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William Lebeda

William Lebeda is a graphic designer, animator and director who has worked in the field of entertainment design for the last fifteen years. Currently he is Creative Director of Picture Mill, a Hollywood-based motion design studio. Since joining Picture Mill in 1995, William has designed and directed projects for motion pictures, advertising agencies and television, ranging from Steven Spielberg’s War of the Worlds to Citibank to HBO. In 2007, William directed the 2nd Unit for M. Night Shyamalan’s The Happening. William has recently completed work for The Last Airbender, Jonah Hex, and The Other Guys as well as countless other film and television projects. He is particularly delighted to have been named the best and worst film title designer (The ID Forty, February 2003) for two wildly different projects: Panic Room for David Fincher,and Signs for M. Night Shyamalan.

http://www.picturemill.com/index.html

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  1. September 8, 2010 at 9:10 pm

    What made William’s presentation so interesting for me was that title sequences and credits aren’t something I’ve put much thought into. I would have said they were all produced in-house by the same people or studio making the film or show. Most, if not all, of what he showed us tonight worked so well leading into the film that it’s hard to believe it was trusted to an outside agency. I actually want to see some of those movies and shows just based on the intros.

    It was nice to hear that Picture Mill doesn’t outsource any of the work. The relatively short turnaround for each project makes it seem like it wouldn’t get boring. I should have asked if there are a decent number of character animation jobs in Picture Mill’s part of the industry, because it’s something I would now consider.

  2. September 9, 2010 at 10:46 am

    I was also struck by the fact that the designers at Picture Mill are not always able to see the whole film before they craft the title sequence. I would think that as a filmmaker it would be a priority to have a continuous and unified presentation throughout the film, right down to the credit sequence. Kudos to clients who show them the films.

    This presentation reminded me of a new category at SXSW this last year – the Title Design Competition. (Here’s the SXSW link: http://sxsw.com/film/film_awards/design_awards) An MFA student I worked with in Iowa submitted his title sequence to this competition and it was accepted; and since he was part of the competition, he was included in a NY Times article about the competition. On the same note, I toke William’s point about the importance of title choice to heart. I think his work demonstrates how a carefully designed and executed title sequence can add significantly to a film or animation. It’s often the first thing you see. I also found it interesting to see how a designer and animator might branch their talents out to many aspects of a film.

    • September 9, 2010 at 10:46 am

      – Laura Cechanowicz

      • Sheila
        September 10, 2010 at 10:33 am

        Thanks Laura- and very interesting to hear about the new category at SXSW!

  3. Cecilia De Jesus
    September 9, 2010 at 11:27 am

    William Lebeda’s presentation really captured my attention last night because I have my undergraduate degree in communication design (from Texas too :)). It was interesting to see how he combined his love of graphic design and animation in such a great way. Right now I’m still trying to find where I will land with animation because I too love design and still feel the need to use that particular set of skills. I never really considered title sequences and credits as a possible avenue for myself, but now I think it’s a real opportunity.

    In the Q&A, I think Mr. Lebeda also incidentally touched on something that is really important: creating something for yourself, whether it’s for your job or not. Even though he works for clients, he still puts his energy and creativity into his work and therefore it does become something for himself. I’m glad he took on that independent project of publishing his drawings as well because most people wouldn’t have the drive to accomplish that.

  4. Yang Liu
    September 9, 2010 at 4:11 pm

    It was impressive to see how William Lebeda experienced his career from being an art student to an extremely commercialized designer. It’s hard to imagine that all the commercial title sequences were done by a calarts alumni.However, that makes me learn that there’s not much difference or distinction between art design and art business nowadays, in other words, they are mutually connected and complementary. He also seems very clever in using the art of motion graphics in the advertising a product, as well as communicating between the artists and the producers. It’s difficult to deal with money and art at the same time.
    I also really like his student’s works because it already shows his passion, interest and talent in graphics design. He mentioned he didn’t realise it until someone told him in school, and I totally agree that sometimes others’ comments and encouragement can totally change the future for a art student.

  5. Ian McCormack
    September 12, 2010 at 2:07 pm

    I found the lecture to be surprisingly informative and interesting. Title sequences are something you don’t really think about how they are made or who made them. I always thought that they were made by the same people who made the film. I had no idea that it was outsourced.

    It seems that there is a real science behind making a good title sequence. It has to be something that both informs new views what the show is about and also get people excited to watch it. When he showed the film about raccoons or something he also explained that it is used to inform viewers that the film gets better eventually.

