A direction in the script to lay words on the screen. This could be a dateline such as "Amsterdam, 2026", or "Three Days Ago". Primarily used to fix the setting firmly in the minds of the audience. An Epistolary Novel or Diary will often provide the place and time for which the character wrote the entry.
For visual mediums, it comes in two major flavors: words on a solid background, usually black (a milder and less Anvilicious take on the Opening Scroll), or text shown at the bottom of the screen as the camera shows an Establishing Shot of the location. The latter can appear on the screen all at once or one letter at a time, as if typed with a typewriter (bonus points for a fixed-width font).
This is very common in shows taking place 20 Minutes into the Future or Exty Years from Now (in either direction) and Thrillers of any kind, particularly, Spy Fiction. May exhibit the "London, England" Syndrome.
- Ginga Teikoku Kouboushi:
- When establishing locations, such as Gaal's arrival on the City Planet Trantor, or changing the scene to Anacreon, the location name usually appears in the upper-right of an Establishing Shot for that location.
- The introduction of Main Characters is often, but not always, accompanied by a small narrator box giving their name and titles (if any), such as during the translation of "The Mayors", where Mayor Hardin and his assistant Lee appear at age 62 and 66, to indicate why the characters don't look quite the same anymore.
- Sword Art Online tends to use this kind of establishing shot constantly in the Anime, listing date, time, and location to establish the local setting as 20 Minutes into the Future. Literally always with an Establishing Shot to go along with it.
- Y: The Last Man is a rare comic book example. It gets played with in one issue where Yorick is drugged and the title-in panel reads "Where The Fuck Am I?" It's also occasionally used for humor: Yorick complains that the last time he lost his monkey, it took him three hours to track him down, and then the title in reads "Four Hours Later".
- Scott Pilgrim has such titles that feel like they were written by teenagers. Little gems like "So Yeah", after Scott asks Ramona out; "24 Hours Later", after announcing that they were gonna play in, yeah, 24 hours; and "So Anyway", after Scott defeats Gideon and rescues Ramona, and they talk about making it work again.
- Casey Steele: From the first section:
Monday September 4th, 2006
- Domoverse: Never: Starts with:
November 5th, 2007
- Homecoming, 2026: For example, the first lines:
Friday, 12:33 PM MST
Homestake Paranormal Combat Training Academy, Lead, South Dakota
- Kitsune: In the prologue:
Christmas Eve, 1987
Hanford Nuclear Facility near the Tri Cities region, Washington State
- Ma'at: From the start of the first chapter:
Sunday, March 18, 2007
Southbound road from Cairo to Inbw-hdj (Memphis)
- Metro: For all sections, such as "If I Had A Hammer (Part One)":
Monday morning, August 27, 2007,
Doyle Medical Center, Whateley Academy
- Parodied on Ultra Fast Pony, where time cards are always "14 HOURS LATER", especially if that amount of time passing makes no sense. One episode is so egregious about it, using the card six times, that the characters started wondering how it was still the same day.
Spitfire: You all have ten minutes. Suit up and meet me on the training ground. Now!
14 HOURS LATER
Spitfire: I hate this job.
- In the 2001 remake of Ocean's Eleven, Danny tells Tess he should be out of jail for his parole violation in three to six months. There's a blackout, and then we come in with a card that reads "Three to six months later..."
- Star Trek (2009) has Iowa or Vulcan tucked away in a corner for a part of the movie, then "Three years later" in the center.
- In High School Musical, the callback auditions are rescheduled to the same day as Troy's big game and Gabriella's Scholastic Decathlon. As such, the following titles appear:
Scholastic Decathlon Day
- The Super Mario Bros. movie starts with the title:
20 million Years Ago
- Zombieland plays with this one constantly. Columbus's Zombie Invasion Rules are placed on the screen during the introduction to the movie, each with examples of why one should follow that particular rule. During the movie itself, examples of characters following the rules are pointed out with one, usually set to feel like it is part of the environment (for example, the blinking "CARDIO" sign).
- The date and time are shown each day of the mission in the film The Guns of Navarone.
- Legendary Weapons Of China is a film about Stock Wushu Weapons in martial arts movie, and in the final battle, every time a new wushu weapon is used, a title card will announce what kind of weapon is being wielded.
- Used in Team America: World Police, where it shows the name of the country and its distance to the U.S. (specifically New York) in miles.
- Un Chien Andalou kinda parodies this with meaningless and contradictory days and times.
