark Genius of Kyle cooper.” Wired, June 2004. Web. 27 Apr. 2010. <http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/12.06/cooper.html>.
“The Incredible Hulk (+ Kyle Cooper Interview).” The Art of the Title Sequence. N.p., 18 May 2009. Web. 27 Apr. 2010. <http://www.artofthetitle.com/2009/05/18/the-incredible-hulk>.
“Kyle Cooper Interview pt. 1/2.” Forget the Film, Watch the Titles. N.p., 2010. Web. 27 Apr. 2010. <http://watchthetitles.com/articles/00170-Kyle_Cooper_interview_pt_1_2>.
Cooper, Kyle. Interview by Garrick Hamm. 2005. Title Design Project. Web. 27 Apr. 2010. <http://www.titledesignproject.com/kyle-cooper/>.
Joe, Shepter. “Imaginary Forces.” Adobe Motion Gallery. Adobe, n.d. Web. 27 Apr. 2010. <http://www.adobe.com/uk/motion/gallery/imgforces/>.