The background designs have been made with a Spirograph. I still have one - great fun. But those drawings are awfully small and most fit on a paper of only 10 by 15 centimeters. The standard animation/titling size is the "12-field" of about 22.5 by 30 cms.
(You can play with a 'Spiromat' applet on the web by admaDIC. They also sell a downloadable program with more options.)
This is completely wrong. Well, maybe not "completely": In his book VERTIGO - the making of a Hitchcock classic Dan Auiler tells that the drawings were made by John Whitney (page 154).
Saul calls them Lissajous spirals, devised by a 19th century French mathematician. It's a much more elaborate (and expensive) job where Whitney used an army surplus airplane machine-gun turret: an apparatus that bears a remarkable resemblance to a camera-dolly head with those little wheels you turn for pans and tilts. Anyway, he mounted that thing monstrosity over an animation stand to record its convolutions. You want my honest-to-satan opinion, just as usable results could have been obtained by hanging a flashlight from a string over an open-shutter still camera and giving it a knock. I concede that might entail a lot of more, different, work.
You must check out the movies John and James Whitney made. Mind you, the Spirograph would have worked - if it had been around!
what you miss is the movement the music the rhythm
THE gimmick in Vertigo is the perspective change when you look down from a height: it gets deeper while you watch. It's hard even to keep count of how often it happens. The effect, as far as I know, has never been redone with that precision John P. Fulton has achieved. In Jean-Pierre Melville's Le Samourai the opening shot in the same way dollies in while zooming out; but that really has to be done frame by frame on a rostrum-like multiplane construction. (Or, these days, on a computer, which takes all the fun out of it. I'm gratefully surprised we don't see it all the time now).
I have rebuilt the tower in Virtual Reality to figure out how they done it. Have a look, at the Global Village Fool You'll need a VRML browser plug-in
Here's a good one, free:
Saul Bass' hand is there, all right it's probably Paramount's advertising dept. who added all that junk to this:
On the video-tape the titles look suspiciously like they have been shot through an anamorphic lens. My guess would be that somebody wanted to preserve the original screen (a commendable dedication to quality) and squeezed it so it would fit on video. Then, the VistaVision screen would have looked like above. A pretty good solution, even if there's some distortion. On DVD it's it back to the correct aspect ratio. Below one title straight from the tape.
Considered by many to be Alfred Hitchcock's most personal film. This restored print of the suspense masterpiece stars James Stewart as an ex-cop with a fear of heights who is hired by an old friend to uncover the secret wife Kim Novak is keeping from him. What Stewart finds is a forbidden romance, a deadly plot, and an obsession that transcends the grave. With Barbara Bel Geddes, Tom Helmore; music by Bernard Herrmann. 128 min. Widescreen; Soundtrack: English Dolby Digital 5.1; Subtitles: Spanish, French; audio commentary; featurette; biographies; theatrical trailer.