How to create slick TV show title sequences

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reference image of killing eve title

Similar to my last article, I want to focus on the thought process behind creating and implementing something. Often, it can be more enlightening than delving into code. I will highlight how I made some decisions, and share the discoveries I made along the way.

Some of the opening and closing title sequences for TV show are really slick these days. I thought it would be fun to recreate some of them. It should be a good opportunity to learn more about typography, and improve my CSS and animation skills.

I will demonstrate how to create the opening title sequence for Killing Eve, as below. And I will provide more examples for you to dive into yourself (Ozark, Better Call Saul, Schitts Creek).

See the Pen Killing Eve by Rob (@robjoeol) on CodePen.

I really like Killing Eve. The title is very well crafted with beautiful typography and a subtle animation. It was created by Matt Wiley.

If you’re not familiar with the TV show, below is a video compilation of the title sequence for every episode!

For each episode, the title changes in the following ways:

  • The background color and the text color is different;
  • The oozing blood trail runs down a different characters (either the ‘K’, ‘N’, or ‘V’);
  • There is a different accompanying song.

The song selection is excellent. Coincidentally, I saw in the titles that there is a Song Co-ordinator who must do this! I found myself searching for some of the featured music after watching a few different episodes!

What I want to do is create a similar montage to the video above, but make it random. The colors, the oozing blood trail, and the song will be chosen at random each time it plays.

Design Decisions

Ideally, we would use the original typeface, but fancy typefaces tend to carry a pricetag. This is just for fun, so I’m only looking at free options. If we get lucky and can use the original typeface for free, then we would have more options to create it whatever way we like.

It looks like the typeface was custom-made by Matt Wiley for the TV show. It doesn’t appear to be published. So, we definitely need to search for free alternative.

The closest match I could find is Deutschlander. It would need to be edited in a few ways to match the original typeface. We need to make a scalable vector graphic (SVG) to be able to do this. What we can do is convert the title text to a SVG path, and then we can edit it whatever we want to.

SVG is desirable for this type of animation generally because it is scalable, we know everything will look good on different screen sizes without any extra work. Text can be a bit tricky to work with animations, if you want to scale it or move forward/backwards, then you can get some undesirable results with some typefaces.

If you’re not familiar with converting text to a path, you can do it in Inkscape by selecting the text instance, and selecting “Object to Path” (as below). You can do the same in most vector graphics tools.

convert text to path

When I typed out the text “KILLING EVE”, I was surprised that the ‘g’ letter is actually lower case, while the others are all uppercase! It didn’t register with me until it was in front of my nose! It’s an unusual decision but it works well!

Demostration of how the text was created

In the image above, you can see how I transformed the text. The text on top is the text that I typed out as normal. Below the red arrow, is the version I edited as a SVG path. I had to change the shape of a few letters (E, L, g, V). All of the letters needed to be made narrower and taller.

The next thing to figure out is how do we create the dripping blood trails?

Morphing the path of a letter to “cut out” and animate the blood trail is possible, but it would be complicated. There are some JavaScript libraries to help with that (such as GSAP MorphSVGPlugin), but it’s a last resort.

It’s probably easiest to overlay an instance of the blood trail over each of the chosen letters. So, we can do something like the image below.

Blood trail positioning

The black objects are the overlayed blood paths. We will change the fill of these to match the background colour (pink in this case) to create the effect. We just hide them until we need to animate them. There is one variation on the effect - the blood trail at the bottom of the ‘V’ matches the text colour (white in this case).

For the dripping animation, we want it to trickle slowly down. The droplet at the bottom of the trail is also gradually growing in size. So, it’s probably best we split the blood trail into 2 different paths : the trail (we can make it a rect) and the droplet. We just need to synchronise the speed of descent of both of these.

We prefer to use the transform and opacity properties for our animation as they are the most performant.

Blood trail paths

The movement for the trail is straightforward, it is a translation along the Y axis with transform: translateY(50px);. You can try out different values to see what gives you the required result.

Similarly, for the droplet we want to move it on the Y axis, but also scale it up at the same time. When we use transform: scale(1.2); to make something 20% bigger, it also reduces the amount we need to move it. So we need to reduce the amount of the Y translation to get it to match the trail.

The final bit of the animation is have the entire title (omniously) move towards the viewer. This is a translation along the Z axis. To get the amount of movement correct, we must also set the perspective on the parent element. We can use something liketransform: translateZ(100px); on the SVG, and perspective: 1100px; on the body (the parent element) to get the right effect.

That’s the thought process behind it.

The animation can be done in CSS or in JavaScript. I chose to do in JavaScript with the GreenSock (GSAP) library. The random stuff can’t be done in CSS.

There is an implication if you use JavaScript to execute an infinite looping animation like this. Most libraries use requestAnimationFrame() under the hood. When you switch tabs on a browser, if the browser finds an animation that uses requestAnimationFrame(), it will slow it down to save resources. So when you open the tab again, the animation might be in an odd state. This animation could have some ghosting of multiple blood trails for a little while before it returns to business as usual.

To prevent this tab-switching issue, you need to intervene and suspend the animation yourself when the window loses focus.

Other title sequences

I created title sequences for other TV series such as Better Call Saul, Ozark, Schitts Creek, Orange is the New Black, and more. You can check them out in this codepen collection.

The source code is available in this github repo. I have provided more information on the font choices, and have some commentary on the design choices there also.

The end

Also, if you’re a fan of The Queen’s Gambit, I found this interview with the designer behind the title sequences an interesting read. I have added some of them to my TODO list!

I hope you enjoyed this short design thinking tour.

Happy holidays!

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