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Zooming and Scrolling Titles in Vegas Video

One of the most powerful sets of tools in Sonic Foundry's Vegas Video are its Media Generators. This particular class of plug-ins lets you create "virtual media files" that you can use just like any video event.

For this project, I combined the Text Generator with the Track Motion and Pan/Crop Effect to create zooming and scrolling titles for the closing of a feature I'm producing about the Oregon Coast.

Click here to view the QuickTime movie.

Let's start with the background. You can use anything you want for a background—still or moving, real or generated. For this video, I thought the most compelling background I could use was a still from the actual production.

To capture a still image from a video clip in Vegas is a three-part process: find the frame you want to use, set the Velocity of that event to zero, and stretch the clip out for the duration you need.

Finding the appropriate frame is a matter of playing and scrubbing through the clip until you find what you want. Vegas' Preview window always displays the frame at the cursor location, and if you zoom in enough, pressing the left and right arrows moves your view a frame at a time. Once I'd found a frame I liked, I zoomed in on it far enough to easily identify a single frame on the timeline. In this view, I split the clip at the end of my chosen frame, then moved the cursor back a frame and split the clip again. After deleting the material before and after the frame, I had a one-frame video event with the image I wanted. (Figure 1)


Figure 1

The next step was to set the velocity of the event to zero. This freezes all motion in the event. There are two ways to do this in Vegas: the quick way and the precise way. Right-clicking on an event lets you insert a velocity envelope that you can drag up and down to make the event play from up to 300% faster than normal, all the way to 100% of normal, but backwards. Setting a point on the envelope to 0% freezes the event. Dragging is quick, but for the precision I needed here, I right-clicked on the beginning and ending points of the envelope and typed in 0.

Once my one-frame event was frozen, I dragged out the right edge until it covered the duration I wanted for my credit roll, and the velocity envelope kept the action frozen throughout. I then dragged the upper left and right corners of the event to create a one-second fade-in and fade out, respectively.

I really love this particular image just the way it came out of the camera, but I still couldn't resist adding a little technical voodoo to give it another dimension. Since one of the cool things about the image is the contrast between the sharply-defined tree in the foreground and the misty background, I thought I could enhance this effect by having the entire image start way out of focus and get gradually crisper. Vegas' Gaussian Blur effect was just right for this. In the Effect dialog, I set the blur to its maximum at the beginning of the clip, and had it come into focus over six seconds. (Figure 2) To accommodate the one-second fade-in from black, I also set a keyframe in the blur timeline at one second into the clip with the same settings as the keyframe at the start of the clip. This kept the amount of blur constant through the course of the fade-in, and only started clearing up the image after it was fully faded in.


Figure 2

Since the effects in this sequence used a fair amount of processing, I wanted to ensure it didn't slow down the preview as I worked on the rest of the credits, so I had a cup of coffee while I rendered the sequence out to DV. When this was done, I replaced the original clip with the rendered AVI. With the background set, it was time to do the actual credits.

I put the background clip on track 2 and inserted a new track. Since I wanted to see the background through the credits, I set the credits track as track 1, above the background track.

Vegas' Text Generator offers pretty much all you need to create basic, effective titles (though for more sophisticated type treatments, it's better to build the text in a dedicated application like Photoshop, and import the image into Vegas). Here, I wanted two separate effects: for the title to zoom in from a distance and then fade out, followed by a bottom-to-top roll for the credits.

Opening the Text Generator from the Options menu gives you a dialog into which you can type your text, set such basic text parameters as size, style, font and color; and control the color and transparency of the background as well as the duration of the text event. (Figure 3)


Figure 3

One of the limitations of this feature is that you can only have one font, size and style of text in each event, and since I wanted to get a couple of different looks, I had to create more than one event.

The first event would be the title of the video: Oregon, The Wild Coast. As you can see in Figure 3, I chose a nice big yellow Verdana regular. This gave me a title that pops onto the screen and pops off within a couple seconds. To create the zooming effect I wanted, I used the Event Pan/Crop tool.

