TUTORIAL | Cut Lines: Creating Dynamic Video Titles, Part 1
Posted Nov 8, 2007

This month I’ll present part 1 of a 3-part tutorial showing you how to create very dynamic titles with Final Cut Studio 2. In part 1, we’ll start by using LiveType, along with photos from your wedding or event video, to create dynamic introduction clips. We’ll create a clip that has an animated background, six animated photos, and animated text announcing the title of our event. The beauty of LiveType is how easily and quickly we can create this intro, how easily it will integrate into our FCP project, and how simple it will be to come back and re-edit our clip in LiveType at a later time.

Step 1: Project Setup
First, gather up six photos or stills from your project in Final Cut Pro. To keep organizing assets, simply place them, or copies of them, in a dedicated folder. Then launch LiveType. In this tutorial I’m using the LiveType 2.1.3, the latest version as of this writing.

Go to Edit > Project Properties (Cmd+0) and set the format to match your FCP Project Properties (Figure 1, below). I’m setting up for NTSC-DV in this example. In the Background section, make sure that you have Render Background checked. Click OK, and save your LiveType project with an appropriate name and in an appropriate location. In this example, we’re saving it as a native LiveType project (.ipr), not as a QuickTime movie. Also, make sure snapping is enabled in the Timeline. You’ll find LiveType’s Snapping control—which looks much like FCP’s Snapping tool button—in the lower left corner of the Timeline. As a side note to the Project Properties, if you are creating text only with a transparent background, choosing a color and setting the Opacity to 100% will allow you to see the text more easily in the Canvas window while you work. Also, keep Render Background unchecked so that when you export, the background will still be transparent.

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Step 2: Choose an Animated Background
Next, in the Media Browser (upper right of your screen), under the Textures tab, choose Category > Smoke, and highlight the Cirrus animated texture. (Obviously, you’ll want to experiment with other background textures in your own projects.)

Towards the bottom of the Media Browser, click Apply To New Track. Note that this animated background clip is placed in your timeline below the horizontal Background Bar. Anything below this bar is treated as "background" in LiveType, and thus governed by the Background Project Properties setting. Anything above the Background bar should be your regular text and object assets that you do not want LiveType to consider background.

In the Timeline, you’ll see an Out Point in the ruler just like in FCP. Drag it to the right to create a 10-second clip. As you drag things in the Timeline an overlay rectangle comes up to show you the timecode of your current cursor position Then grab the end of the Cirrus animation and drag it left to match the Out Point at 10 seconds (Figure 2, below). Then press Shift+Z to fit the full 10 seconds into the Timeline window at once.
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Step 3: Place Your Photos
Let’s place and arrange our photos now. In the File menu, you will see two options for importing assets. The second one is Place Background Movie, which you would use to import your own background movie created in another application. The first one, called Place (Cmd+I), is used to place an asset, in this case our photos, into the Timeline above the Background Bar.

To select your first photo, go to File > Place. As you’ll notice, it is placed on Track 1 in the Timeline, and in our case, since it is a still from a full-frame NTSC-DV clip, it fills the whole Canvas (upper left section of Figure 3, below). Click Track 1 to highlight it, and in the Inspector window, in the Text tab, adjust the size to 50% (upper right section of Figure 3, below). The Track you have highlighted in the Timeline will show its settings in the Inspector window. Finally, click on the photo in the Canvas window to highlight it. You’ll see a wireframe around it when it’s highlighted; drag it to the upper left corner of the Action Safe overlay (lower left section of Figure 3, below). If you don’t see the Title/Action Safe overlay, go to the View menu and select Title Safe.

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Step 4: Add/Animate Text
Now we’ll create our animated text. Use the Cmd+T keyboard shortcut to create a new Text Track in your Timeline. Click on it to highlight it. In the Text tab of the Inspector, type in "Our Wedding" (or whatever is appropriate for your project). Go to the Media Browser window, select the LiveFonts tab, and choose Pro Series > Ribbon, then click the Apply button at the bottom.

In the Timeline, drag the Playhead to 3 seconds. Then drag the new text clip so that the beginning of the clip snaps to the Playhead. With this text clip still highlighted, in the Inspector window go to the Timing tab and change the Speed setting to 90. Change the Hold Last setting to 5.0 seconds. If the end of this text clip goes past our Out Point, that’s fine, as long as it at least reaches the Out Point.

While the "Our Wedding" track is still highlighted, use the Cmd+D keyboard shortcut to duplicate this track. Now we have a Track 02, with Track 01 still highlighted. Go to the Text tab and change the text there to "July 21, 2007." In the Attributes tab adjust the Offset Y: setting by dragging the slider slowly to the right to bring this line of text down. You can then highlight Track 02 and use its Offset Y: setting to adjust where it sets in the frame. I am leaving the Text Size at its 80-point default. You can see my results in Figure 4 (below). Before moving on to Step 5, save your work.

