Brendan Shick | Freelance Film, Broadcast, & Digital Media

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4 Must Watch Director's Commentaries - Even if You're Not a Film Geek

4 Director's Commentaries for any sensibility or taste! At least one of these will appeal to you...
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Don't make the mistake of paying more for a lower quality theater experience. Here's a look at what HFR really does to your image straight from a cinematographer's mouth...errr...pen...err...whatever.
Baseball Broadcasts: Behind the Scenes

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The Importance of Type (Part One: My Methods)

Aug 04 2011 by Brendan Shick Add Your Thoughts

NOTE: This post is part one of a three-part series. Click here for Part Two and/or Part Three.

A few months ago I was watching the rough edit of a student film, preparing to offer critiques and suggestions for improvement afterward.

Unlike many student films, this was a fairly well put together piece overall – decent directing, cinematography, etc. However, one aspect of the film stood out to me as distracting and lacking the polish of the rest of the film – the opening titles.

When text looks like it was cut and pasted from a word document without any additional formatting, that’s a problem in my book.

Later, I watched a large volume of student work from the same university at their annual end-of-year digital arts showcase. Here I noticed a distinct and somewhat disturbing trend. Again, the films themselves ranged from well done to not-very-good, however, with only a couple of exceptions out of a large collection of films, they all had terrible formatting on the titles.

It’s super disappointing when you sit through what is otherwise a five-minute masterpiece and then suddenly see Times New Roman staring you in the face during the end credits.

I’m a little confused how the importance of type is so lost on many (usually young) filmmakers. In the above example, lack of motivation doesn’t seem to be the case; this was clear in many cases based on the quality of the rest of the work (maybe they only got lazy or ran out of time when it was time to type out the end credits? – not a very good excuse for ruining all the rest of their hard work though).

Many people just don’t know how to create good-looking text effects. Thus, I’ve included some of my own methods and tips in this blog series, in hopes that others may learn from them…

Programs to Use

Obviously, with all the video editing platforms on the market today, there are many ways to create text:

Apple FCP 7

Apple has long had an external text application, LiveType, included in their Final Cut Pro Suite. I was never a fan of this, as the effects seemed too gimmicky and the workflow issues presented by opening a separate program always bugged me, considering how few extra features I was really getting from LiveType.

Problematically, the internal Final Cut text effects almost always come out atrocious, probably because most of the settings (and the screen space) you really want are reserved for inclusion in LiveType.

Adobe Premiere

Adobe (my post-production suite of choice) fares somewhat better

The internal Adobe Premiere text editor shows up as a separate dockable window, which can easily be stretched to take up the entirety of a second monitor (or any single monitor).

This internal tool is essentially the equivalent of  FCP 7’s LiveType, only it forgoes the need for opening a separate program. In fact, new users may be a bit daunted at all the options included in this window at first, but as we’ll see shortly, this is probably a good thing, as customization is key to good text.

Or, Better Yet…

So which one is the winner? Well, I was a long time fan and user of the Adobe Premiere method until recently when I started using a third option: Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop.

In many ways, this steals the cake regardless of what editing program you are using. Photoshop can save files as pretty much any image format that can then be transferred into Premiere, Final Cut, Avid, AfterEffects, or pretty much any other project file you can imagine (in the case of Adobe programs, you can even just import the Photoshop file directly using Adobe Dynamic Link).

In addition to this cross-platform support is the fact that both of these programs are industry-standard, stand-alone design applications with a huge amount of features desirable when creating good-looking text. We’re not only taking about your basic text options (which are also largely available in Premiere and LiveType), but also layer options, blending modes, etc.

My Method, simply put:

Beginners probably want to start by mastering Adobe Premiere’s internal text features like I once did. Even some of those options may seem confusing at first, but it’s actually quite simple once you get the hang of it – and totally worth it!

In the upcoming Part Two, I’ll share tips for making your text effects look appealing. I’ll let you know why and how creativity and originality (pronounced: “customization”) are key and what this means while you’re designing and formatting the text.

NOTE: This post is part one of a three-part series. Click here for Part Two and/or Part Three.

Brendan Shick

Brendan Shick is a freelance DP, gaffer, and sports broadcaster serving primarily the Chicago, IL; Pittsburgh, PA; Grand Rapids, MI; and Fort Wayne, IN, regions. You can find out more by following this blog, his recent work on Vimeo, or by connecting with him on Twitter or LinkedIn. Brendan is also an occasional contributor to the Project Updates feed for one of his most recent films, To Turn Back Time.

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