Creating “lower thirds” with Vegas Pro 8
by Gary Rebholz
We've all seen the flashy graphics that news organizations, documentarians, and many other video editors use to create titling and graphics that overlay an interview or some other piece of video. As you may know, the industry generally refers to these graphics as lower thirds even if these graphics don't actually occupy a complete third of the video screen, or even though they may not actually occupy the lower area of the screen at all.
Regardless of where the editor actually places these graphics, they provide a great value to identifying the speaker in the video or imparting other information. And it's a pretty safe bet that sooner or later—probably sooner—you're going to want to create lower thirds for your videos too.
The possible approaches to creating these graphics are virtually unlimited. You can create all or a portion them outside of Vegas Pro software and bring them into your project just like any other media. They can be static or they can contain swoops, swishes, orbs, or anything else you can imagine. In this article, I'm going to show you how you can quickly and easily create custom lower thirds complete with text and graphics using just the tools inside Vegas Pro 8 software. Creating your lower thirds with this method makes for a very clean and compact workflow since everything that goes into making the lower third exists right inside your Vegas project. This means you don't have to worry about keeping track of extra media elements.
We're going to use a number of tools to create our lower third, but the Vegas Pro 8 media generators play the starring role. First though, let's start with a piece of video. Figure 1 shows our handsome actor standing in front of the camera addressing his audience. But as you can see, unless he mentions his name as he speaks, we have no way of knowing who he is. So, we need to create a lower third to identify him.
Let's start with the obvious—we'll first add the guy's name. Then, we'll create some graphics to go along with it. You have a lot of options even here at the first step. For instance, do you want static text, or something animated? Although you have many different options, I'll keep our example simple and create static text that simply fades in, stays on the screen for a few seconds, and then fades back out.
Your first step is to make room in your project timeline for your text, so choose Insert | Video Track to add a new video track to your project. Drag the track header for the new track and reposition it so that it is directly above the track that holds the video over which you want to lay your lower third. As you can see in Figure 2, my main video sits on track three and the new empty track which will hold my text is track two (track 1 holds some other text which I've already added to my project).
Now let's add the text itself. Click the Media Generators tab in the window docking area. If I was going to create something with sophisticated motion and animation effects, I'd reach for Vegas Pro 8 software's ProType Titler where we have limitless options for creative special effects for our text sequence. In this case however, since I'm keeping is simple, I prefer to go with the old standby Text generator. Select Text from the list of media generators at the left, then drag the Default Text preset thumbnail onto the track you created for the text, placing at the location at which you want the text to appear.
On the Edit tab the Video Media Generators window, replace the words, "Sample Text" with the text you want and change the font style, size, and attributes to get the look you want. Click the Placement tab and drag the text to the location on your screen you want it to appear. Use the Properties and Effects tabs to give your text the look you want. Close the Video Media Generators window, trim your text event to the length you want it, and add fades to the beginning and end of the event (if you don't know how to do these basic edits, view the help file or the interactive tutorials for instructions).
Figure 3 shows my text. You can see that I've set my text color to match the background and added a shadow to the text.
Next, let's create a background for our lower third to make the text stand out even more. Insert another video track into your project and position it so that it sits between the main video track (below) and the text track (above).
The Media Generators window once again offers us the tools we need for this step in our project. Several of the generators from the list on the left offer us graphic options. Most often I use the Color Gradient and Noise Texture generators for my graphical elements although the Solid Color generator comes in handy in an awful lot of situations too. For my lower third I'm going to use a noise texture. Select Noise Texture from the list.
Drag one of the presets onto the timeline and position it on the new blank track under the text you just added. I'll use the Moss preset. Make sure it matches the text event's length and give it the same fades in and out that you used on the text.
Here you have a number of things to note. First, the Video Media Generators window opens and contains all of the controls that define the look of the generator you just added. Double-click the title bar (the bar at the top of the window which holds the window's label, Video Media Generators). This resizes the window to the exact size it needs to be in order to show all of the windows parameters and controls. You can spend all kinds of time tweaking the look of the generated noise texture, but I'm just going to accept most of these settings for my project.
