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Titling Tips, Tricks, and Tools
Posted Mar 9, 2005 - KMWorld Buyer's Guide [September 1999] Issue Print Version     Page 1of 4 next »

From font selection and placement to backgrounds and motion, videography titling is more art than science.

Most of the effort put into creating memorable event videos comes from shooting the event and then editing that video afterwards, but there are many other skill sets that discerning videographers need to master in order to produce the best video possible. On the flip side, videographers must always keep in mind that each additional hour they spend working on a video reduces the amount of money they earn per hour, so it's important that they learn to work efficiently and prioritize their tasks. These truisms hold especially true when looking at the subset of editing video known as titling.

For the purposes of this article, "titling" refers to all uses of text in videos besides subtitles and closed captions. Subtitles (for DVD, anyway) generally involve working within specific parameters in the DVD spec; though often referred to as titles, closed captions—because they're often intended to make videos accessible to the deaf—are subject to numerous rules and regulations that set them apart from the "titles" used more generically in videos, as in films, to tell viewers what and whom they're seeing or about to see, and who's responsible for its creation. This type of titling, on the other hand, doesn't come with spec-related or legal restrictions so much as recommended practices. Determining video titles' readability and viewer appeal is really more subjective than objective, so rules of thumb tend to be sparse.

This lack of hard and fast rules can result in much consternation for videographers trying to create effective titles. How do I make my text pop off the screen? How much motion is too much motion? How can I make my title-creation process more efficient? These are just some of the questions that will be addressed in this article, followed by an overview of the capabilities of some of the built-in and plug-in titling tools on the market.

The Tale Titles Tell
In event videos, titles are used in everything from the opening credits to setting the scene and smoothing transitions during the video to the closing credits. "The main thing I use titling for is to establish what the event is," says Ed Wardyga, owner of Keepsake Video and KVI Media, which are based in Pawtucket, Rhode Island (www.kvimedia.com). "Generally, it's fairly simple: the name of the event, who produced it, and the date. We do that for every event, but rarely do we go beyond that for the opening credits."

Fellow videographer Ken Ehrhart, owner of Summit Productions of Albuquerque, New Mexico (www.summitvid.com), follows a similar model for his videos' introductions, but also relies heavily on titling as a way to transition from one scene to the next. "Coming out of the pre-ceremony coverage, I'll generally have a slightly more formal feel," says Ehrhart. "Sometimes it will say something as simple as ‘The honor of your presence is requested,' which dissolves into footage of the ceremony," he continues. "Coming out of the ceremony, I'll tend to have the bride and groom drive away into that CG that says ‘Here comes the reception.'"

Wardyga also takes advantage of titling to create a comprehensive credits roll, which is a big bonus for the types of events he specializes in. "My specialty is what I call stage productions: dance recitals, plays, variety shows, music/choral concerts—basically anything that's conducted on-stage and where I can sell 25-1,000 videos," he explains. In the credits for his videos, he says, "we generally list everybody that participates in the event. To ease this, the school doing the play has to submit to me their program in electronic form. Then I just do a copy and paste into the titler software." Wardyga includes any special thanks, production staff credits, and a full list of participants' names. "We get a lot of comments that people are surprised we did that, but they really appreciate it," he says.

First, the Font
After you've decided what they will be used for, it's time to start building your titles, and the first step in this process is finding a font. "I love the typography section in the Veer [Visual Elements] catalog," says Michael Vitti. Vitti is an event photographer and NYC FCP UG (a.k.a. New York City Final Cut Pro User Group) leader with a special interest in typography and typographer motion graphics applications. "The Linotype Web site [www.linotype.com] is a great resource for new fonts. Identifont.com has these really cool fonts that are free. You can't go really big with them, but they're free." [For a more comprehensive list of reputable online type foundries and search engines, check out the sidebar "Finding that Perfect Font Online."]

If you can't find just the right font at these sites, you can always make your own. "In [Adobe] Illustrator when you vectorize the type, you can then change it," Vitti says. "If you're really into it, there's an opportunity for you to make your own typography. It's very time-intensive."

But what good are expansive font resources or the ability to make your own font without any idea of what fonts would work best for your project? "For opening screens, I use a font that matches what the production is," explains Wardyga. "If it's a Shakespeare play, I'll use an Olde English lettering or script." One of Wardyga's current favorite fonts for social events is Black Chance. For Ken Ehrhart, selecting a font is an exercise in spontaneity. "What I do is very much a feel thing with the fonts that I choose," he says. "I don't have any rules of thumb. I don't do things by the book." One of his current favorites is Century Gothic.

In general, serif fonts are not recommended. When you're working in the NTSC format, "two-pixel or smaller lines like serifs will vibrate or strobe," says Vitti. "The reason is that NTSC has alternating lines. If you're doing NTSC, use thick type. You've got to have something more than three pixels or it's going to hum." Vitti goes on to suggest an alternative solution to this problem: match the rate of your scrolling titles to that of the alternating lines of NTSC. This means synching to the 60 fields per second of NTSC, although he recommends that videographers experiment with this number first before making it a permanent fixture of their productions. Plus, this technique will only work for title rolls that scroll down. "There's also another shortcut: if you do see this oscillation, apply a vertical blur," he recommends. "What's really important here is that you test it on an NTSC monitor and judge for yourself to make sure that it looks as good as possible." In the end, though, "for NTSC, it's best to avoid [serif fonts] for title rolls," he says. "I'll use a serif font if that's what the client wants, but I'll make it bigger."

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