- In Mr. & Mrs. Smith (2005), after the couple has their first therapy session and disagree how long they've been married (5 or 6 years), the movie flashbacks to their first meeting and says, "5 or 6 years ago." At the end of the flashback there's another caption reading "5 or 6 years later."
- The Ringo Starr comedy Caveman starts with these two captions:
One billion zillion B.C.
- Played with in Johnny Dangerously. The caption "1910" appears at the bottom of the screen, and we see a car drive by behind it. Then another car drives into frame and crashes into the 1910, breaking the digits into pieces.
- Parodied in the opening of Orgazmo, where the caption "Hollywood" helpfully appears under an Establishing Shot of the Hollywood sign.
- The captions in The Hunt for Red October go all-out: bright green monospaced font, printed letter by letter with computerized teletype noises as they appear.
- Adam's Rib uses some fancier-than-usual intertitle cards. "That Evening" is the most common caption.
- The Logan's Run movie begins with a surprisingly large amount of backstory on the screen all at once:
"Sometime in the 23rd century... the survivors of war, overpopulation and pollution are living in a great domed city, sealed away from the forgotten world outside. Here, in an ecologically balanced world, mankind lives only for pleasure, freed by the servo-mechanisms which provide everything. There's just one catch: Life must end at thirty unless reborn in the fiery ritual of carrousel."
- R.O.T.O.R. is jam-packed with this trope. Whenever a scene changes, we see a caption telling us the weekday and time, for example FRIDAY 7:30 P.M. This information is by no means required to follow the rather simple and straightforward plot.
Bill: Are we going to be tested on the specific times everything is happening?
- "December 23" in the opening of Legion.
- The Silence of the Lambs. When Clarice Starling went to the town of Belvedere, there was a subtitle with the town's name.
- Pacific Rim: The first use defines "Kaiju" and "Jaeger" respectively, but the rest are used for times and locations.
- Spy Hard uses this as a Running Gag, where the person writing the caption commits misspellings and more with the text.
- In The Day After Tomorrow, all major locations are introduced with on-screen text.
- Unusually for a Star Wars movie, Rogue One uses these for the planets seen throughout the movie, to set it apart from the usual Star Wars space opera fare as a war/heist movie. With the sole exception of Mustafar.
- Spoofed in Star Wreck: In the Pirkinning, which makes a typo in the title and backs up a bit to remove it.
- Parodied in Life of Brian, which declares the main portion of its plot to be set in:
JUDEA A.D. 33
ABOUT TEA TIME
- Marvel Cinematic Universe:
- Most films use establishing shots and title cards when introducing new locations, or to notate Time Skips.
- Some films such as Guardians of the Galaxy also provide a brief description of the location.
- Captain America: Civil War has been noted for having HUGE LOCATION TITLES in all caps across the entire screen for each new location. QUEENS. BERLIN. 1991. Notably, the film averts "London, England" Syndrome in a first for the franchise.
- Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, on the other hand, exaggerates the "London, England" Syndrome with "Missouri, Earth" in the opening scene.
- Black Panther shows all of its titles in a Wakandan script that is then swapped out for an English translation.
- Parodied in one instance in Avengers: Infinity War: an establishing shot of the cosmos is labeled as, well... SPACE.
- Captain Marvel uses place labels, followed by a blurb (and perhaps some coordinates), to introduce viewers to a new location. Earth is called C-53 with the subtitle "Terran Homeworld".
- Nightfall (2000):
- As the foreman of the archaeological dig enters the Temple of the Watchers, the location's name appears in blocky font across the bottom of the screen.
- As Sheerin enters the University of Scholars, the location's name appears in blocky font across the bottom of the screen.
- The opening shot of The Spirit of '76 is captioned "AMERICA 2176."
- Under the Piano does this every time it jumps around in time, with captions like "1937," "1955," and "Six Weeks Later."
- Henry & Verlin has "Opeongo County, Population 531, 1935."
- Breaking Point (1976): "TORONTO" appears over an establishing shot when Michael and his family go into Witness Protection there.
- The first shot of Midwinter Night's Dream is captioned "Serbia, winter 2004."
- The last scene of Silent Fall has "ONE YEAR LATER."
- Season of Miracles has "Alabama, 1974."
- Relative Fear's second scene opens with "One Year Later".
- Bicentennial Man: On-screen captions appear in order to establish when the new scene takes place years/decades after the previous scene.
- My Science Project has "1957" for the opening scene, and "1985" for the scene after that.
