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PapaJohn's Newsletter #6 - Text Clips (Titles and Credits)

Most movies start with Titles and end with Credits. The text is sometimes over some background video or pictures, and at other times it's over a plain colored background. It's been traditional since the days of silent movies.

You can see from Movie Maker 2's main menu that its called 'Titles and Credits', Titles at the beginning and Credits at the end.

Titles and Credits

When I wrote 'Do Amazing Things' I wanted to treat clips with text more generically. The same clip can be used at the beginning of a video, at the end, in the middle, or over other clips.

I wanted to call clips with text in them simply 'text clips', but in the end I had to agree with the publisher that a book for the novice should align as closely as possible with the way the software used the terms.

But in my newsletters, I can go down whatever path I want to, so this week's is devoted to the subject of 'text clips'.


A couple items before continuing with the weekly topic:

Last week's newsletter seems to have gone over particularly well and new subscribers have been rolling in. I don't know if it's the excitement of being able to do a Picture-in-Picture by using a custom transition in Movie Maker 2, or the newsletter providing a detailed tutorial. I'd appreciate any notes or comments about it, as I'd be happy to do more in the future.... more XML stuff or more tutorials, or both.

Since MM2 was released, I'd been under the impression that custom XML files could only be used to create or tweak video effects and transitions. Well, about a week ago Rehan, a regular on the newsgroup and forums, showed me a custom XML file that actually resulted in two added choices in the list of text animations. I'm sure that you'll be seeing more about this in the future, when Rehan decides to roll it out for general use. Until then, all I can say for sure is that, yes it's possible.

Text Clips (Titles and Credits)

Let's get into text clips..... starting with the starting menu of the text wizard:

Make a text clip

Make the Project's First Text Clip

You might start the first text clip of a project pretty early in the editing phase... as the short movie I did about Chicago that had only text in it, with zero video clips and pictures....

...or it could come in the final editing phase, after the video is fixed on the timeline, so you're assured the alignment of the text and video clips won't be thrown off by further changes in the video track.

Whenever you start, this menu of the wizard appears.

Most of the time I don't care which choice I pick, as I'm just wanting to do some design work on the first text clip, so I quickly and pretty much randomly pick one of them just to get to the next window.

Don't get me wrong. I care very much where the text clip ends up.... my remark fits into the next item.

Text Clips Can be Used Anyplace

Make the first text clip anyplace in the project. If it's on the Video track as a title or credits clip, or on the Title Overlay track as a title overlay, with a quick drag and drop motion it can be moved to the other track, moved from being the first clip to being the last, or dropped someplace between.

If your project is already underway, then being on the Title Overlay track is usually the best place, as it doesn't bump anything on the video track one way or the other. If your project is totally empty or just starting, then being on the Video track might be best for starting.

I try to avoid the mindset of a text clip being a title and belonging at the beginning, or credits at the end. They are all 'text clips'.

I do a lot of copying and pasting, especially when it comes to working with text clips. Here's a basic project, a single video clip with 3 text clips. I made the first one at the beginning of the timeline on the Video track, and then copied it once to the Title Overlay track and then again to the end of the Video track, changing only the text content of each.

You can see in the figure that the final text frames aren't in the Ending Credits clip

You can see in the figure that the final text frames aren't in the Ending Credits clip, but in the Title Overlay one, which extends beyond the credits on the timeline.

I just wanted to point out the choices for placement. It's too soon in this project for me to be copying and pasting the first text clip. I haven't designed it yet.

Double-Click a Text Clip

I'll stay in the timeline view of the project when I work on text clips. The storyboard view doesn't include any of them on the Title Overlay track.

Take any text clip on the timeline and double-click on it.... the text wizard opens on the page where the words are. Changing the text in any of the clips already created is always just a double-click away. This ease of moving around is one of the main reasons I think so highly of MM2.

OK... time to forget the beginning and ending text clips. I'll delete them and use the clip on the overlay track as if it's the first one for the project.

Design the Project's First Text Clip - Font, Color, Transparency

For a really short video, the overlay clip might be the only text clip needed. It can span the entire timeline. A longer video would usually need more.

Designing the first project text clip means thinking about the choices of fonts and font color. Double-click on the clip to get to the text wizard. Then select 'Change the text font and color'.

Design the Project's First Text Clip - Font, Color, Transparency

  • Font - Technology, Webdings, and Wingdings are fonts that use graphics rather than letters.

  • Bold, Italics, Underlined - choose one or all. They will apply to all of the text in the clip.

  • Color - click the A for the font color, or the box to the right of it for the background color. The background color is only used for text clips on the Video track... it won't work if you click on it with a text overlay clip.... maybe a good reason for the first text clip being on the Video track. When in the color selection window, the Define Custom Color lets you pick any color possible. If you need some help picking an appropriate one, check

  • Transparency - the default of 0% means it's a solid color. The other end of the slider is 90% (not 100%), which makes for very transparent text.

Once these basic text parameters are finalized for the project, it's time to copy and paste the first text clip to all the other places you want text clips in the project.

Design All Project Text Clips - Content, Font Size, Position, Animation

The remaining properties of each text clip are determined by their location in the project and your intended effect.

  • Content - the words you write. Most of the animations limit the amount of text a good bit... only the Scroll - Perspective and Ticker Tape choices support up to about 150 words in a single clip.

  • Text Size - an appropriate size depends on the text content and font.

  • Alignment - left, center, right justification depends on the text and the images behind it.

Good use of text makes a tremendous impact on the overall presentation of your movie.... use any style you want, but try to avoid the last minute slapping on of text, using nothing more than the defaults. Sometimes that's hard to do, as your movie is almost done and you're more than ready to show it off.

I look forward to any discussion items at the forums, and whatever the next topic(s) will be.


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PapaJohn's Movie Maker 2 and Photo Story 2 Newsletter Index

About John 'PapaJohn' Buechler from
John 'PapaJohn' Buechler John "PapaJohn" Buechler, of Kalamazoo, Mich., goes by PapaJohn online. An avid user of Movie Maker since its first release, and a regular supporter of the community of Movie Maker users, John received a 2003 MVP award from Microsoft for that support. In March 2003, he started a comprehensive website about Movie Maker 2 at He maintains the website, writes books and articles, teaches, and provides support services - all for the community of Movie Maker 2 users. An engineer by formal education, John is a computer database and multimedia expert by business and personal experience. He co-authored the first book about Movie Maker 2 and is actively working on a second one. You can find his advice in the Windows XP Movie Maker newsgroup and in the Windows Movie Makers Forums.

This newsletter is republished with permission of John "PapaJohn" Buechler. Please note that this is an archive of newsletters and some information may become outdated. PapaJohn, and the webmaster of this site, provides this information "AS IS" with no warranties.



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