Titling and CG’s

Whether it’s a small film or a block-buster, all productions uses titling to inform the viewer about things within the movie that are best left up to on-screen titling. For instance, it would seem pretty weird if at the start of a movie the narrator voiced the title and at the end said “The End”.  However, we think nothing of it when we read the words on the screen. Same goes for your filmmaking.

Besides showing the title of your film and The End, you can use titling and CG’s (computer graphics) to support the content and informational flow in you film in a number of ways. Titling really adds information to your film if you are producing an educational or documentary production. Using our old standby example of the chemical plant here is a list of possible titles that could appear on the screen in different scenes in the documentary version.

Swedish Oceans videoOpening Credits

  • Death Of The Town’s River (main title)
  • A Needless Poisoning In Rural America (sub-title)
  • Produced by
  • Distributed in cooperationwith

Titling within the body of your film

  • Location of opening scene
  • Name of host
  • Names and professions of people interviewed on camera
  • Change of scene locations or transitions of time
  • Important facts or figures supporting content

End Credits

  • Producer/s
  • Director
  • Cameras
  • Script
  • Actors, various talent, on-camera experts
  • Special thanks
  • Host or narration
  • The list can be hundreds of lines long in a feature production

Most editing software has some titling built into the program. Though it’s tempting to try and use all the fancy bells and whistles in the software, a simple approach works best to tell your audience what they need to know without distracting them with too much color and motion. Simple white font (letters) with a fine black boarder and drop shadow will read cleanly on most scenes. Black font with a fine white boarder also works well. Avoid using red as it bleeds with a fuzzy edge on TV screens. Also avoid fancy script letters that are difficult to read. A plain sans serif font such as Aerial bold will work well. However, it’s okay to get fancy with the title of your film with more dramatic font styles and colors.

How you bring in and remove the appearance of your titling should fit the flow of the film or scene. For example, if you show several shocking scenes of dead fish and pollution from the chemical plant, you might have the titling appear as a straight cut where it immediately appears on the screen. However, a less jolting approach that works well in documentary style films would be using a ½ -second fade in and fade out. This is what you typically see in many documentaries. But you do have the option to use fancy transitions on your titles such as wipes and page rolls – if they fit the flow of your film.

Where you place your titling on the screen can be affected by the video you’re showing behind the title and the intent. The main title of your film should be centered, while titles for people and places are typically positioned in the lower 1/3rd of the screen on the left or right side. Most titling software has a “title safe” area display to help you position your title in an area of the screen so it won’t be clipped when played on a television.

What, no titling software? So what if you’re editing your film on a computer that doesn’t have titling software? Yikes, dude. Well, you can do an online search for Free Titling Software then download the one you like. Or, if you’re looking for a gritty or funny slant to your titling, you can simply use a marker on paper and actually shoot the titling cards in the scene. Just be careful if you’re trying to be serious about your film’s message when your titling isn’t. An easy solution that will help with your transition into making CG’s (computer graphics) is to use a graphics program such as PhotoShop to create your titles. This will allow you to get a lot more artistic with your title. Simply save it as a layered file and import your text layer into your editing system. Many editing software programs readily accept layered PhotoShop (PSD) files.

Jump into the fun of CG’s

Now that you know the trick of creating and importing PhotoShop files into your editing workflow, let’s take it up a notch by creating and using computer graphics. Really, using a computer graphic of a chart or a map in your film is very much like using a title created in PhotoShop. The only difference is that now you might consider using and bringing in different layers of that graphic file to demonstrate something about the storyline. An example might be showing the gallons of pollution dumped into the river over time plus the destruction of fish over time. In fact, once you learn how to combinations of fancy transitions, motion or even animation with your CG’s, you can begin harnessing a whole new set of skills to help tell your story.

If using CG’s seems a little overwhelming at the start, simply begin by putting in a simple logo at the end of your film or attaching logos with the names of your interviewed experts. Don’t expect to use everything you learn all at once. Take one step at a time, and before you know it, you’ll be running down the road to filmmaking.


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