Create cool video titles in Final Cut Pro X

If you edit video, you probably use titles—to introduce a topic, identify a speaker, or perhaps credit actors and crew. Title design goes beyond just the choice of words. Fonts, colors, size, graphic elements, and animation all combine to establish a tone that can unify, support, and enhance your entire project.

If you’re using iMovie to edit your videos, you’ve likely discovered that it includes a good number of title presets. Many of them are animated, and they can be customized to fit your needs.

The Titles Browser in iMovie. All these titles are also available in Final Cut Pro X.

If you’re considering moving up to Final Cut Pro X (it can open your iMovie projects), you’ll be pleasantly surprised to find that not only does it include the iMovie titles that you are used to (including Theme titles but excluding Movie Trailers), but there are also many more title designs to choose from—almost twice as many. In addition, you have much more flexibility to customize your titles, all in a user interface that should make you feel right at home.

Choose a title

Titles in Final Cut Pro X are located in the Titles Browser, very much like iMovie. Titles are divided into five categories, and as you browse the titles, you’ll likely recognize the 80-plus titles that are available in iMovie sprinkled among the nearly 80 additional title designs.

While skimming a title thumbnail in iMovie animates the title in the thumbnail itself, in Final Cut Pro you can also see the full-size preview animation in the Viewer, making it much easier to see what a title will look like before you decide to use it.

Preview a title in Final Cut Pro X’s Viewer by skimming the thumbnail in the Titles Browser.

To apply a title, you can drag it over a clip as you would in iMovie—but to be more precise, I like to move the playhead to the frame where I want the title to start, then select the title in the Titles Browser and press the Q key, which connects the title to the clip at the playhead. If needed, you can then drag on the middle of the title to change its location, or drag on either end to change its duration—just as you would do in iMovie.

The purple bar in the Timeline is a title from the Lower Thirds category connected to a video clip. Since the playhead is over the title, you can see it in the Viewer.

Tip: If you want a title to last exactly as long as a video clip, first press the X key when the playhead is over the clip to set a range. Now when you select the title you want and press Q to connect it, the title will exactly match the clip duration.

Alternatively, if you want to place the title at the start of the project so that it’s not placed over any video clips, move the playhead home, select the title, and press the W key to perform an insert edit.

Edit a title

Once in the timeline, you can edit your title in three different ways. In the Viewer, you can change the text content like you would in iMovie—just double-click it and start typing. But you can also drag on a handle to reposition the text anywhere on the screen, which is quite useful. When you are done editing the text in the Viewer, press the Escape key.

You can edit text and change its location directly in the Viewer.

Now in the Inspector—press the i button or Command-4 if it’s not open—there are two panes with controls for modifying the look of your text. The Text pane contains the basic attributes that apply to all titles, such as the font, size, alignment, spacing, and tracking. It also includes four style attributes of the text that you can enable and adjust: Face, Outline, Glow, and Drop Shadow. Clicking the Show button on the right side of each attribute opens a menu where you can change Fill, Color, Opacity, and other parameters to give your text a unique style.

You can change the basic attributes and style of a title in the Inspector’s Text pane.

Once you’ve customized your text, you can save the style by clicking the bar at the top that says Normal and giving it a name—or you can choose from among the many preset styles that appear in the drop-down list.

Motion graphics

The Title pane of the Inspector contains parameters that can vary from title to title. All the titles built into Final Cut Pro X were created in a companion motion graphics application called Motion, and many of them have been “rigged” to allow you to customize them inside of Final Cut Pro X, using the Published Parameters in the Title Inspector. 

With this title, you can change the shape of the graphics and the overall color theme in the Inspector’s Title pane.

And there’s another benefit to using Final Cut Pro X for titling as opposed to iMovie: Final Cut Pro is expandable. There is a large, diverse, and rapidly growing universe of third-party titles, transitions, effects, and templates that open up many more creative possibilities for your video projects.

An example is my own Callouts plugin, which lets you use titles to add animated lines, shapes, text, magnifiers, and more to video.

My own Callouts plugin lets you use titles to add animated lines, shapes, text, magnifiers, and more to video.

If you want to try your hand at creating your own titles, you can do so using Motion ($50 in the App Store), and then publish the title so that it can be used (and modified) in Final Cut Pro X.

With over 160 title presets to choose from, the ability to easily reposition, format, and style your titles, the option to add third-party titles, and the freedom to create original titles with Motion, there’s no limit to what you can do with titles in Final Cut Pro.

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