- Superdome: Every so often words will appear on the screen with typewriter sound effects, saying how many days or hours are left until the Super Bowl.
- Snatched (2017) has large, transparent letters appear on the screen at different points, saying "Ecuador," "Washington, D.C.," "Bogota," and "Kuala Lumpur."
- Isaac Asimov's "The Evitable Conflict": Excepting for the first scene, each one is prefaced by a short title for the region, its land surface area, population, and capital city.
Earth (including the uninhabited Antarctic continent)
:: a—Area: 54,000,000 square miles
:: b—Population: 3,300,000,000
:: c—Capital: New York
- Captain Underpants: In the first book, George and Harold order the 3-D Hypno-Ring, which takes four to six weeks to arrive. The next chapter is titled "Four to Six Weeks Later".
- Eoin Colfer's Artemis Fowl: The prologue of The Arctic Incident starts with the words: "Murmansk, Northern Russia; two years before". Many of the scenes in the rest of the series follow suit.
- Connie Willis's Blackout / All Clear: The chapters don't have names; merely location and date, like "Oxford—April 2060" or "Saltram-on-Sea—29 May 1940".
- Alias always does this, except rather than a subtitle, the camera zooms through the words and into the scene.
- Bob Hearts Abishola has titles in three-dimensional letters placed within the scene.
- Burn Notice did this at the start of the pilot to tell us that Michael was in Nigeria, as well as to introduce characters.
- Doctor Who:
- Used in "Midnight" to show how much time has passed between scenes.
- Used in "The Stolen Earth" when we hop across the universe from where the Doctor and Donna are to the location of the relocated Earth, where several former companions are.
- "The Pandorica Opens"/"The Big Bang" uses this repeatedly due to the amount of time jumping involved.
- Series 7 used these in several episodes, with the text done in-scene, e.g. ancient China in "The Angels Take Manhattan" and the Arctic Ocean in "Cold War".
- Used repeatedly in part 1 of "Spyfall", establishing the globetrotting nature of the episode.
- Played for laughs in Drunk History, where the time/location caption is usually repeating what the narrator has just said — exactly as the narrator said it.
Kyle Kinane: All right, they land 2000 kilometers off their mark, in Siberia, which is a real place...
[scene changes to show Siberia]
Title caption: Siberia (which is a real place)
- Australian comedy series Fast Forward did a send-up of JAG where the text writer starts with the time/location only to start rambling on about all kinds of things.
- Fringe absolutely loves to play with these. The giant floating letters that mark locations are used pseudo-realistically. In one instance rain can be seen striking the letters and in another the letters are visible after the camera cuts to a location behind them, showing the letters in reverse.
- Game of Thrones did this with major locations in the pilot, specifically Winterfell, Kings Landing and Pentos so as not to confuse viewers.
- Green Acres: In one episode, we get a cut to an Establishing Shot of a New York City skyline, as well as the following subtitles:
"Can you guess what city this is?"
"If you guessed New York, you're right!"
- In Helix, which follows an outbreak of The Virus at a research facility, the directions usually denote the number of days since the CDC's arrival on-site: "Day 1, Day 2", etc. in black font on a white background, though text also introduces an Establishing Shot of the CDC HQ.
- Used in early seasons of Heroes to identify the name and location of another person with abilities. To varying degrees of accuracy:
- Matt Parkman. Somewhere in Africa.
- Heroes Reborn (2015) uses subtitles whenever the scene changes to a new location and/or character.
- The Cold Open to each episode of It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia begins with the opening dialogue playing over black title cards with "[Time]", "On a [day]", "Philadelphia, PA".
- At least Once an Episode in JAG, with the current time (given in military time format, e.g. "0451 Zulu") and location.
- In Law & Order, they always sound the Doink-Doink and show the location and time in text at the bottom of the screen whenever the scene changes.
- The pilot episode of M*A*S*H has a Unique Pilot Title Sequence which announces the setting as:
a hundred years ago
- The Mentalist frequently does this at the beginning of the episode to tell the viewers what part of California the CBI team has been called to.
- The Miami Vice episode "Forgive Us Our Debts" opens with a flashback, with a caption saying "Miami, 1980." Crockett spends the scene wearing a hat to hide his mid-'80s haircut. After the flashback ends, another caption says "Miami, 1986."
- The Middleman spoofs this practice constantly:
The illegal sublet Wendy shares with another young, photogenic artist.
Middleman Headqua—WHOA! FREAKY!
The Underworld. Time has no meaning.
