A lot of video editors struggle when it comes to creating top-notch titles and graphics for the video clips they produce, but formatting fonts isn’t difficult if you follow a few simple rules. Whether you design graphics for television stations, professional video productions, or home video, these four tips will save your video clips from the perils of faulty fonting.
#1 - BE BOLD
When it comes to finding fonts for your video clips, go for big, thick and bold text (instead of small, thin and swirly) for one simple reason: readability. If something is important enough to reinforce with text, it needs to be presented in a way that’s clean, clear and legible. For television and video production applications, become a serif sherriff: Sans serif fonts are thicker, bolder and less swirly than fonts that stand on serifs. For the printed page, serif fonts are often the way to go (pull just about any book off your shelf and see for yourself), but in the world of television and video production, titles and graphics that use serifs are rare.
Choose a font color that contrasts well with your background. Certain colors work well, while others can make your video clips look amateurish. White text on a dark background is almost always okay. Bright yellow might be an acceptable font color choice if you need to draw special attention to a word, phrase or phone number. Dark text on a very light-colored background is fine, but it can be hard on the viewer’s eyes if overused for television or in presentations.
Some colors should simply be avoided in your titles at all costs. Avoid using bright florescent green, baby blue, pale yellow and Pepto pink. Watch out for reds in broadcast video applications. Red tends to smear and bleed on screen.
#3 - BE CONSISTENT
If you’re working on a project that uses multiple pages of graphics with text, be wise and templatize. Pick a look you like and stick with it for the entire project. If your fonts change in size, color, position and style from page to page within a project, you will definitely look amateurish. The key to looking professional is consistency. To avoid errors, copy and paste your original title and use it as the foundation for each new graphic.
#4 - STOP SHORT
Be brief. Don’t write out long sentences or full paragraphs. Hit the highlights. Emphasize key points. Star Wars fans take note: The long “Lucas scroll” is not a good choice for most of your video productions. Do any of us (besides our hardcore Jedi readers) remember anything beyond, "In a galaxy far away?” There are two exceptions to this rule: If you need to type out (1) a direct quote or (2) a disclaimer. In either case, it is proper to have a narrator read long titles verbatim. Long text titles accompanied by silence make viewers very uncomfortable.
In the end, you can apply one simple principle to all of your graphics: Every bit of title text you use should enhance your message, not distract from it. As soon as the audience stops listening to the message and starts squinting at small text, cringing at the ugly font colors or reading paragraphs of text instead of listening to your message, you’ve got a problem. The best way to learn to build better title text and graphics is to become a student of other people’s work: Study the titles and graphics you see on television and in the video clips you watch and emulate the good stuff.
Chuck Peters is a 3-time Emmy Award Winning Producer, Director, Writer and Host
Open Art Photo of Man at Computer from Shutterstock.