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Typography in Film & Video

written by: Shawn S. Lealos•edited by: Rhonda Callow•updated: 5/24/2011

Having trouble deciding what font to use in your video production or film?

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    Typography in Film & Video

    As a video producer/ filmmaker you most likely use typography when deciding what font to use for your production. According to Wikipedia the definition of Typography is “the art and technique of arranging type, type design, and modifying type glyphs."

    Display typography is used when considering the font style and design of a film or video’s title(s) (whether dynamic or still). Graphic artists and/or filmmakers choose or create the font, arrange the type, such as spacing, and imbed filters and CGI effects (e.g. animated title sequence). (When the text is moving, it is specifically known as kinetic typography.)

    Digital technology has made the art of typography available to almost anyone; and now, with software programs, such as Final Cut Studio’s Live Type, the countless different options are endless and with practice and patience, creating a professional video or film tittles easier than ever.

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    Compare the fonts above

    What are their differences? What type of emotions or other aspects do they portray?

    Typography expresses a mood and has a voice. Compare the look of the fancy, ornamental cursive font (Mutlu) versus the bold upper-case letters of ARIAL BLACK. Each font listed has its own attitude and personality; and therefore represents a different voice when used as a title.

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    How do you know what font to use?

    There are no certain rules when choosing the font style for a film and video title; however, it is a good idea to first consider the project and genre of your production. Are you shooting a commercial or a film? If it’s a film, is it a horror or a comedy? Do you think it would be suitable to use the Dirty Classic font style (see above) or Arial Black for the main titles in a corporate video? In other words, keep the font style consistent with the project, genre and the mood(s) you’re wanting to portray. Use common sense.

    Fonts have certain characteristics that may even help you to decide what type to choose. For instance, the weight of the font is the thickness of its letters. Thin hairline fonts look appropriate when used in wedding videos, but may not when used as a horror film’s main title.

    Also, consider how difficult or easy the font is to read. If it’s a serif font, it’ll naturally take longer to read on screen versus a san-serif (one without serifs). Same goes for too many fancy embellishments, such as extravagant loops and curvy hairlines. If the font style will take awhile to read, allocate enough time for your audience to read the title(s). You may want to use additional frames, just make sure each are consistent in design. In addition, don’t overcrowd the frame with too many words. Keep it simple.

     

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    So, what mood are YOU trying to capture?

    Use an aesthetic approach when deciding the right font style. As with moods, there are thousands of font styles to choose from! (see list below for free font download sites) First, write down all the fonts you’re interested in using or your specific production. Experiment with the ones you like and gradually narrow down the list down to one (or more, depending on if you want to use subtitles). Really think and feel about what and how the font style makes you feel. If you’re having a difficult time deciding, ask for someone else’s opinion.

    After you’ve chosen the ‘right’ font style for your project, you may want to add colors, textures, filters, drop shadows, etc.; or may want to animate the title and add fades and dissolves, etc. Again, consider the mood of the project.

    Also, keep your titles consistent, font styles along with filters or animated effects that are inconsistent will look amateurish.

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    Free Font Downloads

    The following websites have a variety of different fonts and styles to choose from, everything from Old English, Ornaments, to Pop Culture icons and text.

    1001 Free Fonts:

    http://www.1001freefonts.com/

    Urban fonts:

    http://www.urbanfonts.com/

    Simply the Best Fonts:

    http://simplythebest.net/fonts/

    Search Free Fonts:

    http://www.searchfreefonts.com/

    Fontspace:

    http://www.fontspace.com/