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In-Scene Title Text

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Not really painted on the ground, but it sure looks like it.

In the early days of TV, the best way to display text to your viewers was to put a physical card in front of the camera with that text on it, hence the name Episode Title Card. Advances in production meant that text could later be edited directly into the film rather than having a physical card, and further advances meant that you could even display the text on-screen over of a normal scene (an "overlay"). The overlay text will act like it's stuck to the screen, though; it won't move on the screen, even if the camera angle changes.

Nowadays the latest technology can let you make it seem like overlay text is physically in the scene again. It can look like it's written on a highway overpass, or floating on the surface of the water. It is perspective-corrected to seem as if it's in the scene, will move when the camera (or the object it's written on) moves, and might even be lit as if it were in the scene. However, characters do not notice or acknowledge it, and the audience is expected to understand that the text doesn't actually exist in the scene and that it's just a novel way of displaying it. This can also be done with a Title In or any other text presented to the audience.

Compare Pop-Up Texting for text messages and other text otherwise unseen by the audience.


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    Anime & Manga 

    Comic Books 
  • In the seventies and eighties this was very common on the splash pages of DC and Marvel titles.
  • All of DC's books cover-dated February 2002 had this trope, including Impulse where the book's title was painted on the road (with two mis-spelt attempts as well) and Supergirl, with a story set in a school for deaf children who spelt out the title in American Sign Language.

  • Played with in Johnny Dangerously. The opening scene has a subtitle reading "1935"... which is then run over by a car.
  • The opening credits to Star Wars could be considered an example of this, since they're perspective-corrected and disappear into space.
  • The Suicide Squad: The film is essentially divided into chapters like a comic book. Each new chapter is introduced with a unique title card that usually appears somewhere in the environment (for example, one chapter title, "Dirty Little Secrets", appears as text on an elevator button).
  • Used for the opening credits of David Fincher's Panic Room. Explicitly said to be the inspiration for Fringe's 3-D titles, as per Word of God.
  • In the opening credits of Turning Red:
    • Mei looks at, gestures at and pretends to eat the text "Disney presents".
    • The text "a Pixar Animation Studios film" is revealed as Mei twirls across the screen.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The Episode Title Card for Heroes is very frequently done this way.
  • Fringe also does this frequently, often when placing a location identifier on screen.
  • The intro theme for The Chicago Code uses this for the main title card, but not the intro credits.
  • There's an HBO advertisement that they put at the beginning of their DVDs that edits show titles into clips from the show in this fashion. Used to great effect, as characters will seem to interact with the letters, even though the original scene featured no in-scene text/titles.
  • Green Acres often played with how the opening credits were shown. Sometimes the credits were printed on objects like newspapers or eggs, and sometimes characters were aware of their presence, commenting on those names that seem to appear out of nowhere.
  • Played for laughs in Milton Jones' House of Rooms. The title appears at the bottom of the screen before being carried away by a garbageman. After the break, the gag is repeated - but this time the title is not part of the scene, and his hand passes through it.
  • Doctor Who does this with a "scene-setting" title card in the 2012 episode "The Snowmen".
    • It also shows up in "The Bells of Saint John" and "The Crimson Horror."
  • In an episode of Marple, the episode title floats over the staircase and is revealed as the camera pans around a pillar.

  • Used real-time in sports broadcasts to intuitively display information such as distances, world records, etc. while not cluttering up the screen.

    Video Games 
  • ANNO: Mutationem has the title appearing as Ann is viewing Noctis City from afar.
  • Asphalt 8 shows the race location, countdown, and some other text as 3D objects in the environment.
  • The introductory cutscene to each Borderlands installment has this.
  • Grand Theft Auto IV presents its opening credits in this fashion.
  • Done at the beginning of each episode of Minecraft: Story Mode.
  • Mirror's Edge has this in its opening scene as well.
  • The opening titles of the 2012 Need for Speed: Most Wanted utilize this with giant text sticking out and in front of the buildings before it cuts to your car.
  • Each Paper Mario game has its title appearing prior to the prologue chapter.
  • The letters that make up Pararena lose formation and skate around the dish until you start a game.
  • Once a mission is properly investigated and confirmed, and a time limit established, the words "Mission Start" show up in Persona 5, though they appear on some part of the environment: usually it'll show on the blackboard in the classroom, or on the floor of your loft bedroom.
  • The opening for Prey (2017) involves getting on a helicopter and riding to the office, while you pass by various landmarks with the names of the publisher and the developer, before finally landing on the roof, which contains the title "Prey". As soon as you look away to open the helicopter door, the title vanishes.
  • In Kingdom Hearts χ Back Cover (a short film telling Another Side, Another Story for Kingdom Hearts χ), each chapter is titled "Case of X", where X is one of the Foretellers' names. The title appears on an object near the beginning of each case.

    Western Animation 
  • Amphibia does this for the final two episodes by having the title appear at the start of both.
  • Big City Greens has its title cards appear against something in the background in-universe.
  • Scooby-Doo and the Ghoul School plays with this trope. At the beginning of the telefilm, after the title appears over a stormy night sky, Scooby points upward and says, "Look, Shaggy Ö writing!" Naturally, Shaggy thinks Scooby said "lightning".
  • Many Looney Tunes shorts, such as "Wabbit Twouble", have the opening credits as part of the scene.
  • Xavier: Renegade Angel frequently integrates the title of the show into the scene, such as having characters tripping over it or pointing at it.