Making a Case for Simplicity

Emmy-award winner Danny Yount creates compelling title sequences by sticking to the basics in Adobe After Effects

Image courtesy of Prodigal Pictures

by Michelle Gallina

posted on 02-28-2018

It was Danny Yount’s title work on Six Feet Under that propelled him to the top. After creating the Emmy award-winning title sequence for that series in 2002, Danny has gone on to found his own production and motion design firm and create main titles and special sequences for movies such as Iron Man, Sherlock Holmes, Tron Legacy, Blade Runner 2049, and Only the Brave. He’s picked up two additional Emmy nominations and several design awards along the way.

“What I love about title work is it’s sort of like a film before a film,” he told Adobe back in 2015. “It’s a way of conditioning the audience of what it is they’re about to see, or at least lighting up their senses a little bit before the show begins.”

Image courtesy of Prodigal Pictures

A self-taught motion graphics designer, editor, and artist, Danny has long relied on Adobe After Effects to create all of his titling work. But he doesn’t let the technology drive his inspiration.

“Although it’s key to understand technology and to exploit it in a way that can inspire you, I don’t approach design problems from a technology perspective,” says Danny. “It’s more about my ability as a designer to create something fantastic with the tools I have.”

Image courtesy of Prodigal Pictures

For example, one of Danny’s earliest works under his company Prodigal Pictures made use of the basic tools and simple mirroring techniques within After Effects to create the title sequence that was used to open the 2013 Semi-Permanent international design conference. The piece went viral, and was emulated several times over—including in a Tour de France commercial spot.

Over the years, he has witnessed the evolution of After Effects—from the addition of the Lumetri Color panel to seamless transition capabilities with Cinema 4D. And although he is not a big user of plug-ins, he does have a few favorites, including the Sapphire plug-in for visual effects. This modular-based approach supports his overall design philosophy.

Image courtesy of Prodigal Pictures

“The tools are an extension of who I am, but they don’t define my work as a designer,” he says. “Simplicity is an art in itself.”

This is a message he hopes up-and-coming designers take to heart. “So many young people are worried about who did the latest killer thing on Instagram, and it weighs so heavily on them that they’re afraid to get started on something,” he says. “But it’s so important to master the basics, and then build on them rather than thinking they have to construct something amazing before people will appreciate it.”

Danny’s success to date is a case in point.

“My methods are very straightforward, but I know how to get really good results from very straightforward things.”

Topics: Creativity

Products: After Effects