God, am I underpaid.
- Monty Python's Flying Circus parodied this with such captions as "One strawberry tart without so much rat in it later".
- Robin Hood frequently captions its changes of scene, nicknamed the 'arrow of exposition' because the caption flies in from the side of the screen with the sound of an arrow being fired. It does this even when it's already clear where the scene is in the first place ('Nottingham Castle', 'Sherwood Forest', and perhaps most infamously 'The Meadow', among others), and is even on occasion inaccurate.
- In the Cirque du Soleil series Solstrum, at the beginning of each episode the words "Epsilon Observatory 4:00 GMT" appear on the screen to let the audience know where the initial scene is talking place.
- Spooks uses this every time there's a change of location, even ones we see every episode like MI-5 headquarters.
- The Stargate SG-1 episode "Absolute Power" has a strange example: a "one year later" caption for a scene that later turns out to be All Just a Dream, with considerably less time than that having passed. Apparently the captioner lives inside Daniel's head...
- Warehouse 13 does this, sometimes animating the text for emphasis.
- In The X-Files, this usually happens on a bottom corner of the screen when Mulder and Scully first go somewhere for a case. Sometimes the name of the town and the state appears as a second line underneath a specific building they are going to such as a hotel, government building, business, etc. Amusingly, in the episode "Bad Blood" during Scully's recounting of the tale, the location name first appears incorrectly until Mulder corrects her, and then the screen display changes to show the correct location.
- The Young Ones parodies this in the pilot episode "Demolition": "Meanwhile, the next day".
- Each scene of Gypsy opens with a vaudeville-style sign describing the setting.
- Present in the Ace Attorney series. Played with at one point, when a character wakes up after being kidnapped (Location: ??? Date: ??? Time: ???).
- Also done in Deus Ex.
- Used extensively in the No One Lives Forever series.
- Can be seen at the beginning of every level in Mirror's Edge.
- This happens in Sonic Adventure 2.
- BlazBlue does this occassionaly to establish the date events are occurring on. And at one point gives a date 100 years in the game's past to indicate that Time Travel has occurred.
- Done on the (short) Loading Screens of the Metal Gear series to let you know what area you are entering. Once things start getting strange in Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty, they may occasionally show such unhelpful names as "New York 52nd Street", "Funabisha City" as you explore the guts of Arsenal Gear.
- Left 4 Dead: "2 WEEKS AFTER FIRST INFECTION"
- Call of Duty uses this at the beginning of every mission in the series.
- One exception is the mission "Of Their Own Accord" from Modern Warfare 2, where you unceremoniously begin in a bunker, evidently being shelled, wounded everywhere around you. You go outside and around a corner to see Washington DC in flames. Then the title in happens. And thus begins one of the most chilling chapters in the Call of Duty series to date.
- Call of Duty: Black Ops uses a variation combined with Quote Mine, where the text in the corner is much more descriptive, giving an overview of what you're doing, who you're with, and the like - and then, befitting the time period, everything except what would be found in the title-ins from any other game in the series (the general location, who you're playing as, and the date) is blacked out.
- The same as Modern Warfare for Portal 2, where every chapter is titled-in... except the last one:
GLaDOS: Well, This Is the Part Where... he kills us.
- In Tales of Symphonia, this happens every time you enter a new area, with the added benefit of a short line describing the town. Such as the starting town, "The Village of Oracles—Iselia."
- Assassin's Creed
- At the start of each memory sequence in Assassin's Creed II, the camera pans over the current city and its name and the current year are displayed. Also, whenever you synchronize with a view point, the camera does an Orbital Shot of the surrounding area, albeit without any subtitles.
- Assassin's Creed III lets you know when you've entered a new area. As the Frontier is a single HUGE area, it's been subdivided into a number of regions so players can roughly identify where important things are. It also allows for a hunting sidequest.
- 3D Zelda games, starting with Ocarina of Time, usually do this not just with towns but also new environments, such as Death Valley or Hyrule Field, accompanied by an Establishing Shot. The same service extends to dungeons, as early as Link's Awakening.
- Metroid Prime Trilogy show the area names, and do a pan-out of the areas, when you first enter them.
- Final Fantasy XII shows the name of areas when you first enter.
- Xenoblade not only shows the names when you first enter a new area, it also shows where there area is on the Bionis or Mechonis.
- Pokémon gives the town name but there's no pan out.
- Paper Mario: the Thousand-Year Door does this too, also with no pan out.
