Making Great Titles for your Next Video (Part 1)

You’re nearly finished with your video. You’ve picked the perfect music, gotten the editing done just right, and now its time to give credit where it’s due. No, there’s no need to tell your mom how much you love her (at least not in your video). But you do need to identify all those talking heads in your show. After all, it’s important to let your audience know who’s talking and why they should care.

Proper use of titles and lower-third graphics help your audience follow the action. They establish the credibility of your on-camera interviews. If you apply a few simple ‘rules’ they can even improve the quality of your entire piece and add to the overall style. Don’t freak out when I say rules; rather think of this as experienced advice. Choose to follow whatever makes sense for your show.

To build titles and lower-thirds, I recommend Adobe Photoshop. While there are several other tools out there, none have as big a user base or as many options. Think of Photoshop as a flexible friend, it’s great at getting you out of tight jams and creative bottlenecks. All of these tips will work with Photoshop 5.5 or newer (and most are timeless, working with all versions).

#1 – Build It Right

You have to get things started, might as well do it right. The first step to make great looking titles is to build them the right size. If your graphics get formatted incorrectly, they will have to be resized by your video software. This usually results in shakes, jitters, and strobing (while this may make for a good Saturday night, you won’t want this in your show).

The right size for graphics is a popular arguing point amongst video pros. The issue is that Photoshop 7 and earlier has used square pixels, which is the standard for computer graphics. The problem is that most video sources use a D1/DV pixel, which is rectangular in shape, or non-square. Don’t worry, short-term problem.

To make things easier, Photoshop 7 (and newer) has built-in templates. Use them. The sizes Adobe recommends work just fine and I have never had any problems with these dimensions.

#2 – Make a template

  1. Have an empty document open sized for your editing system (see above).
  2. Create a new (empty) layer, and name it Safe Title Area.
  3. Select All by pressing Cmd+A (Ctrl+A).
  4. Scale the active selection to 80% by choosing Select>Transform Selection, and then typing in 80% in the Options bar for width and height. Press Return (Enter).
  5. Load red as the foreground color. Then choose Edit>Stroke and specify four pixels centered. This is the title safe area.
  6. Lock the Safe Area Overlay layer by clicking on the Lock icon in the layer’s palette.
  7. Save your work.