Adding Text To Your Videos

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When you get into video production you'll find that the more tools you have at your disposal, the better equipped you'll be to get your message across. Additionally, more skills will generally open up new and creative ways to execute on that message, helping stand out and be original. One of those tools is the ability to add visual elements to your video on top of the original footage that was shot on camera. In today's post, we'll be talking about one of those elements (text) and some techniques you can utilize to use text in to your videos.

There are many opportunities to implement text in video. Sometimes the decision to include it will be a necessity while at other times it can provide a creative and different way to communicate the message. For example, a title graphic at the beginning of a video to introduce a topic is not uncommon. Less uncommon, but perhaps an effective implementation, is including text throughout the video in order to repeat and emphasize points being made vocally. Text throughout the video can also help to break it up into sections and give it a more structured feel. You can also have ending titles or credits, closed captions, lower thirds to introduce a person's name and position, etc.

It should also be mentioned that while we are focusing on text graphics, the techniques outlined here can also be applied to any other visual element you want to include in your video such as logos, icons, motion graphics, and more. Let's get started with the first way you can incorporate visuals into your video.

Overlay Text

Overlay text is quite simply overlaying the text on top of your video footage. This can be useful in order to repeat and emphasize what is being said by someone on camera and can help to keep the pace of the video up by not needing to cut away from the main content. Oftentimes this technique is used to display the introductory title of the video. In fact, in any feature-length movie you watch, you'll likely see overlay text at the beginning of the film, showing either the actors names or the main title of the movie. So, now that we've classified 'overlay text', what are some techniques you can implement to use it in an effective way?

Text will oftentimes get lost in the visual noise of a video background. It will either blend in too much, or there just won't be a logical place to position it based on what is in the shot. Sometimes it's best to either just go without text, pick a different shot to use the text with, or use any one of the three methods outlined below. Let's start by looking at shade and colour.

Shade and Colour

To put it simply (and it is simple), if your video background is bright, keep your text dark, and vice-versa. Additionally, contrasting hues (warm vs cool) or different levels of saturation can also help the text to stand out from the background rather than blending in too much.

Drop Shadow

Applying a drop shadow effect allows you to be less restricted in choosing the shade and colour as no matter what look you choose for the text, you can just add a contrasting drop shadow behind it. If your text is light, add a dark shadow and vice-versa.

Bounding Box

Lastly, you can also separate your overlay text from the background by putting a bounding box behind it. It might not be the look your going for, but is the most widely applicable way to include text no matter the background it's being placed on.

Blurred Backgrounds

Blurring the video background is a similar technique those mentioned so far as it's about separating the text from a noisy background. All editing applications will likely have a blurring effect, causing the detail, contrast, and hard lines of a video's image to soften and blend in with each other. When you apply enough blur, the image becomes much more uniform and calm. Once blurred, you can place text, or any other visual element on top and have it completely legible, just as much so as if it were on a white or black background with no visual information at all.

When it comes to scenarios where blurring can be used, well, of course it's up to you! Generally though, this can be useful at the end of a video where the final scene eventually becomes blurred and the final titles or logos are displayed on top. Other than that, a blurred background can work anywhere else where you want to create a relevant and usable image behind your text rather than something more plain or design centric.

Composing Text with the Shot

This method is all about creatively and consciously positioning your text on a video background in a place where it appears natural, pleasing, and legible. There are two ways that you can go about using this method. First, you can have happy surprises where a particular shot just happens to have the qualities required for text to be added and look good. The second way to implement this is to actually shoot your shot with the text placement in mind. For example and landscape shot with only a bit of sky might be too noisy in all places of the image for the text to stand out. However if you shot with text in mind, you might include a lot more of the sky, allowing text to be placed against a consistent and calm blue hue. For another example, reference the image here, or check out the video included with this post.

Full Screen Title Cards

Lastly, you can add text to your videos by creating a full screen title card. This is the only method here where the original video background is completely discarded and an entirely new visual is created from scratch. This might sound like a lot of work, but it can be as simple as creating a solid colour that covers the entire frame, and placing your text on that. That being said, it can be helpful to dress things up a bit by adding some visual elements as well. In these cases a graphic designer would be quite valuable!

Full screen title cards also have the advantage of breaking up the video footage into sections. When you cut away to a title card, it gives the impression that you are taking a pause to acknowledge that a new point is being made, even if the audio of video continues to play underneath. Full screen title cards are very useful in educational content, pre-recorded video presentations, an otherwise creative ways to implement text into video.

That's it! Keep Text in Mind.

That covers four different quick and simple techniques on how to add text to your videos. Sometimes it can seem like adding text to your videos will just appear tacky and cheap, but hopefully these methods help to mitigate that concern. There are of course endless ways you can creatively implement text, but the creative energy and time spent on those applications might not be feasible. Lastly, the design of your text will play a big part in how it fits in to your video. It's important to consider font, point size, layout, and colour. While graphic design and working with type is entirely its own domain, the techniques outlined here will help to fit that text into your video once the design is complete. Stay tuned for more content like this and feel free to leave a comment below!

Tim Clark
Filmmaker, BiteSite