This case study on our end credits might be of interest to anyone who is looking for innovative ways to get professional-looking quality on a low budget.
For the second season of my web series The Spell Tutor our end credit sequence was the standard “upward crawl” that you see regularly in movies. At the standard rate of movement people have come to expect, each sequence took about one minute.
In retrospect, I realized that was far too long for a series with five-minute episodes. I wanted to find a way to shorten that time, and hopefully make it more interesting for the audience to watch. (After all, all the people on our team truly deserve the recognition.)
The new style I decided on consisted of the following sequence for each individual credit:
- quickly drop down into view from above frame
- remain on screen for a few seconds (with some subtle movement to keep it interesting)
- another quick drop down below the bottom of frame
A rapid-fire succession of these credits would shorten the total time and have more energy than the standard crawl.
I created one image for each individual credit to prepare for this new style. This was a lot of up-front work, but the good thing was these images could be reused for subsequent episodes with the same actors, crew or team members.
In editing terms, the steps break down into these tools for each credit:
- a) Two keyframes for the start and end positions of the credit
b) a Motion Blur effect to increase the perception of fast movement
c) an audio cue for wind-like movement.
- Four to five position keyframes to create subtle movement.
- Another two keyframes (plus Motion Blur and audio) to move the credit out.
Normally, for the 20 to 30 credits per episode, this would translate into a lot of manual editing work. This is where my day job as a computer programmer came in handy.
Vegas Pro, my editor of choice, has a feature called Scripting, which allows anyone to automate anything that can happen inside the editor, by writing a script consisting of programming code. I wrote a routine for the three-step process above. Here’s a snapshot of what that code looks like:
The important takeaway here is that the routine has a handful of parameters, which allow the following things to be specified:
- which credit image to use
- start time
- the relative size of the credit, which helps control arrangement when there are many credits onscreen at once
- the horizontal and vertical position of the credit during Step 2
- the amount of time the credit stays onscreen during Step 2
The next step was to call this routine multiple times, once for each credit needed - here’s a snapshot of that. As you can see, I wrote a separate routine for each episode I wanted to create:
To use this code, I started off with an empty project and then ran the script I’d written above. Seconds later, the project was filled with a huge amount of editing work that would have taken hours if done manually. I would then review the resulting edit: anything I didn’t like wasn’t fixed in the project - it was fixed by tweaking the parameters in the script. Then I’d throw the project away and re-run the script to get an updated iteration. As a final step, I manually added a background stock clip.
Working this way allowed me to quickly come up with snappy, professional-looking Season 3 end credit sequences that now only last about 25 seconds. And I’m using the same method for Season 4 which has saved a lot of time that can be spent on the series itself.
You can see it in action in our opening Season 3 episode. If you have programming skills it’s worthwhile to see if you can leverage this type of functionality in your editor.
Vegas Pro Scripting uses the C#.NET programming language, which can be written using the free Microsoft Visual Studio Community development environment.