Each event in the timeline features a button that displays the Pan/Crop dialog allowing you to resize an event in any orientation by dragging on the handles of the size box. (Figure 4) You can also use keyframes to change the size over time. One of the few confusing things in Vegas' GUI is that resizing the size box changes the size of the video screen relative to the image, while most people usually think in terms of changing the size of the image within a stable screen. This can be confusing at first, but only requires a little adjustment to become second nature.


Figure 4

Figure 4 shows the size of the screen box at the second of the three keyframes used. I put the box at its maximum size (image at its smallest) in the first keyframe, and at normal size in the final keyframe. Using three keyframes let me bring the titles up to size slowly for the first 1.5 seonds, then grow quickly for the last quarter-second for greater impact.

For the scrolling credits I inserted a second text media generator on the title track right after the first one and typed the four different credits. Notice in the upper left corner of Figure 5 (red circle), I increased the height of the frame from the DV standard 480 lines to 2048, and set the duration (length) of the event to fifteen seconds. The controls at the right center of the dialog (yellow circle) illustrate how—just as with the title--I set the background to be completely transparent so only the text is visible, revealing the background below it in track 2: the arrow pointing to the little gradated checkerboard is at the bottom.


Figure 5

To get it to scroll, I opened the Pan/Crop dialog again (Figure 6) and set the screen box off center and to an odd size. This has the effect of making the text appear to the left of the tree in the background, and small enough to fit into that space. I placed the screen box above the black rectangle representing the actual image. At the final keyframe, I put the screen box below the image. As the sequence plays, the box moves from top to bottom, effectively making the text move across the screen in the opposite direction: bottom to top.


Figure 6

Working with this box is the trickiest part of the process, and only comes together through trial and error. But you can change settings both by dragging and directly within the numeric boxes. The great advantage Vegas offers to offset this little weirdness is that the timeline is completely functional while the effects dialogs are open. This means you can play back the video as soon as you change settings and see what you've done without closing the dialog and re-opening it as most applications--video and otherwise--require. This saves a lot of time.

The last thing I did was the simplest: putting a drop shadow under the titles. This was done with the Tools>Video>Track Motion menu item, allowing you to put a shadow behind the text, and set its color, sharpness, position and all the usual drop shadow parameters. For these titles, I just put a subtle shadow down to enhance the depth of the image.

The whole thing took just over an hour to put together, and works just the way I wanted.

Click here to view the QuickTime movie.

All of the above, of course, is independent of the medium in which you'll deliver your production. As always, those producing streaming media must consider the limitations of the medium. Frame rate, data rate, the idiosyncrasies of the codec used, and frame size are only the (semi) predictable bottlenecks productions will have to squeeze through. On the user side, network congestion, older players and slow modems will often enter the mix to degrade things further.

Despite the villains we can't predict, we can protect against the usual suspects for displaying credits; a vital element in self-promotion and marketing.

Frame Size

What do you do if a Web site displays video in 160 x 120 frames? The basic strategy here is common sense: aesthetics be damned--make your text as big as possible. A plain bold, roman sans serif can communicate while the more artistic fonts can get muddied at small sizes.

Background

Your background is a vital consideration. Any movement in a background will not only hog bandwidth, but can make titles hard to read in the best of situations. For small frames and limited-bandwidth situations in particular, use a plain (not gradated) dark black or blue background and put bright white or yellow text on top of it. If you must have an image behind your titles, make it a still image with a minimum of small details. Leafy trees, crashing surf and any textured, multi-colored images will likely cause trouble at low bandwidths.

If your approach to titles and credits leaves you with an indecipherable blur, bite the bullet and don't scroll your credits at all: just do a fast fade-in and out for each one, or consider using SMIL to generate your titles and credits. The only time a scroll approaches being indispensable is when you're displaying items too long to fit on a single midget screen. Otherwise, let legibility be the better part of art and keep the text still.

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