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Review: Macrosystem Deluxe Titler 3D
Posted May 30, 2006 Print Version     Page 1of 1

Deluxe Titler 3D ($199) is a great Casablanca extension not just for creating visually engaging titles for specific projects, but also for creating a look that will help identify, distinguish, and brand your work. The Free Motion feature in particular gives users great control over rotation and motion paths in an interface worthy of Casablanca's signature ease-of-use.

Deluxe Titler 3D is a titling animation utility created by French software developer TVPAINT and introduced by Macrosystem as a plug-in for Casablanca systems in late 2005. It greatly enhances SmartEdit's existing titling capabilities by adding many of the features you'd expect in a program called Deluxe Titler 3D. You get three-dimensional text enhancement with customizable depth, lighting, and intensity, plus multiple ways of animating the text through both preset motion paths and keyframeable "free" motion.

It's a great add-on feature for creating visually engaging titles for specific projects, and also for identifying, distinguishing, and branding your work. It boasts the signature ease-of-use of Casablanca products, and should meet the needs of most Casablanca users who want to add eye-catching 3D text to their existing projects.

How it Works
You don't have to know much of anything about the technical underpinnings of 3D animation to make the jump from Macrosystem's existing 2D titler tool to Deluxe Titler 3D. You just have to start thinking in 3D space. That means accounting for depth, shadowing, and multiple light sources, plus recognizing the way certain settings will rotate your text on multiple axes and create the illusion of distance as your title moves back and forth in varying proximity to your audience.

There's no talk of nurbs and splines and character behaviors here, or any of the other 3D jargon you'd find in a full-featured 3D application like 3ds max or Maya, of course. You also can't set images or other non-text objects spinning as in a prosumer tool like Ulead Cool 3D Studio. That's a limitation, but also an advantage because it lessens the learning curve. The Settings windows in which you'll adjust various parameters of your 3D styles and motion paths will seem very familiar to any experienced Casablanca user.

After installing Deluxe Titler 3D much as you install any other Casablanca extension, you access the software via the Title icon at the bottom-right of the main Smart Edit interface. It will appear in your menu of titling effects along with the various 2D effects you already had available. As with any of those effects, click on the 3D icon to select it, click Add to add the effect to your selected screen, and you're ready to create and animate your title.

Creating your initial title text will be familiar as well, although you may find you'll want to make some adjustments to the 2D style of your text based on how you'll be manipulating it on the 3D plane (like font size, character spacing, or the grade of your italics, for example). The Style to All Lines setting will be especially valuable here after you've found settings that work. As with any other titling exercise, once you find a font and style that works well for 3D development, archive and name the style so you don't have to go through the same experimentation phase again. Experimenting perhaps somewhat more freely than you're used to, then finding something that works through trial and error, and archiving what you produce will probably be the most effective way to go in all aspects of Deluxe Titler 3D as you're getting to know the software.

figure 1

The real fun (not to mention experimentation) starts in the 3D Style Settings window (above). Here you can adjust multiple settings to make your 3D text characters look exactly how you want them. You can also apply colors and textures—familiar to anyone who's done Smart Edit titling—and then start building your 3D styles. The Letter Color/Texture settings apply only to the front and back of the letters. You'll use the 3D Color/Texture controls to create settings for the 3D elongation of your text. With the 3D slider you'll set the intensity/strength of the 3D effect; at a maximum setting of 500, your text will have tremendous depth, but won't rotate with much clarity or definition.

You can also virtually light your 3D characters from three different angles in this window (front-left, front-right, and back-center). Without backlighting, for example, the front-facing portion of the letters will appear darker the farther they recede along the Z axis. Of course, these lighting controls could be used to more dramatic and idiosyncratic effect with user-customizable intensity (by adding familiar slider bars). As it is, users have only an on/off choice for each lighting position.

In this window you can also manage the beveled edges of your letters by size and shape. For the size setting you have a slider bar; for the shape, you have a handful of choices by degree (angled toward the front, angled toward the back) or other directions the beveled edge can face. The "spike" options create some especially cool effects once you get the letters spinning and moving around the screen.

You can preview your settings in this window as well by checking the Animation box below the Preview window. Again, another welcome option here is the opportunity to archive and recall your settings once you've tweaked them to your liking.

Fixed Motion

figure 2

You don't have to set your 3D text in motion, of course, but with a tool like this, that's half the fun. One way to get things moving is to use Deluxe Titler 3D's various preset motion paths—and naturally, this is the easier way, given that the other option is full-throttle user customization. You have some customization options here as well, but the motion paths are basically set except for positioning and timing choices.

In the Fixed Motion window, users can determine how they want their text to fade, or move, into the screen, how they want it to fade, or move, out, and what (if any) single action they want it to perform in between. Choices include flying into the center of the screen from the bottom, top, or left; a cool boomerang effect that works along the Z (depth) axis; and other rotation-oriented choices like Spinning Top. You can set the duration of the effect with the corresponding slider bars. You can animate letters individually or move the entire word (or string) as a bloc. Likewise with the MID motion and OUT motion controls, though the options for each are somewhat different. If you choose no option ("—") for a given motion stage, your text object will remain stationary at the center of the screen.

Naturally, you'll want to keep in mind the duration of the scene corresponding to your title overlay when you're setting durations for each fixed motion routine. Here, as with the other settings windows, archiving your successful settings is available and encouraged.


figure 3

In the Free Motion window, motion is entirely user-determined and defined through keyframes (or rather, key points). It's remarkably simple to use, given the control it gives you. Essentially, you open up the window, begin by adding as many key points as you want to have in your scene (again, keeping in mind overall scene length), then click on each one to activate it, and position it in the 2D onscreen position where you want to position your text at that point in the scene.

Next, you click Edit Key Point and adjust rotation (-720 to +720 degrees—or up to two full rotations in either direction—on each axis) and perspective/distance with the Z slider. Thus you have full control over text position and behavior at any point on the screen. Macrosystem's thorough and excellent user manual is especially helpful with the Free Motion window in walking you through a solid example that makes it very easy to get comfortable with these controls.

Although it admittedly requires thinking in 3D, rather than 2D, space, these controls are as easy to master as the motion keyframing controls found in Photo Studio 2 (see review) and arguably even more rewarding in the opportunities they give you to customize your titling effects. And since the real purpose here is adding distinctiveness to your work and a clear identity to your brand, that makes Deluxe Titler 3D—and the Free Motion controls in particular—a real asset to Casablanca-based video producers.

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