Titling for Under a Buck

A video production without title graphics is like a book without a cover. A simple title can add depth and interest to your video. Just as we judge a book by its cover, we tend to judge videos by their graphics. What’s that? You don’t have the money for another expensive piece of equipment to make titles and graphics for your videos? With a little creativity, effective title graphics can be made using items that you already own. This article will take you step by step through several techniques to get you started in producing your own title graphics, most for less than a buck. Following are a few low-dollar ideas you can use today.

  1. Already printed materials such as brochures, invitations or programs make for great graphics. For example, if you were to shoot a wedding or graduation the invitation may make a nice title graphic. The cost for you, zilch. What a deal.

    Use a tripod during shooting and place your pre-printed brochure so it doesn’t move while being recorded. A sheet music stand is good for this because it has a ledge that is perfect for holding photographs, brochures and invitations.


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    Frame the shot so the text fills your viewfinder. Shoot about 5 seconds with your camcorder, longer if you will be editing later (allow an extra 15 to 20 seconds for room to cue the tape for editing). This may seem like a short time, but it really isn’t. Notice how long television graphics stay on the screen. They pop in and out, yet you are able to read and comprehend the information.

  2. A Computer & Printer make for a perfect title maker. If you use the page setup command under the edit menu on your computer, you can change the orientation (or format) to landscape. This will make the page wider than it is tall so it will better fit the shape of your TV screen. If you have access to a color printer, that’s even better. And you know what’s better yet? If you have access to a computer with a printer it’s a freebie.

    Just create, print and shoot. Bold letters that are larger in size yield the best results for readability. Keep the text simple and don’t try to put too much information on the screen at a time.

    Shoot the graphic as-is straight off the printer, or apply some in-camera effects if your camcorder has them. Visual effects like sepia or negative image work well with this type of graphic.

  3. Building Blocks can be a simple and easy way to make titles for a video with a children’s theme. Keep the style of your titles consistent with the content of your video, try to tie them in to your theme somehow. Be creative and have fun. Oh, and what about the out-of-pocket-cost? $4.00 brand new at your neighborhood toy store, somewhere around $.50 at a garage sale near you. There’s certainly no need for that small business loan this time.

    Arrange the letters to spell out words that identify the subject or the name of the video.

    When shooting your title, make sure the letters are centered with plenty of room around the edges of the frame. Miscellaneous items like kids’ toys or sneakers will add an extra element to the title.

The only limit to making effective titles without a titler is your own creativity. You can design your own title graphic on posterboard using pens and pencils or markers (each can be had for less than a buck at your local X-Mart store). Better yet, use a calendar, poster, or photograph as a background for stick-on letters (available cheap at any craft store).

If you shoot a family vacation at the beach, get a stick and write the name of the beach in the sand. If you produce a school video, create your title on a chalkboard. How about shooting a road sign, a store front, a cereal box or a T-shirt? When you start looking for them, title graphics appear all around you. Self-made (or self-found) titles can be more visually interesting and appealing than those created electronically on a character generator… and they can be a LOT cheaper.

Patrick Lang co-owns and operates a design studio that specialize in websites, multimedia and animation.

Send Videomaker some of your favorite ideas and tips for creating low-cost effective
titles without a titler. See how many you can come up with for under a buck. We would love to see them and share your ideas in a future issue.

The Videomaker Editors are dedicated to bringing you the information you need to produce and share better video.