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Final Cut Pro Power Tip: Creating a Glow Behind Text

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The outline text generator in Final Cut Pro has to be the ugliest thing since the invention of ducklings. But Larry Jordan explains how to turn it into a swan of beauty with just a little tinkering.
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When I first looked at Final Cut Pro’s outline text generator, I thought it was the ugliest thing I’d seen in a long time. However, the more I work with it, the more interesting it gets.

Here’s a text effect that works in all versions of Final Cut Pro from 3.0 on. This effect uses the outline text generator to create a glow that floats behind the text.

Whenever you generate a text clip in Final Cut, there’s a three-step process to follow that makes sure you place the clip correctly in the Timeline, and then load it into the Viewer for editing:

  1. Generate the clip, to create the clip in the Viewer.
  2. Superimpose the clip, to edit it from the Viewer into the Timeline.
  3. Double-click the clip, to load it from the Timeline into the Viewer.

We’ll create the glow effect over a black background, just to make it easier to see and explain. However, you can key this over any image or video clip. Let’s give it a whirl:

  1. Go to the Viewer and make sure that the Video tab is selected.
  2. Click the Generator button, the small letter A in the lower-left corner. The Generator pop-up selection menu appears.
  3. Select Text > Outline Text (see Figure 1).
    Figure 01

    Figure 1 The small A in the lower-left corner of the Viewer displays the Generator menu. Select Text > Outline text.

  4. Before doing anything else, drag the text clip from the Viewer to the Superimpose overlay menu in the Canvas, as shown in Figure 2.
    Figure 02

    Figure 2 Before you type anything, drag the new text clip to the Superimpose menu overlay in the Canvas.

  5. The clip appears at the position of the playhead in the Timeline, superimposed one track above the track selected in the patch panel, and the alpha channel is set so that the text clip is keyed into the text (see Figure 3).
    Figure 03

    Figure 3 Superimposed text goes on the track immediately above the left V1 track patch in the Patch Panel.

  6. Double-click the clip to load it into the Viewer. You can tell that a clip has been loaded from the Timeline because the playhead scrubber bar at the bottom of the Viewer has little sprocket holes in it, as shown in Figure 4.
    Figure 04

    Figure 4 The small parallel dots—called "sprocket holes"— indicate that a Timeline clip has been loaded into the Viewer.

  7. Click the Controls tab and type "Snowboard" for the sample text. Set the font to Marker Felt and the size to 90 points, as shown in Figure 5. (Of course, you can use other text and other fonts. I’m just using these as an example.) So far, your text effect looks like Figure 6.
    Figure 05

    Figure 5 Enter your text, in this case Snowboard, on the Controls tab of your text clip.

    Figure 06

    Figure 6 Here’s what the text looks like in the Canvas.

  8. If you were to key the outline text over anything other than black, you’d see that it has a truly ugly black border around it. However, we can change the border to something much more aesthetically pleasing by setting Line Width to 200 and Line Softness to 100, and changing the color of the Line Color chip by clicking it and selecting any color other than black. In Figure 7, I’ve used gold.
    Figure 07

    Figure 7 To start to see some interesting effects, change the settings on the Controls tab of your text clip to match these numbers.

  9. Figure 8 shows how the text looks now. Ah, much better! This alone makes for more attractive text. However, in writing this technique, I discovered more interesting stuff by playing with the Background Settings, farther down on the Controls tab.
    Figure 08

    Figure 8 Who would ever have thought that the Outline text clip could look so nice?!

  10. Change the Horizontal Size to 150, the Vertical Size to 100, the Vertical Offset to ×80, Back Soft to 50 and Back Opacity to 40. Then click the color chip and change the color to a medium-deep blue, as shown in Figure 9.
    Figure 09

    Figure 9 Take this effect one step further by adding a second color and tweaking more of the settings on the lower portion of the Controls tab.

    Figure 10 shows the final effect—very cool! And much more subtle than you might suspect when you first looked at the outline text effect. To key this text effect over a video clip, simply edit a video clip onto V1 immediately below the text.

    Figure 10

    Figure 10 Ta-DA! A great swan has emerged from an ugly duckling.

If you want to try something really interesting, drag a video clip into the Back Graphic well and watch what happens.

I thought this was a very interesting way to create a simple but elegant effect. Now you can create it, too.

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