Motion has a great deal of secret power, but one of the most useful is the titling engine. Most FCP X editors are probably aware of Motion’s ability to create title templates already—make one template, then use it over and over through your edit without ever visiting Motion again. Despite this, far too many titles simply fade up and fade down, even though they can be far more dynamic. In this article, we’ll take a look at how to make your titles sing, while losing none of their editability.
All of these—made with Motion, usable in FCP X.
In Motion, create a new Final Cut Title. In the basic template that’s offered, you’ll see a single line of text, though you can add more if you wish. Also, remember that the timing is flexible, and will stretch out to match the time available. You can lock down the timing of the start and end of your title if you really want to, by using special markers, but that’s outside the scope of this article.
Here’s where you find the Text Sequence behaviors.
Look to the pane on the left of the screen, then choose Library. Click on Behaviors, then Text Sequence. Below, click the disclosure triangle next to Text-Basic. You’ll now see a selection of behaviors which will affect your text in different ways. Select “Fade Characters Left In”, and you’ll see a preview of the effect at the top of the Library pane. This is one of the most common effects, but it’s also quite useful.
To apply the effect, drag it from the lower part of the Library, onto your text element in either the Layers or Timeline panes to the right. Once applied, click back on the Inspector and look at the Behaviors tab below. Opening out the Format and Controls disclosure triangles reveals the effect and all its secrets.
Fade Characters Left In starts out like this, but you can change it all.
The Format controls define what parameters change, and the Controls define how they change. At present, format controls only Opacity (fading) and under Controls, Sequencing is set to “From”, moving from the defined Opacity of 0, while Animate is set to “Character (without spaces)”. That makes sense; it fades characters in from the left. So what else is possible?
The Sequencing Options.
Sequencing changes how each of the letters, in turn, will change from its original value (probably 100% Opacity) to the defined value in the behavior’s “Format” section. Options include:
For example, if the text is set to 100% Opacity, and the Format setting is 0% Opacity, then From fades up, To fades down, Through fades up and then back down, and Through Inverted fades down and then back up. It’s easier once you get the hang of it, and there’s an advanced From Keyframes option you can set manually too.
Usually each letter fades one by one, but you can change that too.
The Animate parameter governs what units the sequence will affect. Right now, it’s set to “Character (without spaces)” which is perfectly suitable for most short titles. If you were expecting much more text, you might choose “Word” or “Line” instead. There’s also All (which somewhat defeats the purpose), “Character” (if you want spaces to be treated as characters) and Custom, which lets you define a range to be affected. Another advanced option is the “Select” area below, which lets you call out specific characters (even the first letter of each word) to be treated differently.
Most of the time, the default option, or perhaps Word or Line, gives a good result. Here, we’ll stay with the default “Character (without spaces)”.
And Now for the Spread
Now that you know how the values will change and what you’re going to affect, you’ll want to adjust how many of the characters will fade at once. On the default setting of 2, only a couple of the characters will change at the same time. Increasing the “Spread” value will increase the number of simultaneous fades, to the point where a really high value will fade everything at once. A low (but not too low) value here will keep the effect looking organic.
High “Spread” means that more characters will fade.
Direction lets you run from the end of the text to the beginning—right to left, in this case. Speed really governs the acceleration curve, to let the effect speed up, down, remain constant, or (using Custom) whatever you want.
Loops let you repeat this effect over and over, and if you do loop, the end condition lets you keep each loop separate (Hold), continue the end of the effect back through the beginning (Wrap) or bounce the effect backwards before going forwards again (Ping Pong).
Variance lets you add a little variability in how the parameters change. However, the effects are a little hard to see with just a fade, so we’ll add some movement too. Just above the Controls section, there’s an Add menu. From that choose Format > Position. Above, you’ll see a new Position parameter above Opacity. Drag on the Y number to increase it to 200.
Now, play the timeline to see letters move as they fade. It’s a nice effect, though you can remove it later (with the Remove menu) if you find it too splashy. Increasing the Variance percentage will show you that the letters move less predictably, and if you want to make them even more anxious, push up the Noisiness slider below that.
With Custom speed and a little variance.
It’s startling to realize that all of the “Text Sequence” category of behaviors are actually built with the Sequence Text behavior. While the basic Sequence Text can be found just above, in the Text Animation category, it’s much easier to start from one of the existing Text Sequence behaviors than to build a new one entirely from scratch. A few great starting points for entry animations, from some of the preset categories:
So many presets, all from Sequence Text.
The best reason to know what all these controls do is that it opens up a wide world of possibilities with huge potential. While it’s certainly worth stepping up from a simple static image that fades up and fades down, you don’t want your animated titles to look like anyone else’s. So don’t just pick up a stock effect and run with it on default settings — know what the dials do, twiddle a few, and revel in your original results. Enjoy!