Opening Titles


Opening titles and credits identify the video but, because they're the first thing an audience sees, can be a fun and creative way to grab their attention.  Here are some ideas and techniques.


Animation Ideas

Movement can be created in titles by compositing within an editing program, using plug-ins that work with the editing program, or using a stand-alone titling program.


The idea of this title was a scrap book that opened into the video.  The title was composited in Studio 7 -- later versions of Studio should be capable of producing the same effects.  I started with a Hollywood FX effect for a wedding album.  I edited the effect to create additional interior pages, and then applied as a texture a map of Vienna that I had scanned.  The dropping postcards are another Hollywood FX effect that I modified so that the first postcard "flipped" as it fell.  Each postcard was created from exported frames from the video and edited in Adobe Photoshop.  I then created a Hollywood FX effect to cause the last postcard to float up and fill the frame.  Then I applied a dissolve between the postcard and the exported still frame which was butted up against the video from which it was captured.


This title was an early effort at compositing without using special effects software.  It requires an editing program that allows multiple video tracks -- I used Adobe Premiere 6.0. Individual stills were captured from the video.  In Photoshop, I used the Erase tool to remove the background.  Each still was saved as a TIFF file to preserve the alpha channel (using the alpha channel for the background is what allows images placed behind to show through).  I then imported each still into Premiere and placed it on a separate video track.  Using the Hue and Saturation filter, I made each still a monochromatic color, and then increased the contrast to give a silhouetted appearance.  Then each still had motion applied to make it track across the screen.


This is a variation on the title above.  Still pictures were imported into Photoshop, the background removed leaving only the alpha channel, and a drop shadow added using the Layers feature.  The stills were saved as PSD files and imported in Premiere Pro.  Each was placed on a separate track and animated using the Move feature of the Effects tab.


This title built on the ideas of the one above, and took advantage of Premiere's ability to import PSD files from Photoshop with the layer attributes preserved.  In Photoshop, I took a series of still photographs and removed the backgrounds.  I applied a Photoshop filter to give the stills a line-drawn effect, and adjusted the hue and saturation to provide a uniform color palette. Using Photoshop's layer controls, I added drop shadows.  All the stills were saved as PSD files (Photoshop's native file format) and imported into Premiere Pro 1.5.  Each was placed on its own video track and motion applied.  The final dissolve from painted still to live action was done in the same manner as the book title.


The satellite picture of Spain comes from NASA's Blue Marble website, a source for lots of good, free satellite photographs.  The zoomed-through moving title was done using ULead's Cool Edit 3D and composited over the Spain photograph in Premiere Pro.  The rain effect was created by importing the final frame of the composite into a very nice program called Wondertouch Particle Illusion and exporting the resulting AVI.  The flip pages of the Christmas market were done entirely in Premiere Pro by scaling a series of clips using the Effects Tab, apply a roughen edges filter and then applying the page peel transition between each.  The final transition to full-frame live video was done by using key framing to scale up the final clip while simultaneously scaling down the roughen edges filter.



Google Earth

Google's free Google Earth service provides an easy way to get those flying "zoom in from space" shots that, previously, were the exclusive province of Hollywood special effects houses.  The trick is getting the Google Earth display into your video. For my first attempt, I relied on the television output of my computer's video graphics card.  I set the card to clone the computer desk top to the television output and, by tweaking the display parameters, was able to crop out most of the unwanted material, including the control information on the left and the copyright legends on the image itself.  I manipulated Google Earth manually, zooming in, tilting and panning as necessary.  I captured everything to my camcorder, imported it into Premiere, and then carefully edited the resulting clip to smooth out the "camera moves" from the manual manipulation in Google Earth. Finally, I had to zoom slightly within Premiere to cut out all the unwanted material.


The result wasn't too bad.  Click on this picture to see it.  Though I got satisfactory results, the process was awkward and slow, and some resolution was lost because of the necessity of zooming in slightly to cut out the writing at the top and bottom of the Google Earth display. Because cursor movement effected the television "window," I was limited in the kind of camera moves that I could do, and had to assemble multiple moves from different clips in Premiere.  There had to be a better way. 


I experimented with a variety of screen capture programs.  The problem was that, even on my relatively fast computer (a 3.2 GHz Pentium 4 machine with 1 gigabyte of RAM), the screen capture programs couldn't keep up with the Google Earth stream and the video they produced was very jerky.  Then I found a program called FRAPS.  Intended to allow video gamers to capture their play, FRAPS interfaces directly with Window's DirectX and OpenGL subsystems.  It can output its capture as an AVI file at the standard NTSC video rate of 29.97 frames per second.  Though, on my system, it could only manage a capture rate of 23 frames per second, it did so smoothly and automatically extrapolated its output to the NTSC standard frame rate.  To produce the video, I set Google Earth to its largest display size, 1,024 x 1,024.  This is necessary to eliminate the text that Google Earth overlays at the bottom of the screen.  This time, I set placemarks in the Google Earth program, and let the software do the navigation -- I just clicked on each placemark in sequence while FRAPs captured the video.  Once FRAPS had saved the resulting AVI file, I imported it into Premiere.  Premiere's property screen reports that the frame size is 912 x 912 pixels.  This is exactly what we want.  Because the Premiere project parameters are set for the NTSC, Premiere automatically crops the image to fit the 720 x 480 pixel frame, eliminating the unwanted printing without losing any resolution:



If too much image is lost, simply use the Motion feature under the Effect Controls tab to scale the image slightly -- Premiere will automatically resample, again, without losing any resolution.  The final result was a significant improvement over the capture-to-tape method I had first tried.  The resolution of the Google Earth display was preserved, and I was able to produce much more complicated and dramatic camera moves  You can see it here:




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