I've always wondered how Opening Titles and End Credits in the movies were created before Computers existed?

  • Related: movies.stackexchange.com/questions/85508/… Commented Feb 20, 2018 at 15:41
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    @LukaKeats Would be nice if you could select an answer for some of your questions.. looking at your list of questions, you've yet to do this a single time. Selecting a best answer is fundamental to this site, almost just as much as posting a question in the first place.
    – Charles
    Commented May 10, 2018 at 16:17

2 Answers 2


Usually, if we talk about credits without any movie scene in the background, it was done by using a long sheet of paper or plastic or other material they want with credits written on it. Artists used different type of fonts and texts as required. Then this sheet is rolled in front of a camera where it is recorded and added into the movie.

They also used various types of fonts and color themes to convey the genre and/or subject of the movie in the title cards.

If we talk about the credits with some movie scene running in the background, it was done using an Optical Printer. This is also used in layering for special effects in old era.

An optical printer is a device consisting of one or more film projectors mechanically linked to a movie camera. It allows filmmakers to re-photograph one or more strips of film. The optical printer is used for making special effects for motion pictures, or for copying and restoring old film material.

Common optical effects include fade outs and fade ins, dissolves, slow motion, fast motion, and matte work. More complicated work can involve dozens of elements, all combined into a single scene.

From this Canva article,

film titles – the graphic image or sequence at the opening of a movie – were simply hand-illustrated cards photographed and inserted into a film. Today, they are much like a mini-movie showcases the art of graphic design with filmmaking.

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    I received a titling set-up from the estate of an amateur film maker. Included was a black felt conveyor belt that had a masked portion you would aim your cine camera at. You would load white plastic letters on the felt belt and rotate it a small amount and take single frame exposure with the camera. The letters would come into view in the masking frame and when move out of view and fall off the other end. You could use any graphic in the same way. Professional film studios would have the text typeset onto a long sheet of plastic and then photo-reduce it stepwise onto cine film.
    – KalleMP
    Commented Feb 19, 2018 at 9:59
  • How much old is this titling set-up?
    – A J
    Commented Feb 19, 2018 at 10:17
  • The one I had was from the 1950's I think. You can see pictures on the net. They sell around US$150 on eBay at times. The letters were made of felt and would stick to the felt disk, drum or belt (forgot some details, never used the machine). You would overexpose to wash out the fuzzy details of the letters. - google.com/search?q=Paillard+Bolex+Super+Titler&tbm=isch
    – KalleMP
    Commented Feb 19, 2018 at 10:47
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    I recall two more details from film school: There was often a light source behind the letters, and high-contrast film was often used to shoot the titles (to get darker darks and whiter whites). Commented Feb 19, 2018 at 12:41
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    The "opening crawl" page on Wookiepedia has a pretty good image showing Richard Edlund preparing to film the opening crawl for Star Wars. It's a great example of a practical technique to something we so often do digitally now. Commented Feb 19, 2018 at 15:20

Adding to A J's very good answer:

Multiple exposure of the film can do the trick without using anything digital.

  1. Double exposure of the negative
    In the first step, the motion picture is taken. Then the masked text, or text annimation, os taken as a second exposure resulting in overexposed (bright white) letters and properly exposed scene behind.

  2. Double exposure of the positive
    In the first step the motion picture is taken and developped. After the photocopy of the negative the film is exposed again through masked text (animation) resulting in overexposed (black) letters and properly developped scene behind.

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