A deranged witch conjures the spirits of Halloween past in this title sequence for the horror film, Children of the Witch. All titles are hand-made using real objects. The main title was shot live while the cast & crew titles are handwritten typography animated in After Effects. Check out some BTS photos below to see how this was done!


First, I did the typesetting in Photoshop and printed it on regular 8.5 x 11 paper. I taped it to a piece of black matte board and cut the stencil out by hand with my trusty X-acto knife. This was painstaking but well worth it.

Then I taped it to the back of a medium-size fish tank with black gaffer's tape. The holes for the "D" and the "R" were taped on with clear double sided tape. I made sure there were no seams on the edges so any unwanted light didn't seep through.

We staged the fish tank outdoors on a folding table. A back light was blasted behind the stencil with an orange gel to give it some Halloween flavor. The fish tank was placed upside down so the opening was at the bottom. We setup a smoke machine to blow smoke inside the fish tank and the smoke was able to stay trapped inside.

Next, I wrapped the front of the fish tank with a black garbage bag and doused it with lighter fluid. Once we started rolling, I set that baby on fire! We did about 25 takes of this...having to clean the front of the tank, wrap it and douse it before each take.

The final result was a really organic, creepy reveal of the Main Title with absolutely ZERO digital effects or enhancements that also tied into the story of Children of the Witch. I think it's important to note that the unpredicability of this was both fun and frustrating. Fire has a mind of it's own and the combination of all of these elements gave us only 2 good takes out of 25.


This footage was shot into a small, broken makeup mirror. Our very talented actress had to learn how to say the chant backwards because we were reversing the footage so that the chant was spoken with an other-worldly tone.

The broken mirror and flickering fire light gave us a really unsettling a good way, of course.


We designed some old newspapers and printed them on newsprint, naturally. The creepy old Halloween photos of children in Halloween costumes (c. early 1900s) were printed on glossy paper and we hand cut deckled edges with regular craft scissors. The photos and newspapers were placed one by one into a fire pit and were shot in super slow motion as they were incinerated. In post, we played the footage in reverse and intercut it with the witch's chant to make it seem like she was raising the spirits of Halloween past.


I bought a cheap stencil that I thought fit the bill and a relatively expensive sheet of textured paper. I'm guessing it was watercolor paper of some kind. Anyway, the mixture of the fabric marker and the thick paper created a nice bleed. Once that was done, I scanned it into Photoshop and separated each letter into it's own file.

In Photoshop, I pieced each name and title together letter by letter. Needless to say, that took a while but I really liked having control over the animation on each letter, where the baseline for each letter sat & varying the sizes from title card to title card.


Production Co.: Sideshow Pictures
Director: Frank Sabatella
Title Sequence Director: John Morena
Animation/VFX: John Morena
Designer: John Morena
Music/Sound Design: Gregory Polzak