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FCP X and Motion: Modifying a Built-in Title

Final Cut Pro X comes with many styles of titles, and gives you a great deal of power when you want to change them. However, what if you want something more substantially different, such as with a new graphic element? Or you want the text to wobble randomly? It’s trivially easy if you have Motion, so let’s take a look at how you’d do it.

Find a title you like in FCP X

This part is easy — find a title that most closely matches the look you want. It’s going to be easy to change fonts, sizes and colors, and only slightly harder to add additional graphics. Here, we’ll start with Information Bar, then change the defaults and add a logo.

Open in Motion

Open the Title Browser, then select the Lower Thirds category on the left. Locate the Information Bar title, then right-click and choose Open Copy in Motion. If this was a title you made yourself, the option would be simply “Open in Motion” instead.

Opening a copy of this title.

Opening a copy of this title.

Add a mask

The Timeline pane underneath the main Canvas will show you a “components” group where the magic happens.

Starting out, it looks like this.

Starting out, it looks like this.

If you keep on opening out the groups, you’ll find the parts you’re looking for. For example, the BG vertical group contains a shape called “background”. I’ve extended it to the right, to span the full width of the video. I then used the Rectangle Mask Tool to add a box over most of it — much larger on all sides except the right side. Finally, I turned the the Feather option down to to soften the right-hand side.

The masked background.

The masked background.

Change the font

This is easy enough in FCP X, but if you’re setting up a template for your whole show, consistency is great. Select the Title Text Here element, then the Subtitle Text Here element, and change the font and size to suit your project.

Here’s a much less monospaced font.

Here’s a much less monospaced font.

Import a graphic

We’ll now add a graphic to the left of the shot, and move the text over to the right. Use File > Import, and when you’re asked, choose All Layers instead of Merged Layers. One thing to note: Layer Styles and groups will be lost on import. To make sure they make it in safely, create a new layer above any layers with effects, select them both by Shift-clicking, then press Command-E. Save As to a new file to preserve your original Layer Styles.

When you import Photoshop layered files, choose this.

When you import Photoshop layered files, choose this.

Place your graphic

Just position it above the text, roughly where the text is. Move the text along to the right to make room — keeping it within the title safe area if needed. If there are any layers you don’t need, disable them. To any layers that need a Drop Shadow, add one using the Properties pane. Finally, drag the logo down into the “components” group so it fades in and out with the rest of the title.

It could look something like this.

It could look something like this.


When you save, it will simply save to the same name with “copy” appended. Save As will let you give it a new name, and will also copy any media you’ve used — like the logo — so this is an excellent idea. Give it a Category, choosing New Category if you want a new place to keep your own titles.

Saving back to the Lower Thirds Category would look like this.

Saving back to the Lower Thirds Category would look like this.

If you want, you can clean up the leftover “copy” title. Look in your home directory > Movies > Motion Templates > Titles > [CATEGORY] to find the folder with “copy” at the end of its name. Move that folder to the Trash and you’re done.

Re-apply in FCP X

Back in FCP X, you’ll find your new title in the Title Browser, in whatever Category you gave it. Drag it on like any other title and double-click the text to change it. Once applied, titles won’t change, even if the files are updated. However, you can drag one title directly on top of another, then choose Replace from the drop-down that appears. This will copy the text used in the old title to the new title.

Yes, this was London.

Yes, this was London.


Titles in Motion and FCP X are easy and fun. If you’re currently juggling many layers of fading Photoshop files — or worse, After Effects renders — in your FCP timeline, I urge you to take a look at Motion instead. One file can provide all the titles for your entire production, and you can even use spellcheck and find/replace. Good luck!

Iain Anderson

Iain Anderson | Articles by this author

Iain Anderson is an editor, animator, designer, developer and Apple Certified Trainer based in Brisbane, Australia. He has taught privately and in tertiary institutions, and has freelanced for Microsoft and the Queensland Government. Comfortable with anything from Quartz Composer to Second Life and Final Cut Pro to Adobe Creative Suite, he has laid out books, booklets, brochures and business cards; retouched magazine covers and product packaging, shot and edited short films and animated for HD broadcast TV, film festivals and for the web.


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