Snazzing Up Your iMovie Titles
If you have an iMac DV, chances are you’re already producing videos with it. It came with iMovie software installed, which is a nice piece of work, and if you followed the iMovie tutorial from one end to the other, you probably have the skills needed to capture, edit, and title your very own QuickTime and Digital Video movies. The only problem is that all your videos have a certain similarity. What’s worse, all your videos have a certain similarity to everyone else’s iMovie productions. You’re probably feeling déjà vu before the opening title fades from the screen—which is exactly what the title will do if you chose Centered Title from the twelve standard titling options. You and a million other iMovie users get a ten-frame fade in and a ten-frame fade out every time you select Centered Title. Also, the text will be roughly 1/16th as tall as the window for all your iMovies, and everyone else’s.
This is the strength and the weakness of iMovie: it’s so simple you can master it in a day, so what are you going to do tomorrow? Tear out your hair and gnash your teeth, that’s what. By day two you’ll realize that (1) the fixed title size is truly a nuisance (a Mac graphics program that won’t let you change the size of your text?), (2) you don’t always want your opening title in the center, and (3) the other iMovie titling options make your video look like a ransom note.
Luckily for you, your iMac DV came with all the software you need to create clean, readable, and original opening titles—though it didn’t all come in the iMovie folder. You can have placement and size control, overlapping titles, fade control, and even text color transitions, without the learning curve or (gulp) price tag of professional video editing systems. And luckily for the software industry, this is going to leave you hankering for more. At the very least, you’re going to want a more sophisticated photo-editing program, because—let’s face it—AppleWorks isn’t the sharpest pencil in the box when it comes to image manipulation. But we’ll get into that next month; for now, let’s see what we can do without spending any money.
Open the iMovie Tutorial.
Better yet, open a copy of the tutorial. Copy the whole iMovie Tutorial folder and rename the copy “DogTitle Tutorial.” Then go inside the folder and name its iMovie document “DogTitle Tutorial.” Double-click this DogTitle Tutorial, and you’ll have your iMovie tutorial before you, just the way you left it but under a different name. (If you haven’t done your tutorial yet, now’s the time; we’ll be working with laddie.pict, which is a single-frame image you make during the tutorial process.)
Open an AppleWorks PT Document.
Fire up a new AppleWorks Painting document. Open the Format menu and select Document. Set all the margins to zero (we won’t be printing this) and the Pixels Size to 640 Across and 480 Down. Zoom it down to a handy size (66.7 is good) with the zoom button at the lower left of the window, and adjust the window size so that there’s a bit of gray around the bottom and right of the image area. Save this as a Stationery document, and name it “640 x 480 (PT),” or whatever will make it easy to find and recognize again. If you’re going to manipulate individual iMovie frames, you’ll be using this stationery a lot. After you Save as Stationery, you’ll still have an untitled AppleWorks (PT) document open—that’s what we’ll be working with.
Select Insert from the AppleWorks File menu. You’ll find laddie.pict in your DogTitle Tutorial Media folder (that is, if you did the tutorial). If it’s not there, run through the iMovie Tutorial again and make one. The instructions are in Tutorial:Producing a movie:Step 2: working with clips.
Overlay a Title.
Use the AppleWorks text tool to make your opening title the way you want it. This font is , at 72 points, in light yellow. The text is roughly 1/8th the height of the image window. (Note that nearly every paint/photo/image program except AppleWorks will let you click-and-drag your text around after you’ve placed it. In AppleWorks, if you don’t like where your text lands when you type it in, you’ll have to hit command-Z, reposition your cursor, and try again.)
The font is easy to read, even in small sizes. However, if we were washing a Gothic dog in Old English Text MT, or a ’40s dog in Script MT Bold, the title would be unreadable using iMovie’s built-in title functions and a Web-sized movie. I think the iMovie development team chose small titles for a modern, sophisticated look, but also because small titles are less likely to smother the picture (which is a problem if the title is going to be planted right in the middle of the frame.
Here, the “Washing” graphic is well to the left of center, so it doesn’t obscure Laddie’s face, and slightly raised from center, so it doesn’t fade into the yellowish vegetation in the background. If you don’t like a particular draft, reinsert laddie.pict and try again. If you’re using a more sophisticated graphics program for your title art (e.g., Photoshop), you may have the option of sliding text layers into position—but AppleWorks will do the job, and it came free on your iMac.
Save Title as a PICT.
Go to the menu bar, select File:Save:Save as:PICT, give your art a descriptive name (e.g., “Washing.title”), and save it in your DogTitle Tutorial folder.
Repeat Steps 4 and 5 as needed.