    Overall I learned alot from this lecture. I don’t know if I will ever persue a career in title making but it is good to know that these places exist and their services can be bought.

  6. Louis Morton
    September 12, 2010 at 8:10 pm

    William dropped the quote “Design is the opposite of faith” at some point during his lecture. I think this may be one of the better quotes about design I’ve heard. For me the quote means that a good design explains the content to the viewer and leaves the viewer with a definite mood and feeling. I’ve worked primarily as a graphic designer over the past four years and have run in to many projects where the design had to explain all the content visually and it was a real challenge each time! So I had a great appreciation for William’s work. Each title sequence set up the mood for the film without sacrificing the delivery of the content. It was very inspiring to see such a wide range of styles coming from one production company. I think it is very important to learn how to adapt one’s ideas to work with someone else’s style.

    Also for anyone interested, The Art of The Title Sequence is a great blog for getting more title sequence inspiration!
    http://www.artofthetitle.com/

    • Sheila
      September 13, 2010 at 11:32 am

      Thanks for the link Louis!

  7. September 12, 2010 at 9:11 pm

    William’s work is very impressive. I like his stuff. I want to learn some of his technolgies making videos attractive. It encouraged me to do more works and get more experience and then I can try some technology stuff to my works. I expect it~! 🙂

    Chen Huang

  8. Gregory Jones
    September 13, 2010 at 5:41 pm

    Like a lot of other people, I too was surprised to hear of an industry invested in making title sequences for movies. I knew that it was done for television, but even then I only looked at it from a production standpoint. I didn’t realize that they would design these things from the bottom up themselves. I am curious as to why this degree of title design is not common in film education, animated or otherwise. I remember being taught the purpose of a good title in of itself and getting extra points if it looked good while it was on the screen, but never the value in investing in the entire sequence like any other valued part of the project. As a side note, it’s really scary that it took so many years for him to finish his thesis film. Animation really is a lot of work.

    • Sheila M. Sofian
      September 14, 2010 at 9:31 am

      Hi Gregory,

      Fortunately with the new curriculum you begin your thesis in your second year, so you should be done in time to graduate. Just make sure you do not take on a project which requires more time 🙂

  9. Javier Barboza
    September 14, 2010 at 1:50 pm

    I found William Lebeda short film was dynamic and had a grate scenes of style, design and composition, Design is deliberate, is what will said. His design sense shines thought in his title sequences, for example Panic Room and Hollow Man, design is the opposed of real, mega giant billboards for panic room and looking under the microscope for hollow man. Lebeda also keep mentioning that it is very important to keep consent communication and a very clear idea for the people your working for. I found that very important.

  10. Rachel Jaffe
    September 14, 2010 at 3:37 pm

    Much as Ian remarked in his post, the creation of title credits is a salaried task (or, depending on the designer, an artistic endeavor) which (I shamefully confess) I hadn’t thoroughly mulled over prior to last Wednesday’s seminar. Singularly edifying in that respect, William Lebeda’s presentation struck me as both visually engaging and bluntly effective — the plethora of work he selected to screen traced the divigation (and eventual intersection) of his academic and professional careers in a manner I found to be startlingly seamless. His gradual progression toward highly commercialized work was — as per his anecdotes — yet another source of spoken proof regarding the possibility of carving out a life in the much-loathed, much-lauded industry. Yang’s comments about the seeming erosion of the distinction between art and business (that infamous source of countless artists’ apoplectic rants over the past decades) are much in line with the undeniable artistry in which Lebeda has steeped his static designs, credit sequences, and motion graphics.

  11. Linda Jules
    September 14, 2010 at 4:08 pm

    I can’t say just how excited I was about last week’s presenter. I am one of those people who almost alway sits through credits…down to the very last shout out to the film title, and I always judge films by their covers (or intro’s in this case). I know that “a good title does not a good film make”. However I always think back to the days when I would turn on the WB at exactly 8 pm and by 8:03 I knew based on the title sequence if I was going to sit through a film or not.

    What I didn’t know was that the work that Lebeda presented was under the umbrella of motion graphics. I am embarassed to say that before last week, I was completely unfamiliar with this term.

  12. Linda Jules
    September 14, 2010 at 4:15 pm

    *Sorry, I clicked enter before I was done!*

    I can’t say just how excited I was about last week’s presenter. I am one of those people who almost alway sits through credits…down to the very last shout out to the film title, and I always judge films by their covers (or intro’s in this case). I know that “a good title does not a good film make”. However I always think back to the days when I would turn on the WB at exactly 8 p.m. and by 8:03 I knew based on the title sequence if I was going to sit through a film or not.

