TUTORIAL | Cut Lines: Creating Dynamic Video Titles, Part 3: More on Motion
Posted Jan 9, 2008

Happy New Year! This month I think we’re well-balanced with Cut Lines. We’ll finish with the third and final part of this little motion graphics crash course. It’s been a lot to cram into this short column. But I hope it helps at least some of you learn how easy Motion 3 really is to use. With a little practice, you’ll get the hang of working in 3D space in no time. At this point, I will assume that you’ve read the first two parts of this tutorial (Part One: LiveType and Part Two: Motion) and understand what was created with them. I’ll pick up directly from where we left off last month, and I’ll explain what I did to prepare for this third lesson.

Step 1: Creating Chapter Menus
Our next goal is to transform our video titles into DVD menus. First, open your original three LiveType projects in LiveType, and do a Save As to save a copy with a different name. I named mine "Menu 1," "Menu 2," and "Menu 3". Then, change the thumbnails to meaningful photos that represent each of the chapter buttons for your DVD menus.

You could also replace the photos with 30-second QuickTime files. Change the project’s Out point to 30 seconds by dragging the Playhead at the 30-second mark and by pressing the O key to set the Out point. Shift+Z will do a Fit to Window when you have the Timeline active. Setting the Cirrus background’s Speed to 50% and looping 3 times in the Timing tab may help with this task. Then, grab the end of the photos and drag them all over relative to the new Out point. Highlight the text, drag it to start at the very beginning of the Timeline, then adjust the Hold Last in the Timing tab so that it reaches at least the end of Timeline tab (to about 27 seconds or whatever makes it end at or close to the Out point).

Now, simply reduce the size of your big, centered main title from last month, change the text to something like "Play Video" or "Pre-Ceremony," and move it under the first photo. You may also wish to use a static font, such as Apple Chancery, for a menu like this.

This is your first chapter button. Highlight in the timeline and duplicate it with the keyboard shortcut Cmd+D. Hold the Shift key (to constrain to horizontal movement only) while you move the new text to under the next photo, change the text appropriately, and repeat until all chapter buttons are labeled. Move the bottom photos up to make room for the new text in the same manner (Shift+drag), as shown in Figure 1, below.

figure 1

Next, go to Effects > Fades and apply a Fade In to each of your text tracks. Do this for each of the three LiveType files we made last month and do a Save As for each as Menu 1, Menu 2, and Menu 3. Finally, open the Cirrus LiveType project we created before, and replace the Cirrus texture with the Creator texture found in the same Smoke category and do a Save As with a new name.

figure 1Step 2: Creating Menu Transitions
Next, open the Motion project we created in last month’s lesson, do a Save As, give it a new name, and delete the last (Location) clip. Here, using the File Browser as we did before, you can find your new DVD menu files (Figure 2, left).

In the Layers window (F5) you’ll see a column called Preview; these are the content wells. Take the LiveType file we made with the Creator texture and drop it from the File Browser to the content well of our Cirrus (background) layer.

Next, drag and drop the LiveType file of the Cirrus clouds only into each of our other two clips (Name & Date) in the Motion project. The media will be replaced, but the Layer will retain all of its attributes.

Since our camera movement was set in last month’s article, all you have to do now is make some minor adjustments and set In/Out points for your transitions from each menu to the next. In the timeline (F6), bring your playhead to the very beginning of the first clip (not the beginning of the Timeline).

Then hit the I key to set your In Point, click on the clip to highlight it, then click F1 to bring up the Properties Inspector. Click the pop-up menu to the left of each of your X, Y, Z, and Scale controls to Add Keyframes as we did last month.

Then, move the playhead to the point where the clouds fill the whole frame and hit O to set an Out point. Be sure to deselect the clip or you’ll cut it short, and also make sure you have everything deselected in the Timeline before setting an In or Out point.

If anything is highlighted in the Timeline when you do this, it’ll cut the asset to that spot rather than set an I/O point. Clicking Shift+I (or O) with nothing highlighted in the Timeline takes the Playhead to I/O points.

Step 3: Export Your Menu
Now you’ve got your first transition. If the transition doesn’t end with the clouds filling the whole frame, click the Camera track in the Timeline to highlight it while the Playhead is on the out point and press F1 to bring up the Properties Inspector. Next, click on the arrowheads to the left and right of each Position (X, Y, and Z), and Scale variables to line it up so that the clouds fill the whole screen (Figure 3, below).

figure 1

Finally, go to File > Export. In this window, set Use: to NTSC DV Movie, and make sure Export is set to QuickTime Movie. Name it (I called mine T1) and save it to your project folder in a subfolder called DVD Transitions. Be sure the export is also set to Video Only and that Use Play Range is checked.