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To make things easy to place, go to the View menu and select Grid. You can use the arrow keys on your keyboard to nudge the photos around. Repeat these steps, placing the photos horizontally with 3 across the top and 3 across the bottom, all bordering on the Action Safe area (outer square) of the Title Safe overlay. The last step in this phase is to grab the end of each photo in each of their respective Timeline tracks and extend them to cover the whole 10-second length of our clip (lower right section of Figure 3--see Step 3). Before continuing to Step 4, save your work.

Step 5: Place Your Photos
Our next step is to animate how the photos come into the scene. Click on the first photo (upper left of the Canvas), to highlight it. In the Inspector window’s Text tab, a non-text object is represented as a period. Type in more periods and you’ll see more copies of the photo. For this example, we’ll use only one. But note that since objects and text are treated the same (the Glyph Animation model), we can apply text effects to our photos. With our first photo highlighted, go the Media Browser, choose Effects > Glows > Cat Eyes. Then click Apply.

You’ll see below the photo’s track in the Timeline that the effect is applied to the beginning of the photo, and sits in its own Effects Track just below. Highlight this effect in the Timeline, go to the Effects tab in the Inspector, and you’ll see Cat Eyes is highlighted. Scroll down the Active Parameters below and double-click on GlowColor (ignore the numbers trailing it). In the Color Selector window, chose the crayon box (upper right) and choose Snow (bottom right crayon), and click OK all the way back to our project.

Right-click on the effect in the Timeline and from the pop-up menu, choose Save Effect. Give it a meaningful name. Make sure the Save In Category is set to Custom, and modify the Description if you wish. In the Media Browser’s Effects tab, choose the Custom category, and you’ll see your newly refined effect. Highlight each photo track and Apply your new effect to each photo as you just did to the first one. Save your work.

Our last step to to adjust the timing of our photos: In the Timeline, drag the Playhead to one second (00:00:01;00), then drag the first photo so its beginning snaps to the Playhead. Set the rest of the photos this same way so that they are one second apart. The second photo should come in at 2 seconds, the third at 3 seconds, and so on. They will overshoot the Out Point, and we have plans for them to fade out, so trim the end of each clip, including the two Text clips, to the Out Point by dragging it in the Timeline. Be careful you are dragging the end of the clip, not moving the whole clip with the Hand tool. Your finished product should look like Figure 5 (below). Save your work.

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Step 6: Finishing and FCP
To polish it off properly, highlight the Cirrus background track in the Timeline, go to the Effects tab, the Fades Category, highlight Fade In and click Apply, then highlight Fade Out and click Apply. You can drag the edges of these effects in the Timeline to make them each a full one second long, just as we’ve adjusted other clips by dragging the Playhead to a position, then dragged the clip’s edge to snap to the Playhead.

Finally, highlight the Fade Out effect on the Cirrus clip, right-click, and choose Copy Effect from the pop-up menu. Then, highlight each photo and text track in turn, using the Cmd+V keyboard shortcut to paste this 1-second Fade Out to all tracks. The Fade Out may be longer for the two text tracks, and that’s fine (Figure 6, below). Save your work.

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Final Tips
We used specific effects in this tutorial. I encourage you to experiment and try other effects. After this tutorial was done, I dragged the end of each photo clip to the left in the Timeline so that they seem to fade out randomly. I also used a Zoom effect called Fly Out to end the Cirrus clip. To see the final clip I created as an H.264 half-size QuickTime file, click here.

The purpose of this tutorial isn’t to tell you which effects to apply or to help you create the same look I achieved, but rather to teach you some of the basic tools to use in LiveType, how to manipulate them, and how to navigate the application to create a compelling intro video—for example, how to make the photos appear randomly rather than sequentially, and how to use different effects to transition them off the screen. Try using video assets, rather than still photos, or a mixture of both! Never be afraid to experiment! Until next time, happy editing!

To see your final product right now in LiveType quickly, go to the File menu and choose Render Preview > Normal. It will create a full-resolution RAM preview in its own window for you to play back and review. Or play it in the Timeline and it will render as it plays so that the second pass will play at normal speed. Save, quit, import this LiveType project file into FCP, and enjoy! When you import this LiveType project directly into FCP and drop it into a Sequence, it may need rendering as LiveType uses the Animation codec natively to preserve the best image quality. To alter this LiveType animation clip at a later time in FCP, right-click (Ctrl+click) it and choose Open In Editor. It will open automatically in LiveType, and any changes you make and save in LT will be updated automatically when you switch back to FCP.

Ben Balser is an Apple Certified Trainer based in southeast Louisiana. He teaches Final Cut Studio for LA Tech College and the N.O. Video Access Center.