    What I didn’t know was that the work that Lebeda presented was under the umbrella of motion graphics. I am embarrassed to say that before last week, I was completely unfamiliar with this term. I always thought that titles, commercials, and branding were taken care of by three separate industries.

  13. September 14, 2010 at 5:02 pm

    It is so good to see an artist like William Lebeda whose work has accomplished so many possibilities just for title design. Obviously, it could be another solution for experimental filmmakers to get a job in cinematography industry. I just realized it could be a very creative way to combine different techniques and aesthetics, and we will have more freedom on it.

    His thesis has very beautiful designed black and white transitions which accomplished a very poetic mood. Also, it was good to see how did he transformed his illustrative ability from his personal work into commercial works.

  14. Shaun Kim
    September 14, 2010 at 5:11 pm

    William is one of the really experienced people who are working for titles and movie opening sequences. I’ve thought that kinds of works are also done by special effect houses, such as ILM, Digital Domain or Rhythm and Hue, but the open titles have its own creativity, like one another little piece of movie in a whole movie. The seminar gave me interesting and crucial information about the CG companies which make opening sequences and titles. It is always exciting getting to know the new field I’ve never known before.

  15. Lisa Chung
    September 14, 2010 at 6:39 pm

    I’m really glad that Bill showed us his work from CalArts even after working at Picture Mill for over 15 years. He really wanted us to see how his work at school influenced his career choice. I loved how he did not know motion graphics was his thing until someone pointed it out as a consistent element in all his films. At times I feel the work I am producing has a specific underlying interest that I am unaware of. I am sure with more exposure and feedback, it will reveal itself. As for the work Picture Mill produces, I love the wide range of media they have worked with. Every title has a specific style, enhanced by the technique and medium. I have always loved titles and have considered it as a career option. Since a title/credit sequence is shorter than a short film, you have the option to indulge in techniques such as cutouts and stop mo, which are generally too time consuming for a whole feature. I really enjoy titles that are mini previews into a movie. There have been occasions where I wished the whole film continued in the style of the title/credits such as Ratatouille, Monster Inc., Lemony Snicket, etc.

    Bill is one of those very lucky individual to go to graduate school, get an internship (in exactly the field he was interested in) and land a full time position where he has been in since. It’s inspiring and I only hope to share the same fate.

  16. Amy Lee
    September 14, 2010 at 8:18 pm

    It was fascinating to see William Lebeda’s development from his hand-drawn walk cycles, his animated thesis project, his bizarre performance pieces, to the glossy title sequences. The student film he showed where he talks about how he wants to be the artist and tell other people what to do seems to have worked out for him! I loved his thesis film and the honest feel it had. I especially appreciated that he wrote the story and drew the pictures.

    I am very curious to know how he made that jump from the marker parties to making these smooth “professional” looking title sequences.

    Also, I love title sequences when they’re not boring! They become part of the story we’re about to watch. I wonder why his firm doesn’t do more ending credits? It’s a similar concept. All in all a very illuminating and entertaining lecture. Can’t wait to see his future independent work!

  17. Jordan Hansen
    September 14, 2010 at 9:22 pm

    I was reading about what surprised people about William’s presentation in certain areas. It seems many people were not aware that there was an entire industry built on title sequences. I guess what surprised me more, was that it was so small. The fact that there are so few companies competing in this particular arena seems strange. I guess maybe there are only a few on par with Picture Mill, but still that seems so small. For such a diverse and wide array of projects with such a quick turn around it seems like there would have to be quite a large number of people working in such a field. It goes to show though, the talent and work ethic of the artists that do work in the field. I never really thought that someone designed and created all the the bumpers, logos, etc. that I see before every movie but no only are those pieces enjoyable, they are typically very well done and highly polished. It is an exciting area the expands, at least for me, the career possibilities as well as artistic opportunities.

  18. Michelle Yang
    September 15, 2010 at 9:10 am

    This week’s seminar was super inspiring for me, I loved it! I liked how he showed us such a wide range of work throughout the presentation, from the past to present. You can really see what transitions he was making, what kinds of techniques he was developing and even the “evolution of technology” (new software, visual effects…etc.)! It was also great to see some of his student work. I actually really enjoyed his thesis film, I thought it showed that he really has a good sense in graphic design because he could tell an interesting story through black and white silhouettes. (and it was an original story too!)