- In the Grand Theft Auto series, each time you enter a new zone, its name is displayed in the lower right corner.
- When you first visit a new landmark in Skyrim, the game displays "Discovered _______" across the top half of the screen. The area name appears again (much smaller, of course) in the upper corner when you reenter a previously visited area.
- An Untitled Story displays name of area the player enters in top-right corner of the screen.
- Solatorobo does this, but only the first time you enter a new location.
- World of Warcraft does this every time you enter a new zone/subzone, along with different colored text to tell you whether the area is neutral, friendly or hostile to your faction.
- The reboot of Ninja Gaiden does this when loading a new room/area.
- The original arcade game has the location of each stage shown at the beginning using stylized text. As an interesting twist, however, each stage intro uses different languages: stages 1 and 2 are in Russian, stage 3 is in Hebrew, stage 4 is in English and the final stage is in Nordic runes.
- Strider (2014) is a more straightforward example: the name of each section of the city appears right below the in-game radar/map as soon as Hiryu arrives at the area.
- Strider's Spiritual Sequel Cannon Dancer (Osman) goes the extra length, indicating the location, day and time of the day in the intro for each stage. For the record, the whole game happens over the course of a week.
- The Halo series letterboxes the player's view and displays the Chapter name in the bottom right corner when entering a new sub-level.
- In Heavy Rain, each scene begins with the time of day (though not the date) and, starting later in the game, the amount of rainfall in inches.
- Medal of Honor: Vanguard: At the start of first mission of each operation, the date and time is displayed on the top left corner of the screen, in subsequent missions within each operation, the mission name and the time is displayed.
- Foundation - The Psychohistorians: Gaal Dornick's arrival at the Luxor Hotel is shown by an Establishing Shot and the name clearly stated in a box at the upper left of the frame. The hotel's sign (Luxor Hotel) is somewhat visible in the lower-right corner, behind a taxi.
- In Homestuck, players' planets are typically introduced by showing them in the environment, then progressively panning out to show the entire planet with a subtitle. Subsequent appearances of these subtitles, sometimes seen hanging over the characters' heads, suggest these subtitles are actually there, floating out in space.
- Nebula: Most comics begin with the intentionally vague "Really far away. Really long ago"note over a shot of the main character(s) of that comic. Occasionally, this is changed:
- The Hero of Three Faces parodies the Fringe example, by having Walter claim that he invented the floating signs everyone uses.
- Lloyd in Space: Similarly, Lloyd Nebulon orders a helmet by mail order, and we have a caption saying "4 to 5 weeks later".
- The Simpsons has done the same thing at least twice with "Six to eight weeks later".
- In "Simpson Tide", a caption reading "United Nations Building, New York City" appears on a scene showing a farmer selling corn. The farmer says "It's over there", and the camera pans right to reveal the U.N. building.
- Parodied in the Aqua Teen Hunger Force movie, which opens with a pan over the pyramids of Giza with a title crawl reading thusly;
Millions of years ago
New York City
- SpongeBob SquarePants occasionally plays with titles.
- "Can You Spare A Dime?": "So much later that the old narrator quit and they had to hire a new one."
- "Wet Painters": It is revealed that Patrick is holding the title cards, and he tells SpongeBob to hurry up because he's all out.
- "Rock-A-Bye Bivalve": SpongeBob and Patrick take care of a baby scallop. Only SpongeBob is the one taking care of it while Patrick goes to "work". SpongeBob keeps telling Patrick to take care of him and Patrick's responses are followed by a title ("Tomorrow for sure", "Uhh"). Finally, they agree on 6:00 PM, with them repeating it constantly as Patrick leaves. Cut to the title "12:00 Midnight".
- Recess used this in certain episodes, such as "Two days later" or in the case of "Rainy Days", with the rain going on for several days, they used "Day One", "Day Two", etc.
- Used in every establishing shot in Young Justice.
- Also used very effectively to deliver a Wham Line. Season 2 starts right where the finale left off; we then transition to a scene of Superboy and M'gann taking down a villain in the sewers. There are subtle indications that something's not right, but it's only when the title in says FIVE YEARS LATER you realize what, exactly.
- Buzz Lightyear of Star Command has fun with this, particularly in its Pilot Movie The Adventure Begins where it has certain scenes like the Little Green Men's homeworld being under attack titled as "Under Attack", followed by the text replaced with "Obviously"; or with a later scene of Booster mopping up the floor of Star Command as "Star Command" and "Caution: Wet Floor" right as several Space Rangers run by.