Creative Commons License


There's a lot of ways you can create titles for your videos - you can import graphics from photoshop, build elaborate title sequences in a compositing app like After Effects, or just create both simple and elaborate titles within FInal Cut itself. Today we'll focus on the simple title generators in Final Cut because it's the easiest way to get started.


Generators are what you use in Final Cut to "generate" something - meaning it's content you created within FCP itself and not from somewhere else (i.e. your camera or another program). Final Cut ships with 24 built in generators for creating things like solid colors, gradients, color bars (with audio reference tones) and titles. I'll focus on the title generators here but all the others work in the same basic way so you should be able to explore them on your own.

There are two ways to access FCP's generators. In the lower right hand corner of the Viewer window is a menu button with an icon that looks like a filmstrip with the letter 'A' in it (1): If you click on this you will have access to a menu listing all the generators, grouped into submenus by type. You can also access all the generators from the 'Effects' tab of the browser window - just like you access transitions. There is a bin below the 'Video Transitions' and 'Video Filters' bins called 'Video Generators' and when you toggle it open you can access all of the available generators.

The Basic Text Generators

I'm going to focus here on the basic text generators which are located in the 'Text' submenu. You'll notice there are some other title generators which are outside of this folder - they are actually plug-ins from a company called Boris which Apple has licensed for FCP. They work within their own interface and are complex enough that I will cover them at a later time on their own. For most of your basic titling needs the text generators are a good place to start. You'll notice that some of their names are in bold - this means they will render in real-time (just like the real time transitions). The ones that aren't in bold will preview with RT unlimited turned on but may not play back smoothly and need to be rendered to see their full quality.

To apply a text generator to your timeline you have a couple different options. You can drag it straight from the effects browser to the timeline. If you do this, you can either place it on an empty section of the timeline (in which case the title will appear over black) or you can drop it above a clip which is already in place. when you do this a new track will be added to your sequence and the title will be superimposed on top of the video below it. If you want to superimpose a title this way, make sure the cursor shows an arrow pointing down before you drop the title - if it points to the right it will insert the title at the point you drop it and move everything else down the timeline to make room.

You can also select the generator from the Viewer window's drop down menu - if you do this,your title will appear in the viewer with a checkerboard background indicated the transparent areas behind the text. You can now drag it down to the timeline.

Either way you place the title, to change the settings for the copy on your timeline you need to double click the clip on the timeline itself in order to open it up in the viewer. once you've done that, any changes you make will affect the copy on the timeline and can be previewed on the canvas.

There are 6 Text generators that we will be looking at here - most of them have similar settings so I'll start with the basic text generator and then focus on the differences in the rest.

Once you've placed a basic Text Generator clip on your timeline, double click it to open it up in the viewer. You will see the words "Sample Text" on a checkerboard background. At the top of the Viewer window is a tab called "Controls" which lets you access the Text Generator settings for this clip. Click on this tab and you will be presented with a lot of options: Before you start making changes to these settings, place the playhead on your sequence somewhere within the clip so that it becomes visible in the canvas window - now any changes you make can be previewed immediately in the canvas.
  1. Text input box - this is where you type the text you want for your title. Click in the box to type something new, and press Tab or click on another input box to apply the changes and see them on the canvas. If your text is long it will not wrap - it just forms one long line of text which will run offscreen. If you want it to wrap you will have to place hard returns in the text itself within the input box.
  2. Character Controls - These are standard text options. You can choose a font, set it's size, and make it bold, italic, or both. Alignment will let you justify your text left, right or center. Font color is just that - you can select a font color either with the eyedropper (this lets you sample a color from your video for the text) or by clicking the colored square to bring up the standard color wheel.
  3. The origin sets the corner point for the text relative to the whole video frame. By default it's at 0,0 (the top left corner of the video) but you can enter a new value or click on the crosshairs button and then click and drag in the canvas window to change the origin manually.
  4. Advanced typographic controls - These let you change to behavior of the font itself. Tracking changes the spacing between each character, Leading changes the space between each line, and Aspect changes the width-height ratio of the text (making it tall and thin or short and wide). Auto Kerning determines how the letter spacing is set - when checked, it's set using the tracking control, when unchecked it uses the default spacing built into the font. "Use Subpixel" affects the positioning of the text. If the text is halfway between two pixels it will blend the pixels to position the text properly; when off the text will snap to the nearest pixel, which can create jerky motion if you animate the text at all. Usually you should leave it checked.
That's it as far as the basic text generator is concerned. The rest of the text generators are simply variations on this one.
Lower 3rd
A lower third is used most often in an interview or news situation where you have a person onscreen and want to display their name and title below their face. THe name comes from it's placement onscreen - in a the lower third of the screen. The Lower Third Generator gives you two lines of text, each of which has it's own set of controls similar to the basic text generator. It also adds a few new controls:
  • Background - this lets you place either a bar (a thin line between the two text lines) or a solid color behind the text. This can help separate the text from the background video and make it more readable
  • Opacity - this sets the opacity of the bar or solid behind the text.
  • Color - this lets you choose the color of the bar or solid
Outline Text
This lets you make text which has an outline, is only an outline, or contains a video frame within it. In addition to the basic text controls you have a lot of new options:
  • Line Width & Line Softness - set the thickness and softness of the outline on your text.
  • Text Opacity - makes the entire text more or less transparent.
  • Text Color & Line Color - pick different colors for the outline and body of the text.
  • Text Graphic & Line Graphic - allows you to use a video frame or still image instead of a color for the text or outline. Simply drag a clip to the filmstrip icon with a question mark on it next to each of these controls - control-click/right click to remove it.
  • Background Settings - these allow you to place a solid color or image behind the text, change it's size, opacity and position and even soften it's edges.
Scrolling Text
This allows you to create traditional scrolling titles or credits. The speed at which they scroll is determined by how long or short the clip is - drag it out longer and they will scroll more slowly, make it shorter and they scroll faster. You have options for fading the text as it enters/exits the edges of the screen, you can scroll up or down, and you have two layout styles which you can use.

By default, if you just add a bunch of lines to the text area, each one will be centered below the others as it scrolls by. However, if you want to have title and name pairs (in two columns) you have to enter your text with and asterisk (*) separating the title and name - for instance, "Directed By*Evan Donn". Then the gap width slider lets you set how far apart the columns should be.

In order to preview the scrolling text settings you need to place the playhead somewhere in the middle of the clip on your timeline - since the text starts and ends off screen you wont see anything at the beginning or end of the clip.

A crawl is like scrolling text that travels horizontally. You've probably seen this with emergency warnings or the headlines and/or stock quotes crawling along the bottom of a news channel. This one doesn't have a lot of special controls, primarily "Location" which lets you set the horizontal position that the text scrolls past and directs, for scrolling left or right.
This types on your title one character at a time. You can change the speed at which it types by using the "Pause" setting to add more or less time between characters.

Those are the basic text generators which ship with Final Cut. I'll cover the more advanced ones at a later date, but you can also experiment with the other generators for creating things like noise, shapes or gradients. They work the same way as titles and each has it's own settings which are accessible in the viewer window's controls tab.