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Designing Titles in Final Cut Pro X: Part 2

This article pick up where Part 1 of Designing Titles in Final Cut Pro X left off.

Step 6 - Change the Color

Moving on, let's change the title's color. First, we can clean up the Text Inspector window a bit by hiding the Basic settings. To do this, position your cursor in the title bar where the word Basic sits, and you'll see the word Hide show up in blue. Click that, and all those Basic settings will collapse. Also, notice the little backward-curving arrow next to Hide that's in each of the properties (e.g. 'Basic', below); be careful about clicking that one, because it will reset all the values in the property group (!), and that's not undoable either:

Changing the color

Next, open the Face property panel by clicking the Face Show button:

Click the Face Show button

Click the color swatch to open a standard color picker, or click the down arrow next to the swatch to open a continuous-tone color picker - you can even have both open at once, if you like:

Open the standard Color Picker

(The image above should show an eyedropper in the continuous-tone picker, but the screen capture software can't render it.)

Either way, choose your font color here. One nice thing to note is that the title will immediately update its color as you skim around in either picker. Although most video titles are black or white, I'm going to use a light green that reflects the background colors to some extent:

Choose the font color

Step 7 - Add a Drop Shadow

Next, let's add a drop shadow to the title text to help it stand out against the background a bit more. To do that, click the empty box next to the Drop Shadow property name to enable it, then click Show to reveal the property values. I like to use a softer shadow myself, so I'm increasing the Blur a bit and increasing the Distance as well to make a subtler shadow:

adding a drop shadow

And here's our title so far:

the title so far

OK, let's move on to set our title's position and, finally, fade it in and out.

Step 8 - Reposition the Title

Next we want to move the title down lower in the frame so it doesn't obscure too much of the hummingbird. There are a couple of ways of doing this: first, we can click the Video button at the top of the Inspector to reveal the Transform controls. Once there, we can just drag horizontally on the Y property value to move the title up or down in the frame:

reposition the title

It's a good idea when you're doing this to enable the Show Title/Action Safe Zones overlay in the Viewer window:

Show title/action safe area

This will ensure that your title is fully visible on all television monitors. Here's our title so far:

the title so far

You can also manually drag the title in the Viewer window to position it that way, if you prefer. To do that, Right-click on the title in the Viewer, and choose Transform from the pop-up menu:

Choosing Transform as a way to move the title

You're now able to drag the title around in the Viewer by clicking on the crosshair in the title:

clicking on the crosshair in the Viewer

When you have your title placed to your satisfaction, click the Done button in the upper right corner of the Viewer to set the transformation.

Step 9 - Fade the Title In and Out

OK, we're in the final step, which is the trickiest because it's the least obvious: fading the title in and out. To do this, we need to set four Opacity keyframes: one at the beginning of the title with an Opacity of 0%, another maybe 10 frames later at 100% to fade up the title, another at 100% 10 frames before the end of the title to keep the title from fading prematurely, and a final keyframe with a value 0% at the end. 

This isn't a simple matter of just moving the playhead, clicking the Keyframe button for Opacity in the Compositing property panel, setting a value, moving ahead, adding another keyframe and setting a new value, as you would expect. Although you can do that, the keyframes won't have any effect; you need to first enable the Video Animation Editor for the title. Why you have to do this is a mystery...but you do.  

So, with the title selected in the timeline, choose Clip > Show Video Animation, or hit Control-V, to open the editor. Alternatively, there's also a tiny little down arrowhead in the upper-left corner of the clip itself; clicking on that will open a pop-up menu that lets you choose the Video Animation Editor:

Choose the Video Animation Editor

The Editor will open in the timeline above the title clip; you may need to scroll the timeline window up to see the entire Editor.

There are actually several different Opacity parameters we can use to fade the title in and out; we'll use 'Compositing', which is at the bottom of the stack:

Choose opacity from the compositing controls

Next, position your playhead at the beginning of the title clip, move over to the Compositing property panel in the Inspector, and click the Add a Keyframe button next to the Opacity value:

click the add a keyframe button next to opacity

You'll see a little diamond-shaped keyframe icon in the Compositing: Opacity bar in the Editor under the playhead line:

A keyframe diamond icon appears under the Playhead

Now drag the Opacity value slider down the 0%; our title disappears. Move the playhead ahead to the point where you want the fade-in to complete, click the Add Keyframe button again, and drag the Opacity slider up to 100%. You'll see a second keyframe in the Editor:

Creating a second keyframe

If you play back this portion in the timeline, you should see the title fade in as expected.

Next, move your playhead to a few frames before the end of the title clip, and add another keyframe at that point. Leave the Opacity at 100%; this is to make sure the Opacity "sticks" at 100% until this point. (If we simply added another 0% keyframe at the end of the title, it would slowly fade out over the entire length of the clip from the first 100% keyframe to the end). Finally, move your playhead to the end of the title, add one last keyframe, and set its Opacity to 0%. Play back the whole thing, and you should see something like this (I've rendered this out at half-resolution to save screen space):

And that's it! To keyframe any of the other properties, follow this same basic procedure. This may seem all pretty complicated, especially since you can often times just use one of the preset title templates, but now at least you know how to customize your own titles and create exactly the effect you want. And as always, experiment and have fun in Final Cut Pro X!

Richard Lainhart

Richard Lainhart | Articles by this author

Richard Lainhart is an award-winning composer, filmmaker, and author. His compositions have been performed in the US, Europe Asia, and Australia, and recordings of his music have appeared on the Periodic Music, Vacant Lot, XI Records, Airglow Music, Tobira Records, Infrequency, VICMOD, and ExOvo labels. His animations and short films have been shown in festivals in the US, Europe, and Asia, and online at ResFest, The New Venue, The Bitscreen, and Streaming Cinema 2.0. He has authored over a dozen technical manuals for music and video hardware and software, served as Contributing Editor for Interactivity and 3D Design Magazines, and contributed to books on digital media production published by IDG, Peachpit Press, McGraw Hill, and Miller Freeman Books. Previously an Adobe Certified Expert in After Effects and Premiere, a demo artist for Adobe Systems, and co-founder of the official New York City After Effects User Group, he was, from 2000-2009, Technical Director for Total Training Productions, an innovative digital media training company based in New York and California.


Dec 15, 2012
On FCP 7 I used to use a dropper to select the colours of my titles from images and colours in the video footage... can I still do that in FCPX? If so, how?
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