Next, reset your In point to the same position as your current Out point. I’ll play from there until the second clip stops moving (movement we keyframed from last month). It doesn’t fill the frame, so I need to set my Out point there, highlight the Camera track in the Timeline, hit F1 to bring up my Camera track’s properties, and use the pop-up menus to the right of the Z control to Add Keyframe. I need to hit the arrowhead to the right of that variable to zoom in until the clouds fill the frame. You can click and hold that arrowhead to continue zooming in. Once done, Export as before, calling this version T2. Be sure you’re exporting only the video content, and that Use Play Range is checked.

Step 4: Tweaking in Final Cut Pro
Now, we’re all done with LiveType and Motion. There’s only one last thing to do before moving into DVD Studio Pro. Open Final Cut Pro, go to File > Import, and import T2.

Drop T2 into a Sequence in the Timeline window, right click on it (Ctrl+click for one-button mice), go to Speed, and check Reverse (Figure 4, below). Render if necessary and export the clip as a self-contained QuickTime movie called T3 to your Transitions folder.

figure 1

Now that you’re done working in FCP, you can move on to DVD Studio Pro and utilize your files.

figure 1Step 5: Assembling the Final DVD
Finally, in DVD Studio Pro, I’m going to do a quick-and-dirty example of how to assemble all of these assets to make them work together. There are several ways to do all of this. You can do this with Stories, or with DVD SP’s built-in Menu Transitions function. In our limited space here, we’ll use the most basic "menu" system for now.

To begin, import your three menu and three transition files. Since you didn’t encode these with Compressor first, DVD SP will encode them for you. These are very small files, so it should only take a few minutes. You could save your LiveType projects out as QuickTime files, which may save you time. You could also bring the LT project file into Compressor and make your MPEG-2 files there. Which workflow you choose is a matter of personal preference, but I find that QT movies encode faster in DVD SP than LT project files. But that’s no faster than using Compressor, so it’s really six of one, half-dozen of another.

Next, create three menus and place each of your menu files into each DVD SP menu. I won’t go into much detail about creating menus and such due to the limited space of this article (for more detail on creating menus in DVD SP, see Cut Lines, August 2006). Drag one of the LiveType menu files onto a menu in the Canvas, and choose Set Background from the overlay menu. Then, with the menu playing its loop, draw your buttons and set them up appropriately.

Now that you have three menus and have set each one with your three LiveType menu files, you need to incorporate your transitions. For these you’ll make a menu that launches when the disc is inserted and takes the user to menu 1 from menus 1 to 2, from 2 to 3, from 3 to 2, and from 2 back to 1. In your five transition menus, which you can name MT1, MT2, etc., place T1 transition movie as the background to menu MT1 and set this to be the first play when the DVD is started. Then, set the Properties of this menu, the "End" setting to "Timeout" (zero seconds), and "Action" to Menu 1 (Figure 5, left).

Next, set your Next menu button’s link in Menu 1 to your MT2 menu. When that button is selected, the program will jump to menu MT2 and play the transition movie. With MT2 set to Timeout, zero seconds, Action = Menu 2, it will play through seamlessly. In Menu 2, set the Previous menu button to link to the MT3 menu, which has your T3 transition movie set as its background, Timeout zero seconds, Action = Menu 1. Following this approach, all of your other buttons will link up to your various chapter markers.

That wraps up this three-part series. I know there is much more detail I could go into about this, and there are other, fancier, and more complex ways to work all this together in DVD SP, but I’m just giving the Old School basics here so you have a place to begin exploring the possibilities of dynamic text screens and menus with Final Cut Studio as a whole.

These last three installments of Cut Lines have presented a very complex set of instructions. One could teach a full 3-day class on only these three columns. My goal was to give you some basic tools to start exploring advanced tilting and motion graphics Final Cut Studio and instruction on how to use all the apps together to create workflows that can help create above-average products for your clients.

An example of how the final DVD menu system works can be found here.

Ben Balser (benb at bbalser.com) is an Apple Certified Trainer based in New Orleans, Louisiana. He specializes in training and consulting, and also produces documentaries, educational material, and commercial work. Contact Ben with Final Cut Studio questions and he will try to address them in future tutorials.