    I was amazed by the work he’s doing right now in Picture Mill; commercials, motion graphic and MOVIE TITLE SEQUENCES(so cool)! I was totally blown away when he showed the reel because I had seen almost all of the movies that they worked on. Under his explanation, I realized that title sequences aren’t just there to give credits but they’re also there to tell a story. Sometimes it’s just pictures of landscape, sometimes it’s just random shots of the environment, sometimes there is a specific plot…they’re all story-telling and the title sequences are always the first impression of a movie. It sets the tone, gives some hints of the plot or the characters and really just pulls you into the story. I like how he said that every film/product/company is different and unique. I believe that their thought of customizing each project really makes them stand out in the industry. I felt like I saw a position in the industry where I can really picture myself in, so that was really inspiring! I really benefited from his speech! 🙂

    If you’re interested…
    There’s this awesome website that has tons of really cool titles – “Forget the Film, Watch the Title” (http://www.watchthetitles.com/)
    I love this wesite! Hope you enjoy it too! 🙂

    • Sheila M. Sofian
      September 15, 2010 at 2:06 pm

      Great link- thank you Michelle!

    • Allen Yau
      September 15, 2010 at 3:19 pm

      It’s really an interesting website, great for title sequence research. Thank you Michelle!

  19. Linda Liao
    September 15, 2010 at 9:26 am

    William Lebeda’s lecture was very infomative and sounded honest. His motion graphics work has the high resolution and scale seen on many boutique demo reels. I would have to say that his student work from CalArts has evolved in terms of color placement and rendering. His black and white student work is much better and contains more interesting animation elements for display.

  20. Juan Camilo Gonzalez
    September 15, 2010 at 10:49 am

    The specific area of title sequences seems quite exciting after Bill’s presentation. Within the industry, it seems like there is a wider range to develop new ideas and try different techniques and forms of storytelling, just on titles. All without sacrificing any commercial possibilities of the Hollywood movie making and television machinery. I feel attracted more than anything to the shorts format and titles seem to provide a wonderful platform for it.

  21. Maria Sequeira
    September 15, 2010 at 12:46 pm

    I liked the way William Lebeda shared his growth as an artist, from his thesis film in college to his early motion graphics work, up to the contemporary title sequences. I also appreciated how he developed his interests and strengths as an artist and was able to apply them to a commercial purpose. Titles are a great opportunity for experimenting with unusual or time consuming animation techniques.

  22. Justin Connolly
    September 15, 2010 at 1:02 pm

    Although motion graphics is of little interest to me personally, I thoroughly enjoyed William Lebeda’s presentation last week due to his passion and enthusiasm for his work. To think that after 15 years of making motion graphics he is still fully inspired, invested and still producing cutting edge work makes me very optimistic about my own ventures in the animation industry.

    In addition to William’s passion for his professional work, I also found his commitment to continue to create personal work that satisfied his artistic spirit fascinating. In speaking to multiple animators from all corners of the industry the need “to satisfy one’s soul” artistically outside of the work they do professionally seems to be an underlying theme that comes up time and time again. I suppose that every artist/animator must decide how to handle this issue in his or her own way, whether that be making fine art or producing independent films, but I think William had a great attitude toward the juggling act of mixing business with pleasure. I am glad that he came shared his experiences with us and that he took the time to show us his personal film projects from Calarts as well as his sizzling demo reels. Great stuff.

  23. Miguel Jiron
    September 15, 2010 at 1:14 pm

    I really love motion graphics, and have been making a point to notice and evaluate them on trailers, credits, commercials, etc, as they are so often glossed over. It was a treat to see Lebeda talk about one of the really big motion graphic houses, Picture Mill, and get an inside peek of their work. I was really impressed that they do most of their stuff in house; most motion graphic artists I know all are freelance, and that has always seemed the hardest part of the process.

    One thing Will Lebeda’s talk emphasized for me is the weird artistic position one can find themselves in motion graphics. It’s actually a very creative process, and it’s cool to collaborate with so many other artists (ideally a positive experience). But at the same time, it’s art that’s totally dependent on a bigger concept. It is work for hire- and while it’s cool to approach an artistic approach in a very specific problem-solving way, I can see how it gets to be non-fulfilling at times. However, this kind of work is only getting to be more and more important and sophisticated; I truly believe this is a burgeoning field that is only getting more and more recognized.

  24. Ryan
    September 15, 2010 at 1:41 pm

    Last week’s seminar was another good point of reference for the wide range of jobs and possibilities of animation. Although I wasn’t surprised by some kind of realization of how tittles where produced and created, I did enjoy hearing William Lebeda’s viewpoint. It seems he has found a place to make his design enjoyment animation and being a part of storytelling as well as the ability to work in shorter timelines allowing for many different styles and approaches. He seems to be able to keep the ideas fresh and unique to each project .

