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Old April 15th, 2010, 05:17 PM   #1
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Help settle argument about on-screen text formatting

I produce instructional videos. My editor insists that on-screen text, paragraphs, titles, etc., should have drop shadows, or nothing. I have always put a thin black outline on white text as I believe it increases readability.

Who's right and why?
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Old April 15th, 2010, 06:08 PM   #2
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Well Rush Limbaugh is on the right, and Keith Olberman is on the left...

There's no correct answer, just opinions, but you knew that already, right? My opinion is that a drop shadow really helps set the text off from the background. I generally don't care for text with no outline or drop shadow, which seems to be one of today's fads. I sometimes use small outlines as well, sometimes not. It depends on what the actual background is, how large the text is, whether it's a main header or subtext, and possibly which way the wind is blowing that day. That's why they call editing a creative profession.

Have fun!

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Old April 15th, 2010, 09:25 PM   #3
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Try it both ways and look at it. That will give you your answer.

I tend to use both a drop shadow and a thin border at 50% transparent. But one or the other may go out the window depending on the font or background.

But your editor needs to cultivate an open mind if he thinks there's some kind of 'rule'.
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Old April 16th, 2010, 01:30 AM   #4
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I have begun to use LiveType for ALL my onscreen text and use the following as Default:
- White Text (san serif)
- Black Outline
- Glow Behind in a complementary colour to the background
- Black drop shadow applied in FCP (usually 50 - 100% opacity; 1, 2 or 3 pixels Offset; USUALLY 50% softness)

DO I always use the above settings? NO. But if I need a quick generic Template, that's my "go to"
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Old April 16th, 2010, 01:50 PM   #5
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I always use both an outline and a drop shadow, both at 100% opacity so they'll "pop." I personally don't really like white as a text color and so usually use yellow, but that's just me.
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Old April 16th, 2010, 02:37 PM   #6
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I've learned to use only san serif fonts for video. And I'm am always amazed at how much smaller text appears on the "big screen" then it does in a FC Canvas window.

I also avoid 100% white for type, opting for 85-90% gray. Seems to have a little less "noisy-ness" on screen.

Some folks add a tiny bit of blur to the edge of type to help offset some flicker. This can be done in Photoshop.
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Old April 16th, 2010, 04:06 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jonathan Levin View Post
I also avoid 100% white for type, opting for 85-90% gray. Seems to have a little less "noisy-ness" on screen.
EXCELLENT point - I don't actually use 100% white either, I have a VERY light grey in my palette that I always grab. Onscreen it LOOKS white but without exceeding broadcast legal IRE and somewhat less mosquito-noisy.

And like Adam, I have two shades of yellow/gold in my palette that I will use occasionally when I can get away with introducing another colour to the onscreen image.
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Old April 18th, 2010, 05:35 PM   #8
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Bottom line is that RULES don't work very well in an environment where VARIABLES are complex.

Video titling has VERY complex variables.

You're in field of pixels, each of which can vary almost infinitely in many areas - brightness and color value and adjacency to other colors or brightnesses are just a few that immediately spring to mind *AND you're likely even working in a world of variable underlying SCREEN resolutions, Computer monitors, SD Video, HD Video, iPhone screens?

So upon a world filed of near infinite variability you're imposing text which itself has nearly infinite variability? Good luck formulating "rules" for that.

Said shorter, a great text approach for for an HD movie frame might turn to crap on an iPhone screen.

And vice versa.

It kinda reminds me of the distinction between people who are AGNOSTIC - and those who are IGNOSTIC.

The first doesn't much care about the question of the existence of God. The second says there's no point in even taking a position on the question in the absence of an agreed upon DEFINITION of precisely what God is.

Until then, they'd submit, the whole argument is useless.

Today, at least, that's kinda how I feel about type rules. Can't judge them until you can define them, and even then, you're left with every answer being chock full of weasel words like "usually", "often", "traditionally", and "in most cases" - which make them not really RULES at all, huh?


(Sorry, I probably shouldn't have answered this on Sunday)
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Old April 18th, 2010, 06:03 PM   #9
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I understand your point completely Bill but my combination of text colour, outline colour, drop shadow and glow has yet to fail me in any onscreen background and is the main reason I went with the 4 part process. I came up with my default in response to a series of TV PSAs that were going to have VARIED backgrounds and I needed a uniform look and feel across 6 30 second PSAs. SO far so good and I've used my default for a number of other projects as well.

Now, is it always the most beautiful and appropriate artistic choice? No but it always has worked; black background, white background, mixed, high key, low key... been "lucky" so far. The secret is to make sure that you will always have at least ONE element popping the text off of it's surroundings.
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