Film Credits Tech?
May 27, 2008 9:42 AM   Subscribe

A director friend asked me to design the opening and closing credits for her upcoming film. Please school me on the technical aspects.

She shot the film in HD Digital. She's editing in 1440 x 1080, but the final version will be 1920x1080.
I am familiar with Premiere (teach a class on it, in fact), but she says AfterEffects is the weapon of choice for credits (is it?). I'm fine with learning AE, if necessary.
I have no previous film-related experience, just Flash/Mutlimedia stuff.
I have various PCs lying around the house, no Macs, alas.
The film's a small production, I don't know if I'll be paid. We're precisely 8983 Km from Hollywood.

What software should I use for this?
What format should I ask her for?
What should I export to give back to her?
What other technical questions do I need to ask her or her editor?

Bonus questions:
Is there some sort of online tutorial or bible or something-you-must-read/watch for aspiring film credits designers?
posted by signal to Media & Arts (12 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
I used to use Inscriber, a titling software, bundled with my last NLE setup. I believe it is also available as a plugin for both Premiere and AE, so look into that.

As for inspiration and education, some old FPPs should do.
posted by Gyan at 10:00 AM on May 27, 2008

You could potentially do the credits in Flash, export out as AVI (or directly to AfterEffects), give her that avi file so that she can edit it together with her film.
posted by rlef98 at 10:01 AM on May 27, 2008

export out as AVI

I know you say it's a lower-quality production, but unless you want to be an active participant in the whole quality lowering process, you best deliver your titles uncompressed. A Tiff or Targa sequence can be uncompressed, but be ready for huge file sizes.
posted by StickyCarpet at 10:09 AM on May 27, 2008 [1 favorite]

What software should I use for this?

Definitely After Effects (Adobe) or Combustion (AutoDesk). After you've chopped, sliced, diced and glued together on Primiere, that is.
posted by neblina_matinal at 10:23 AM on May 27, 2008

Whatever it is, remember this will eventually be seen on a DVD on an old school NTSC screen. Test against that and you will be fine. What that means is that your whites should not be 100% white, your reds must be even more truncated. You'll have to work within the title-safe zone, too. There's all kinds of "standards" on this.

Probably the most important question is what are your titles against? If she's doing a film and the opening credits will be against the snowy tundra, well, white is right out.

And do make sure your name is on the credits, somewhere, as well as on IMDB. That is your payment, if nothing else.
posted by adipocere at 10:39 AM on May 27, 2008

I know you say it's a lower-quality production,

Nope, it's a small production. I do see your point, though. Is it a regular practice to deliver a sequence of stills instead of a movie?

Probably the most important question is what are your titles against?

She's thinking some out-of-focus footage of a forest/field taken from a car window. The movie starts being out of focus, until the main character puts on some glasses.

And do make sure your name is on the credits, somewhere, as well as on IMDB. That is your payment, if nothing else.

The possibility of being in IMDB is by far the most exciting perk, to me.

Thanks, all. Please keep it coming, especially caveats like adipocere's.
posted by signal at 10:55 AM on May 27, 2008

After effects would be my choice.
What is the final output going to be upres to Film, HD tape, dvd?
What is the time-base of the edit?

Super general advice for HD&SD video titles.

Composition sized 1920x1080 & Square Pixels for HD.

Horizontal lines no smaller than 3 pixels, subtle gradations need a bit of noise to avoid banding.
Adding noise and small vertical blurs can help massage difficult areas colors stay away from 100% saturation.

Planing on TV output that means that your going to deal with overscan add at least 10% buffer around your design just to be safe.

Adding an adjustment layer on the output of your composition lets you dial down the luminance and adding broadcast safe effect here lets you just do it once.
posted by jade east at 11:09 AM on May 27, 2008

You should use After Effects. Only because of the huge amount of ressources you can find on the net.
If you intend to buy a book buy Chris and Trish Meyer's Creating Motion Graphics. It's the after effects bible.
You should also check out their blog at Pro video Coalition or their official website and join the ae-list. It's full of helpful people and it's very active.
If you have a flash background you should have no problem getting ae's interface. Everything is done via keyframes and layers and there's a timeline.
The stuff you need to learn are boring : framerate, color space, codecs, render settings and so on but that's the stuff you want to be sure about.
You don't need a mac, a pc will do fine. And lots and lots and lots of ram, After Effects loves memory.
posted by SageLeVoid at 12:21 PM on May 27, 2008

Regarding end credits, I had a nightmare last year trying to get them to scroll without flickering. Be wary of this. I never did get it solved in time, so we ended up using boards (still credits changed every few seconds or so).

Just something to be aware of, sorry I can't solve the problem, only point out a possible pitfall. Now I see it all the time (even on big screen films), and I feel for the editors.
posted by yellowbinder at 7:02 PM on May 27, 2008

It sounds like she's shot the piece in either HDV or DVCPro HD.

We need to know the format, the frame rate and the editor (software) she's using.

Software: You can use anything you want; likely premiere or AE.

Format: For her backgrounds? As close as you can get to the 'raw' format. In other words - if she's shooting HDV, then an export of that. if she's shooting P2, then that.

This is really based on the format.
Either you'll try to match her video codec, or one that exceeds it.

In a perfect world, you'd use uncompressed (warning: uncompressed HD is approx 6 gigs/min), 10 bit video.

In a less than perfect world, I'd want to know what format, both that she's editing at and she's choosing to deliver in, because mixing screen resolutions has some delicate issues.

Barring uncompressed, you might choose a compressed HD codec. For example, if she's using Avid, I'd recommend DNxHD 145.

You need to find out the format (particularly due to interlacing issues. Yellowbinders problem is likely because he was scrolling vertically along an interlaced format)

Inspiration? Art of the title sequence. Bonus: google search on movie title sequence blogs yielded some cool results.
posted by filmgeek at 9:06 PM on May 27, 2008

I'm a bit late to this, but you might be interested in my answer to this previous AskMe (ironically enough, in direct response to yellowbinder, which I guess he didn't see) which specifically discusses avoiding the flickery title crawls that you WILL end up creating, if you don't know the mechanics of how motion graphics works in an interlaced format like NTSC video.
posted by melorama at 4:08 AM on May 29, 2008

Thanks for all the answers. I ended up choosing After Effects and will be delivering uncompressed TIFFs with alpha channel, so they can composite it onto the footage.
We started work last night and I'm psyched!
Now, excuse me, I need to go fret over font choices.
posted by signal at 6:34 PM on May 29, 2008

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