As soon as I heard about Uncredited, a new book on the history and current state of film title design, I bought it. It came out this summer, but I guess I was a little slow on the uptake; my copy came in last week.
At nearly a foot squre with 350 hardbound pages, this is one hefty tome. But given that it touts itself as “the first book to offer a general and historic insight into the role played by graphic design in films, from the dawn of cinema to the present day,” its impressive mass lends it an air of authority.
As you can see from the images on YWFT’s product page, Uncredited is loaded with stills spanning the entire history of cinema, even going back to the Lumiere brothers, before titles existed. The stills are fairly small, but large enough to see typographic details.
The included DVD was a bit of a surprise. I wasn’t surprised that the book came with a DVDâ€”it’s a book about motion design, after allâ€”but I was surprised to find that it was a simple DVD-ROM. No fussy menus or MPEG-2 encoding, just folders corresponding to chapter numbers containing over 100 Sorenson 3 encoded QuickTimes. On the downside, the movies are all 320×240 (with an occasional 400×170).
Let me make one thing perfectly clear before I go on: Uncredited is an excellent resource for motion designers and students of film, graphic design or motion graphics. On the topic of movie titles, it is unparalleled.
Every page is a treasure trove of inspiration and history. The vast majority of the films featured are from the United States and Europe, but there are several examples from the rest of the world. Each set of stills is captioned, with a bold “QT” to indicate movies included on the DVD.
Now that we’re clear on the general value of the book, I should make a couple constructive remarks/warnings for potential buyers. First, I was really hoping for a chronological ordering of film titles. It’d make browsing and reference much easier than the book’s existing schema of decidedly arbitrary topics like “White Over Black” and “Concepts.” To their credit, authors Gemma Solana and Antonio Boneu lay out their definitions at the beginning of each chapter, but I feel that their abstract approach reduces the book’s accessibility.
The table of contents could potentially help in this matter, but alas, it contains no page numbers, just chapter headings and sets of preview stills. There’s a nifty index of designers, but not one for movie titles. If you want to find the titles for “Catch Me If You Can,” you’ll need to guess at the chapter and then thumb through the book until you spot some familiar frames.
Originally written in Castilian, the writing feels translated. It doesn’t usually get in the way of the authors’ main ideas, but every now and then an awkward phrase or overly wrought sentence will create a little linguistic fog. There are also several minor typos, and while they don’t detract from the reading experience much, they create the sense that production was rushed.
Solana and Boneu’s prose tends towards the hyperbolic, with statements like “[Geoff] McFetridge is one of the most interesting designers of recent years,” and “One of the best titles sequences of all time” being fairly common. On a blog like Motionographer, I can get away with such unabashed enthusiasm. But in a semi-scholarly book, it undermines the authority of the work a teensy bit.
For a first stab at such at ambitious book, Uncredited deserves high praise. While it could benefit from some aggressive editing and a reworked organizational structure, it’s definitely worth the price ($55 USD list price, $46.95 at YWFT). With this title, Solana and Boneu have made a huge contribution to the study of film titles and graphic design in general. I hope they continue working in this direction.
NOTE: The original language version (in Castilian/Castellano) is available via Index Book.
Uncredited: Graphic Design & Opening Titles in Movies
Written and curated by Gemma Solana and Antonio Boneu
Published Index Book, SL (2007)
Thanks to Ryan for giving me the heads up!