Making Good Looking Credits Great

Back again for an awesome tip that I’ve realised lots of people either don’t know how to do, or think external programmes do it, or are simply lazy (yes, those people exist). I’m talking about film looking credits. Those glorious moments your name scrolls up the screen and you can be proud of all your work. But sometimes a great film will be followed with credits that look like this:

The shitty looking default scrolling text

And I feel so awkward for the editor, or even the dedicated title creator when the default isn’t even tampered with, not even in the slightest! But how hard is it realistically to make film looking credits? Well to be honest, not hard at all, it just takes time. And like we know with all good things, they take time.

Continue reading for a basic walkthrough, skip to the bottom for a PDF of making awesome titles in Final Cut Pro.

What we want to make
This is a credit sequence cap from GoldenEye

How “generic” film credits look is that the title of the unit (in the above case, “Cast”) is followed by two column listings of the character, and the actor who played them. If you try to do this in Final Cut without planning well, it’s going to look like the second picture – and most likely scream “I didn’t think the credit through!”

The Final Cut Pro way

So FCP has this feature built in. It’s quite uncommon to many people unless you specifically go searching for it, but they haven’t neglected to add such an important feature. To do this, you must write your scrolling text like so:

Character One*ACTOR NAME
Character Two*ACTOR NAME
Character Three*ACTOR NAME
Character Four*ACTOR NAME
Character Five*ACTOR NAME

As you can see, between the character and the actor name a * is there without any spaces. This will automatically create the two column layout. However, what’s the downfall to this is that you are limited to styling, of your credits. You cannot change fonts, colour, weights, or spacing unless you do it to every single word. This is great for quick semi-professional looking credits.

The Mark Battistella Films way…

So things will get a little messy, but you will end up with AWESOME credits. And if you know me, and my passion for opening title sequences, well then the passion continues for closing credits. Aesthetically, you want the audience to feel immersed in the entire film (including credits) or else the effect of pleasure will be broken. Think about some of the films you’ve seen, hove any been so blunt with their credits? You often notice on YouTube or Vimeo when executed shorts finish off with the stock standard from Windows Movie Maker and it feels so primitive, and amateur.

Initial setup

Make a new sequence. This should easily be done by right clicking in Browser > New Sequence. You’ll want to rename your sequence too, so with the new sequence tab active on the timeline, press ⌘ + 0. Rename the sequence to “Closing Credits”.

In the Closing Credits sequence we’ll want to make a scrolling text layer. To do this, click the film strip with an A in it, at the bottom right of the Viewer window. Under the drop down list, goto Text > Scrolling Text. Drag it as is into the timeline.

Make sure you have Title Safe on, and Show Overlay or else your text might get chopped off (under the View Menu)! Our objective is to have three layers of text – Track 3 is going to be the Main Title (e.g. Cast), Track 2 is going to be the Character, and Track 1 is going to be the actor, but more on that next!

Setting up the layers

Double click on the text clip, and in the Viewer window click the Controls tab. Change the “Sample Text” to “Cast”. Next, change the font, size, and weight. I set mine up with: Futura, 22 pts, bold/italic. Before you close Track 3’s clip, add an enter space after the “Cast”.

You’ll want to duplicate the clip two times, so you have three layers stacked on top of each other like so:

Sweet, now in Track 2 (the Character), double click that text clip and open the Control tab. With this we will change the settings a little bit. First off, change the text aligned to right, remove the bold, and make the text indent 52%. This is the important part – indenting, and aligning text.

Add an enter space before the character name, and then list all the character names. Repeat these steps for Track 1 (actor names), only left align the text (and including the enter space).

You'll have something that looks like this
How to continue

The most difficult part of this style of credit (yes there’s a down part) is that you need to remember how many lines of text you have in each layer. For every new line in any of the layers, you’ll have to add the corresponding amount to the other two layers.

If you watch the video (above) I’ll show you directly how to do this.

Other methods of closing credits

This is fortunately not the only way to make credits for films, but is by far the simplest (for programme learning) while looking pretty good compared to the default “text-on-text”.

If you are handy with After Effects you can do the same as what we did here, only move the text layer around, and animate the position of the text.

If you are handy in Photoshop then you can make a document that is 1920×6000 and create a static image of all the names to the cast and crew, as well logos. Final Cut seems to freak out with such huge pixel files, so After effects is probably best to animate the position.

However, there are downfalls to these programmes when exporting the entire film from FCP. You need to test the font size, as the AE or Photoshop viewers always confuse you because their viewer is bigger, and imported to FCP is smaller. Also your files won’t be scalable in FCP unless you want pixelated edges… Furthermore, if you misspell a name, or the alignment is off, you need to open up the programme, fix it, export it, import it to FCP, and see if that worked.

The benefit of doing all this in FCP is that you can work on it right in your project, no additional software necessary, it looks awesome if you mess around with the settings, and best of all… it looks like you know how to do things that people see as extra effort. Really you benefit from all angles here, and it adds that final touch of professional look to everything you worked hard on.

Downloadable instructions