I added a subtitle in 64-point Impact, a slightly darker yellow, and saved that as “DirtyBigDog.title.” Then I used the paint bucket to fill the “dirty” word with light orange, and saved that as “OrangeDirty.title.” These are saved as PICT files because that’s a still frame format iMovie can recognize, and because PICT is a lossless file format. Now quit AppleWorks and go back to iMovie.
Import and Sort the Title Frames.
In the iMovie File menu, select Import File, choose the frames you want, and click the Import button. You can either import DirtyBigDog.title twice, or import it once, drag it to the Clip Viewer bar, and split it in half using the Split Clip at Playhead command in the Edit menu. The newly imported still clips will appear on your iMovie Shelf (which, depending on where you’ve set your screen resolution, has either nine or twelve spaces available). If your shelves are full of other clips, you’ll have to drag the clips down to the Clip Viewer as you go along—otherwise you’ll see the dreaded “no-room-on-shelves” alert. Arrange the still clips like so: Washing.title, DirtyBigDog.title, OrangeDirty.title, another DirtyBigDog.title, and finish off the series with laddie.pict.
Add Transitions and Crop the Clips.
Click the Transitions button in the middle of the iMovie window, select Fade In from the options, move the duration slider to 00:16, and drag the Fade In icon to the front of the Clip Viewer. This will give you a sixteen-frame fade, which is roughly half a second (30 fps). Now select the Cross Dissolve option, and set the slider to 00:20. Drag the Cross Dissolve icon between Washing.title and DirtyBigDog.title. Put 20-frame cross dissolves between DirtyBigDog.title and OrangeDirty.title, and between OrangeDirty.title and the second DirtyBigDog.title. Now put a ten-frame cross dissolve (move the duration slider to 00:10 before you drag the Cross Dissolve icon onto the clip viewer) between the second DirtyBigDog.title and laddie.pict, tag a ten-frame Fade Out to the end of the sequence, and we’re almost done.
What’s wrong with this title sequence? It’s almost a minute long, that’s what. Knock it down to five seconds by shortening the title clips. From Washing.title to laddie.pict I’ve cropped the clips (using the aptly named Crop command in the iMovie Edit menu) to 00:24, 00:02, 00:02, 00:11, and 00:20.
Ta-dah. We have an intro title that fades in with the word “Washing.” The subtitle “the dirty big dog” fades in a half-second later, the word “dirty” grows gradually orange then fades back to yellow, the titles fade out, then the image of the dog fades out. By using Cross Dissolve transitions between similar frames, only the differences are transformed. With you in control of size, placement, color, style, and speed, your titles will be clear, tracting (the opposite of “distracting”), and distinctive.
Plug In and Turn On
iMovie doesn’t have to stay simple. Like many high-end Macintosh programs, iMovie accepts plug-ins. Your iMovie application folder contains a folder called Resources, which in turn contains a folder called Plugins. That’s where iMovie stores its instructions for titles and transitions.
The first batch of aftermarket plug-ins is available now from Apple’s iMovie Web site. All iMovie-makers should visit this site now and then, for tutorials, updates, and assorted add-ons. You should certainly download the latest update, and probably the latest iMovie Plug-in Pack as well. You may also want to download a few Music, Background, and Sound Effect sets.
iMovie Plug-in Pack #1 includes Center Large Title, which (as you might suspect) is much like Center Title, except the title is about 50% bigger. This improves readability, though it slightly increases the likelihood of the title obscuring your subject. In most cases, it’s a real improvement over Center Title.
The Dark Side of Plug-ins
“Give a kid a hammer, and everything looks like a nail.” —Anonymous
We can expect a plethora of iMovie plug-ins coming down the pike, despite Apple’s efforts to discourage third-party developers. Not since Photoshop has there been a program so ripe for widgets, so hungry for enhancements, so susceptible to feeping creaturism. Plug-in Pack #1 offers a few more exotic title and transition effects, which could distract you (and your audience) from your craft. Do you want to dazzle your viewers with the artistry and message of your film, or with Zoom Multiple titles and Flying Words? Should you simply cut to the next exciting scene, or wow your audience with a Warp In or Radial transition?
Be sparing with your power. Film editors earn Academy Awards with nothing but a Fade In followed by numerous Cut To’s. If your audience remembers your editing, you probably did too much of it.
Next Month: the most popular special effect in forty years of broadcast video—and you can do it with iMovie.
Also in This Series
- Give Alert Sounds a Little Personality · March 2012
- Create Your Own iPhone Ringtones · February 2012
- Create Your Own Homemade Audio Book · December 2011
- Upgrade to Lion Painlessly · August 2011
- Make the Most of TextEdit · July 2011
- Using the Free Disk Utility on Your Mac · May 2011
- Making Use of QuickTime X · March 2011
- Making the Most of What’s Already on Your Mac · February 2011
- Making the Most of What’s Already on Your Mac · January 2011
- Complete Archive