  25. Ryan
    September 15, 2010 at 1:43 pm

    Last week’s seminar was another good point of reference for the wide range of jobs and possibilities of animation. Although I wasn’t surprised by some kind of realization of how tittles where produced and created, I did enjoy hearing William Lebeda’s viewpoint. It seems he has found a place to make his design enjoyment animation and being a part of storytelling as well as the ability to work in shorter timelines allowing for many different styles and approaches. He seems to be able to keep the ideas fresh and unique to each project ..

  26. Brandon Lake
    September 15, 2010 at 2:29 pm

    Title sequences have always seemed to be overlooked in the grand scheme of my movie going experience. Having seen so many films with basic text just placed over a cityscape it is easy to forget the power of successful execution. In my own work I tend to just place a static title card and call it a day. I never really put much work into is, to my own detriment. As Bill stated, the title sequence is the audience’s introduction to the film so it is important to make it an effective one. I still vividly remember the introduction to films like Catch Me If You Can and Zombieland and they really did add a lot to the movie experience. Though it is not necessarily an avenue of animation/graphic design I would see myself going down, I have much respect for the work of Bill and his company.

  27. Allen Yau
    September 15, 2010 at 3:40 pm

    In fact, I’m that kind of person who will watch a film from the beginning to the very end, which is, the last second. Originally, there are two reasons for me doing this: first, to show my respect to the filmmakers and the team behind the film. Second, to understand the division structure by having a peek at the credit list and job titles. But beyond those reasons I mentioned, title and credit sequences nowadays are just funnier and funnier to watch!

    I admire the idea William mentioned that every case is unique. That is really a challenging job. I can imagine every filmmaker wanted their title to be unique to other films. I also like the idea which the purpose of some of them is to tell a story, or part of the story, in title/credit sequences. It is a highly creative and challenging way to do so in a short period of the running time. I like Picture Mill’s brilliant graphical designs. I really enjoyed his presentation and honest answers.

  28. Eric Pato
    September 15, 2010 at 4:02 pm

    William Lebeda’s presentation to us was very interesting to me, in that he really, although most definitely showing a love for his work, did illustrate for us well the ups and downs of this particular kind of work for hire. While it is clear, for instance, that he always has a lot of cool jobs to work on, the final product is by it’s very nature out of the groups hands. It is, at it’s very core, work for hire. The burning up and burning through ideas, and the creative burn out that comes with this kind of work was by far the scariest part of such an enterprise to me.

  29. Burak Kurt
    September 15, 2010 at 5:14 pm

    The importance of title sequences are generally undermined. Bill’s presentation was very interesting in that sense to demonstrate the effort and thinking that goes into a title sequence which is both the part of the film and a separate entity in itself. It was also great that we have never had anybody from that part of the industry and I enjoy being exposed to looking the big picture from different angles.

  30. Matthew Steidl
    September 15, 2010 at 5:15 pm

    I too have long overlooked the wide range of expressive possibilities in feature film title sequences. Lebeda had a lot of interesting insight to offer, and I was much entertained by his description of the workflow – particularly the comparison pictures of his blasting flaming fireball pencil sketch with the final render of a blasting, flaming fireball. It sounds like working at Picture Mill is quite exhausting, but I think it is fortunate to have so many projects lined up. It also seems like a really great place for people who want to work commercially, but don’t want to be stuck to the rigid structures of full-length feature films. The notebooks at the end of the presentation were a nice touch too- thanks Will!

  31. Kim Cagney
    September 15, 2010 at 5:28 pm

    William’s talk was interesting, especially in its contrast to Ciro’s the week before. Both persons dealing with creative decisions for projects, but one working largely on his own projects, and the other on hired projects for other companies. Interesting to hear that William did regret not being able to spend time on his own ideas and projects. In either situation, something must be sacrificed.

  32. jovannatosello
    September 22, 2010 at 2:31 am

    Bill Lebeda said: “Design is the opposite of faith”. While design is deliberate, faith is not. Just as design, animated films are not made out of blind faith or random chance, but rather consist of intentional, conscious choices.

    This concept is represented in his Calarts thesis project “The Shark Fin” – shape, line, composition, contrast, balance, repetition, and space govern the film’s visual narrative. Black and white characterize the sun and moon. Man and woman are portrayed as contrasting silhouettes, outlined negative space. Lines define split screens which direct the story through simultaneous narratives. These elements graphically articulate the narration in this experimental and innovative method.

  1. February 2, 2012 at 4:10 pm

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