TUTORIAL | Cut Lines: Adding High-Impact Filters to Your Titles
Posted Aug 1, 2008

Words go so well with video. They can give an emotional punch to a scene or simply announce what is going to happen next. I love using romantic quotes, Bible passages, and other forms of text in my work. The best part is that you can be just as creative with how those words are presented as you are in picking out the text in the first place.

I also like credits, either as part of the opening or during the highlights. I realize a lot of videographers are hesitant to include credits for many reasons, such as fear of misspellings, perceived lack of client interest, or because it is just one extra thing that adds time to the overall edit.

My findings are quite different. I’ve actually seen prospective clients get excited over simple titles, quotes, and other forms of text. It has definitely sealed the deal with certain clients. This brings me to the "how": How do you make text interesting? Have a look at some print advertisements and you will see a wide variety of text effects, interesting font combinations, and other attributes which work just as well in the video world. Here are a few tips to help you use text to greater effect in your videos.

Step 1: Add Filters and a Motion Background to a Text Image
One of my favorite techniques is very simple, but also very effective. I start with a large background text image, then add some filters and motion to it.

The point isn’t to make it readable; for that I add a foreground title with few (or no) effects. The top layer of text is what the client will read, so any effects added to it must be very subtle. The opposite is true of the background text layer. It must not distract from the message of the upper layer. A good trick is to reduce the opacity of the bottom layer, use a more muted color, or add a blur filter.

I tend to use the Boris Title Toolkit 3D plug-in included in Final Cut Pro for most of my titles, although you have a few more options, especially when considering lighting and perspective effects when you use motion for your titles. Noise Industries, LLC’s FxFactory Pro application (click here for an in-depth look at FxFactory Pro) in particular has some neat filters that can really add a professional polish to your titles.

Our first sample (Figure 1, below) combines a bottom color matte with a large blurred bottom text layer and a straightforward upper text layer. The font I used for both is Copperplate, but you could also combine two different fonts. An old film filter has been applied to the color matte, which adds a sepia tone to the image. The bottom text layer scrolls from left to right, but, as mentioned, it is too large and blurry to really make out what it says, it is just there to add depth.

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Step 2: Apply a Lighting Filter
One effect has been added to the second image, but it has a very different impact. I’ve used the Spot Light filter from FxFactory Pro (Figure 2, below), and there are some other similar filters out there.

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If you don’t have a lighting filter like FxFactory Pro, you can fake it—a simple black and white graphic created in Photoshop then imported into Final Cut Pro can act as an image mask. You might also try adding an emboss text filter to the bottom text layer for a completely different look.

Step 3: Add a Video Layer and a Gradient Fill Layer
The next example involves two text layers, a video layer, and a gradient fill layer. A simple white-to-black gradient goes on the bottom, although adding color is an option that can look nice with the right image.

Again, we add a blurred bottom image, and this time I go to a very decorative font (Figure 3, below). This is not a font I would use for the main text, as it is almost impossible to read on NTSC video. The top text layer is, again, something more readable and more pronounced.

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To finish the effect, simply place the video layer atop the gradient and drop the opacity down so that some of the gradient shows through. Then, if you’re using dark text, place it in the lighter part of the image—vice versa if you’re using light text. The video image used will determine how much opacity you need for the right effect.

Step 4: Use Motion's 3D Camera Effect
For our last example, we will use Motion’s 3D camera to create a great text effect. Start by typing your text as usual, then adding an Extrude filter.

The effect controls (bottom right in Figure 4, below) allow you to control several aspects of the extrude effect, and I find just fiddling with the sliders is the best way to get the look you are aiming for.

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Step 5: Animate the Extrude Effect
See that icon on the top that looks like a little movie camera (Figure 5, below, inset)? That turns on the 3D mode and takes us to the next part of this effect.

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It might take a while to get fully accustomed to the camera controls, so experimentation is recommended before you press the record button and start the animation. When you’re ready, put the playhead at the beginning of the effect and press record.

Animation in Motion is simple, so if you haven’t done much in Motion before, just remember the most important rule: Don’t forget to turn on record at the beginning of your effect and turn it off at the end of the effect. If record isn’t turned off, you could get wonky results as any changes you make are recorded at the current playhead position.

You may want to go back and forth between the start and end of your effect, making slight adjustments until it is just right. My example starts out with the text large and centered, and then it gradually moves away from the camera and tilts back.

Step 6: Add a Perspective Reflection Effect
To finish off the effect, I add a perspective reflection effect (from FxFactory Pro). This creates a nice mirror reflection and an even bolder impact (Figure 6, below).

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Hopefully, I’ve opened your mind to the power of text and the possibilities of adding effects to your titles. Until next time!

Joe McManus (joe at fvpro.com) is co-founder of Future Vision Productions, an award-winning wedding and event videography outfit based in London, Ontario, and he was named to the 2005 EventDV 25. Contact Joe with Final Cut Studio-related questions and he’ll try to address them in Cut Lines.