Creating great looking kinetic text in After Effects

Text in Video and Gifs can serve many purposes. From subtitles of understated text at the bottom of your screen, to kinetic typography’s powerful messages that fill the whole frame, the purpose of your text can vary greatly. No matter the purpose though, maintaining legibility whilst looking great is essential, and bad text can stand out like a sore thumb.

And it isn’t just styling you have to consider. Movement, emphasis and positioning are all tools to consider when bringing your text to life. Great kinetic text will use most, if not all, of these to varying degrees to fulfil their purpose. This makes the difference between seeing what’s being said, and hearing what’s being said.

In this blog I will take you through an example of kinetic typography, demonstrating what I’ve just said.

The first thing we need to do is determine the purpose of our text; will our text be complimentary to what is being said, or is it the main focal point of the visual? In this instance, our text will be the main focal point; there will be spoken word behind what is being said, but there will be no other visuals.

Now we know our text is the focal point, now lets find something you want to animate. For practice, I generally find clips from movies or famous quotes by people to animate text over, in this case I have gone with a clip from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off –

“Yup. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Life moves fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you’ll miss it.”.

Definitely a memorable quote, and something I think we can have a lot of fun with.

I’m going to assume you’ve had some level of experience with After Effects, so I won’t be running you through the basics of setting up a composition, adding keyframes etc. Set up a composition and get your text in there, roughly in time with what’s being said. Here’s how mine looks so far:

Simple right? I haven’t even considered any stylistic elements yet, not even the font. I’ve just written out what’s being said, laid it out in the timeline and voila, you have the above! Not a bad job by any means, but not something that really gets the viewer excited. Now lets improve on this further…

Our text needs life – it needs to merge seamlessly with what we are hearing, it needs to feel like we’re seeing the words Ferris is speaking. He’s saying the words one at a time, he isn’t magically outputting the entire sentence at once, so lets change our typography to match. Whilst we’re at it lets remove the hard cuts between text scenes, so that it fades out in time with the breathing, a subtle change but one that makes it more comfortable to read.

Better already. There isn’t a lot of life there yet, but it’s a step closer – it feels like we’re starting to really hear what he’s saying! It could use a bit of movement, perhaps some changes to the font and sizing – let’s try a small amount of bold, or italics, as well. All little changes on their own, but look at the effect it’s had on our video so far!

This is a great start, but there is a lot more we can do to really bring the text to life. Check our blog next week for more on how to create great kinetic typography, where we’ll be looking more at using cameras in After Effects to create a scene of excitement, as well as more movement and easing for a smooth finish.





About the Author

Charlotte Graham-Cumming

Director, Ice Blue Sky Ltd

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