oceans_01

There are a plethora of websites out there that showcase Saul Bass’ work; the ubiquitous You Tube retrospectives and collections of the like that all hail him as the master but which all seem as drab in their presentation and their commentary as the rest. In times like these where much information has become a thoughtless action of copy-pasted text and image, there still remains copious room for writing about Bass and indeed there should be more insight, as few have indeed done, into titles, its history and its revival amongst contemporary motion designers. The link with this early form of motion design is evidently strong and has become a rich source of inspiration for today’s practitioners. Beyond the staple quality of work that comes from a handful of studios such as Prologue and Imaginary Forces there is a younger generation whom have a deep yearning to create the next enthralling title, whether it be for the epic, the festival, the happening or even the book. (Book titles are coming you know, they are an emerging form).

To continue with Bass, it seems appropriate to pull out the bag one of his least talked about, yet on a personal note, one of his most beautiful and accomplished of works in the realm of pure motion graphics. Ocean’s Eleven was, like the opening titles for Seven by Kyle Cooper, an example of how the title gained more in appeal than the film itself. Despite its star cast ‘brat pack’, it was a complete flop and we can safely say that the contemporary revamp was a clear winner. Saul Bass however had managed to create a masterpiece of modern title design, one that serves as the paradigm of what he claimed is a necessity of the form: to set the scene, express a certain ambiance for the viewer and give a glimpse of the story to unfold. He achieves that with a graphic language of utmost simplicity yet of striking force.

Set in the city of Las Vegas amidst the lights, casinos and its omnipresent gambling paraphernalia, Bass counts his characters in before setting off into a colourful play on form and precise layout. We get the cards, the tables, the dice, the machines, all intertwined with the palace lit setting of money, love and the quest for it all. Bass had left nothing to chance right down to creating a perfect symbiosis of imagery and sound with the brilliant musical score by Nelson Riddle. It is the musical leitmotiv in the opening sequence that serve as character description. You have the cool, the bad guy, the sexy woman, the lover, the man of pride, they are perfectly placed and perfectly timed with a timeless classic of pure motion graphics.

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