Give titles more credit in digital video

A good titling sequence can help establish the appropriate mood and prepare the audience for the type of movie that is being shown. Adding titles is easy using a video editing application: simply click on the Titling application within the editor and type in the text. Control over parameters such as colour, font, size and orientation is available in nearly all packages.

A title can include lines and shapes as well as letters, but until you become more confident, a simple title sequence with letters is recommended. When you have something you like, preview your work on screen before you render the title effect.

As you become more experienced, you can use titles created in graphics packages, such as Adobe Photoshop or Paint Shop Pro, and incorporate them into your video editing package. Keep in mind, though, that this will restrict your ability to alter the text, as the video editing program treats the title as a single graphic, not a group of letters.

Selecting a title

The wording of the title is just as important as its look, and simple, sharp statements are effective for most situations. If you are showing a birthday or celebration, a more expressive or flowery title may be the way to go.

Next, you need to select size, colour and font type, and the best style to select is one that is clean and legible. Video is usually compressed and shown at a low resolution, meaning that some fonts are better than others for title effects. Thin fonts may not reproduce well on screen, even if they look fantastic during the editing stage; Arial or Helvetica may be a good starting point. If you decide the font looks too plain, you can always add an effect such as a background shadow or embossing to create a greater impact.

The colour of your title sequence is also an important choice, helping to set the tone of the movie. Overlaying coloured text on the movie itself can be difficult, as the average scene throws a lot of different colours on the screen. Unless you want to make a statement with a particular scene, a black background is usually the best choice. Alternatively, if you want to send a message to the viewer during a movie, in a style similar to 1960's TV programs (e.g., Meanwhile, back at the Batcave...), insert the title into a black box and position it at either the top or bottom left of the screen.


The title can be centred, or programmed to animate from either the left or right. Some programs allow you simply to press a button to move the title from left to right, top to bottom, etc. Others offer more control, allowing you to move the title anywhere you want on the screen by selecting the beginning and end points for your title.

Unlike a program such as Photoshop or Paint Shop Pro, your titling program will force you to work within a specific area, making sure that the title keeps within the area of the video screen.

Try to keep each title's on-screen time limited to around a second, giving the viewer enough time to absorb the text but not long enough that they are waiting for the next title or the movie to start.

Giving full credit

Credits not only signify the end of the movie, they allow you to acknowledge your actors and personnel, plus give such details as when the movie was shot and produced, and where.

Audio may play a part in the credits: a well-chosen music piece that fades out often creates the right atmosphere for the viewer.

Directors sometimes overlay credits on ‘unedited' footage (also know as out­takes), thereby sustaining audience interest until the very last credit is rolled. Some video editing programs allow you to split the screen in two, so the credits roll on a black background alongside a smaller movie screen showing outtakes or scenes from the movie itself. However, if you feel uninspired, a black background screen with white rolling credits will always work well.

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Denis Gallagher

PC World
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