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Tutorial: Creating Dynamic, Customizable Title Effects in Red Giant Universe 2.1

This tutorial runs through some of the highlights from the new Red Giant Universe 2.1 plug-in package of effects and filters, working in After Effects because that's where so much ambitious title work happens.

Happy October. The month of Halloween. It's time for spooky stories and candy. This tutorial is tailor-made just for this month. I'm going to run through some of the highlights from the new Red Giant Universe 2.1 package of effects and filters. These are designed for Adobe Premiere Pro and After Effects. I'm working in After Effects because that's where generally people are going to do more ambitious title work. Everything that I'm going to show you here, with the exception of one effect, will be just titles. You’ll notice a couple of overarching themes here in the new updates for Universe. One of those is retro. There are a lot of ’80s and ’90s themes here. There's also a lot of nods to pop culture in the names, in the styles of some of the effects that they have.

Documenting the Bell Witch

The first thing I wanted to do was come up with a fake documentary about the Bell Witch. I live in Tennessee, where we have some well-known folklore about the Bell Witch in Middle Tennessee from the 19th century. I made up a title for a documentary that might be about that and I designed it to put some different spooky effects on my titles to give it some different looks. The first thing I needed to do was get some footage. I have some footage that I shot last year with a Blackmagic URSA mini. It's really nice, silky smooth, 120fps footage. By itself it's not that freaky, but I applied some effects to make it a little scarier. You can see the original footage at the 1:30 mark in the tutorial video above.

This first clip is my wife dipping her hand in the water and then flicking water off. I think she and the kids were looking for some wildlife there. You can see it's a pretty normal shot here at the beginning--just somebody getting their hand wet and then flicking the water off. In order to make it a bit scarier, I applied one of the Noir Modern effects. I chose a preset from Universe. In Figure 1 (below), you can see the Preset browser in Universe 2.1. It’s really awesome because it gives you a quick preview of each preset just by scrolling your mouse over it. I went with the Projector filter because it actually has a flickering light effect as if it's got an old bulb. It also has a little bit of a vignette around the edge.

Figure 1. Previewing the Projector preset from the Noir Modern effects in the Universe 2.1 Preset browser. Click the image to see it at full size.

I applied that noir effect to each one of my clips in succession on the timeline (a snake, the hand in the water, and a bird flying up into some rocks). One of the options you can change on this is the 18 frames-per-second option, which gives it a different look. It actually creates almost a stuttering effect in your footage. I didn't like the way that looked with what I had because the slow motion looks good when it's smooth, but it looks really odd when it's stuttering. I left it the way it is.

Customizing the Subtitle

Then I moved on to the titles. The title of my made-up documentary is "The Bell Witch," with the subtitle "A True Tale of Tennessee Horror." In the effects I’ll show you, the subtitle doesn’t change. The first effect that I chose to use is the Ecto effect from Universe. Ecto has a lot of different options for you. In Figure 2 (below), you can see pre-built ones that you can just click and immediately have available without any changes. Some of these are hard to read, like the Optical Glow in the limelight. For this small Serif text it just kind of disappears. I had to choose something more simple. I started with Flame Outlines, which you can see in the top right of Figure 2. Then I made some changes to it to give the effect that I wanted.

Figure 2. Choosing options for the Ecto effect. Click the image to see it at full size.

Next I chose a Warm color preset, which you can find in the Inner Color pull-down menu shown in Figure 3 (below). You can also individually select specific colors if the options in the pull-down don’t give you the effect you want.

Figure 3. Choosing a Warm color preset

The other thing I did was I applied some keyframes. You can see in Figure 4 (below) how the effect begins with kind of a hot flash, where you can't really read the text, and then it cools off. It’s almost like a burst of flame and then the letters just kind of smolder and burn as it plays through.

Figure 4. The Flame Outlines effect is keyframed so it looks different over time as the effect is applied.

The other thing I love is the fact that the text on the bottom actually affects the text above it, as you can see in Figure 4. The glow that's coming from the flames of these letters actually gets applied on top of The Bell Witch main title above it. It casts that orange glow on top of it. You can see before that title comes on I just have pure white text. They interact really well together.