Posts tagged with ‘production tips’

Video Title Best Practices

Some video production work requires extensive use of titles, or even language subtitles, in order to convey the meaning of the piece most effectively. I am always amazed at how poorly this step is conceived during pre-production. So I thought I would offer a few tips I have found useful when titling video, both for the web and television formats. (Note: this article does not cover the line-21 standard of closed captioning for the hearing impaired, which makes use of additional technology and delivery mechanisms. For information on CC best practices, I recommend WGBH guidelines, which are considered to be excellent, if not massive overkill.)

  1. Use simple, sans-serif font styles. This is especially important for TV, and lower quality web video. The serifs can add a good deal to the noisiness of a digitally compressed frame schema. Titles are usually meant to convey additional information during a shot (someone’s name or job title, or a location name, for example). It is good to remember that titles have to be viewed at the same time as accompanying moving imagery, so the plainer your font, the easier it is to read at a glance.
  2. Keep it short and concise. Long titles detract from the scene, and often become frustrating, when they do not appear long enough on screen for average or below average reading levels. A good rule of thumb is to keep it under 8 words, or approximately 35 characters.
  3. Use white lettering with a drop shadow. This is essential when lettering over moving video. Moving areas of contrast can cause white letters to disappear, so the drop shadow helps to keep the form of each letter identifiable and somehow anchored, while seemingly floating just above the video.
  4. Keep positioning in mind. Center-screen titles are usually best served over a dark or black matte, rather than moving video. I break this rule a lot, however. The most essential thing to remember is if your video is destined for TV: Position your titles within the title-safe area of the screen. Older tube TVs still crop the image a fair amount, so unless you want your viewers to only see the top half of your title, keep it in the safe zone. I like to use lower thirds motion backgrounds for titles, because it helps to call attention to important information that might be missed if there is a lot going on in a scene. semi-transparent lower thirds also help to mute the area of the screen where the title appears, which helps it to stand out while not entirely blocking out the primary content beneath it.
  5. Keep it on screen long enough to read. My rule of thumb is: if it deserves a title, it deserves enough time to be read. I hate that TV now flies through show credits so fast (an so small!) that no one could possibly read a word of it. I try to keep it up twice as long as it takes me to read it, since, as the editor, I am so familiar with the project it no doubt takes me a much shorter time than someone who has never seen the video.
  6. Use sparingly. This probably goes without saying, but try to make your images and videography tell the bigger story. Use titles to provide context or details that the shot cannot tell, or to save time (i.e. Let the interviewee tell us her story while the title tells us her name).

Tricks of the Trade – Online Stopwatch

(NOTE: For video editors and production personnel) The process of timing script treatments and voice overs to match image sequences has been laborious and frustrating for me, mostly because keeping a stopwatch handy has proven harder than you might imagine. I’ve had at least a dozen, from the Sports Illustrated freebies, to magnetized kitchen varieties (until it corrupted a floppy back in the late 90s) and wristwatches. Dead batteries, chronic “borrowing”, stuck buttons, and tiny controls – these reasons and more have kept me hunting for better solutions.

A rock-solid clock is impossible to find in your typical NLE, which, in the typical work environment, is nothing close to real-time sync, what with all the rendering going on on the fly. Even when it looks pretty solid, it’s not. In a pinch, I have been known to throw a CD into a portable player, and use the time readout and play/pause controls to good effect. That is until I have a sequence with a total time of 00:07:53:00 and a CD with song times not exceeding 4 minutes. Stuck again. I’m a musician with decent rhythm, so I’ve even tried tapping seconds out with my hand, but try doing that while reading a script in a normal cadence, and you’ll understand why asylums were built.

Anyway, I Googled the term “online stopwatch”, and what do you know! Here’s the one that I have fallen in love with, for it’s simplicity, and the fact that it can operate both as a stopwatch and a countdown clock.


Accessible as an online version and as a downloadable Flash .exe, I find myself using it for a whole lot more than video work. (meeting clocks, get-up-and-stretch reminders, etc.)

It’s a freebie worth grabbing!

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