Perhaps the best video I’ve seen on YouTube in a long time is the “Kyle Cooper Demo Reel.” An art-school find, the video is both striking and arresting. Set to trip-hop, this highlight reel has some legitimatly thrilling imagery.
The opening credits to “Spider-Man 2” are slammed together with Apple ads quickly followed by MTV clips of Kanye West; TNT iconography blends perfectly with American Express ads of Robert DeNiro and video game credits: It’s like Girl Talk for creative editing. And if this all sounds like a big, aggressive advertisement or a weird fan video, then hang on a second.
This perfectly cut, rapid-fire blend of advertising, movie titles, entertainment branding and ESPN interludes begs the question: What exactly are we watching? Is this film? Fine art? A mish-mash of music and television? Or is it just over-edited fluff? The answer would be a resounding yes, on all accounts.
The “Demo Reel” is actually the 2007 montage reel for Prologue Live Action and Graphic Design, a California-based group that specializes in movie title sequences, along with specialty branding and montages. Kyle Cooper, who just happens to be the co-founder of Prologue, worked on this, but it’s actually the brain trust of several artists. Odds are, if you’ve engaged in some form of media in the last several months — and we all have — you’ve seen the work of Prologue designers.
The firm has a long, weird resume. The concept of Prologue’s work may seem esoteric and obscure, but their “product” is certainly not. These guys are the undeniable cherry-on-top of countless works. Cooper can single-handedly be credited for revitalizing the importance of text and image in popular media over the last 15 years. Often ignored because of anonymity and rare accreditation space in their work, Prologue deserves more attention.
Cooper created credits for films such as “Across the Universe,” “Superman Returns” and the brilliant title sequence for 2004’s “Dawn of the Dead.” But Cooper isn’t the only artist at Prologue creating iconic work. Danny Yount made the “Tron”-like end-credits for “Iron Man.” And Seth Kleinberg and Troy James Miller have helped produce gorgeous motifs for the Academy Awards, the VMAs and even the “Scarface” videogame.
The ironic titles at the end of “Tropic Thunder”? Prologue made them. The commercials for ESPN with a baseball scorching through millions of player cards? Prologue made it. The shifting photo-perspective ads from HP, the new iMac ads and the opening sequence on TV’s “Pushing Daisies?” Yep, they made those too.
As described by its portfolio website, Prologue is a collective of artists, designers and filmmakers that push each other to creative ends by complimenting and enhancing other people’s art. Even when a product is lousy, Prologue works to make something interesting happen. “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang” may have left audiences cold, but the opening credits were arguably the best part of that film. Same with “Speed Racer” and “Wimbledon.” They were middling movies that had masterful text and images.
So why bother to think twice about the group? Because they’re re-popularizing graphic design. Cooper alone has arguably been the re-inventor of the opening title sequence with his work on “Se7en,” initiating a slow-growing rebirth of fine art and pop culture. With Prologue, design takes exciting new directions, without limiting itself to simple monikers.
Through the inundation of countless image after ad after preview, consumer culture works its ass off to brand us with their products. It can be numbing. Who cares about how much Pepsi we should drink? Ads and branding should at least make an effort to entice as well an engage.
Prologue is changing standards in fine art and media. Graphic design doesn’t have to be relegated to lowly interns toiling away over what font to use in a party booklet. It can be fun, fast, flashy and multi-functioning. It can be compelling and even electrifying. To truly understand their work though, just go to Prologue.com. There you’ll find a bevy of titles, logos, ads and even the “Kyle Cooper Demo Reel.”
They do their job well, and maybe that’s why we don’t notice them enough. They so perfectly integrate their graphics into an overall project that one might assume it was the immediate vision of a filmmaker or computer provider. Prologue disproves that, showcasing seamless integration.
Saul Bass, the great title designer and visual consultant of such films as “Walk on the Wild Side,” “North by Northwest” and “Grand Prix,” said something to the effect that titles are very much a part of a film, so why not integrate them appropriately? This couldn’t be truer, especially when the big movie climate tends to push simple, black-and-white titles to the bitter end of a two-and-a-half hour ordeal. It’s easy to find lavish effects, but truly hard to find creative art.