However, I would like to add a bit of motion to the noise texture. Play your project through the title sequence. Notice that at the moment, the noise texture you added remains static. That's not necessarily bad, but I'd like to make mine move in order to spice it up a little bit.
For this, I'll use the keyframe controller area at the bottom of the Video Media Generators window. You may be familiar with this area and its tools from other windows in Vegas Pro software, but I'll go over it quickly in case you need a refresher.
In the keyframe controller's timeline we can add keyframes and change the parameters of the generator to give the project a different look at specific moments in time. Vegas Pro software can then interpolate what happens between two keyframes and change gradually over the course of time between them from the settings at one to the settings at the next. This creates an animation sequence which creates motion. Let's take a simple example for our project.
The keyframe controller area has one default keyframe already. You can see it sitting right at the beginning of the keyframe controller area timeline. At that keyframe, the project has all of the settings that you see defined by the parameter controls in the upper portion of the window. Notice that the Progress (in degrees) setting is currently 0.000.
Click at the end of the keyframe controller area timeline. This places a red flashing cursor at that location in the timeline. Now, change the Progress (in degrees) setting to about 0.500. Notice that in the keyframe controller area timeline, Vegas Pro software has automatically created a new keyframe at the cursor location. Click the first keyframe and note the setting of 0.000 for the Progress (in degrees) parameter. Then, click the second keyframe to verify that it has a different setting.
Play through the title sequence and notice that now your generated noise texture has a subtle motion to it. Vegas Pro software has interpolated between the settings of your two keyframes and created the motion for you. Figure 4 shows what my Video Media Generators window looks like after I've added the second keyframe.
Now we're getting somewhere! But obviously, we're not home yet. Close the Video Media Generators window, then click to place your main timeline cursor within the title sequence.
You certainly noticed that during the title sequence, the noise texture you just added completely obscures the video below it. Not precisely what you wanted. We'll use the Vegas Pro Pan/Scan tool to easily solve the problem.
We want to crop the noise texture down so that it creates an area beneath the text, but not over the bulk of the video. Click the Event Pan/Crop button for the event that holds the noise texture. Let's have a quick review of this powerful tool. In its default state, this window enables you to create zooms and pan/scan moves on your media. Even though that's not what we want here, take a moment to see how it works.
Drag any of the points around the edge of the position box (the box on the right with the big "F" in it). As you drag, notice a few things. Watch the Video Preview window and you see that the farther you drag toward the middle of the position box, the more you zoom into the noise texture in the Video Preview window. This is how you create zooms that were not shot with the camera.
Notice also as you drag the box that the box always retains its original size aspect ratio. In other words, no matter how small you make the box, it remains a rectangle in the same proportions as the original. Finally, notice that as you drag one of the box's anchor points, the box resizes around its center point. In other words, the change you make to one point has an equal and opposite effect on the point directly across from it and affects all other points as well.
Ok, with that little refresher behind us, let's get to doing what we really came here for-cropping the box down to the size we really want for our lower third. First, right-click the position box and choose Restore from the context menu.
Now, we want the position box to behave differently in all three of the areas that we just discussed when we were experimenting a moment ago and created the zoom. First of all, we're going to change the size aspect ratio of the position box so that we can give it the dimensions it needs in order to give us the graphic we want. In order to do that, click the Lock Aspect Ratio button on the left edge of the Event Pan/Crop window to turn it off.
Next, we don't want the changes we make to one point on the box to affect all of the other points, so click the Size About Center button to turn that feature off.
And finally, we don't want to create a zoom when we make the box smaller. To prevent this, click the Expand button for the Source properties in the Properties area just to the right of the button bar. Set the Stretch to fill frame property to No. This will prevent Vegas Pro software from zooming in on the noise texture in order to fill the entire video frame. In other words, this allows you to truly crop the image without changing its size.
Now you can manipulate each side of the box independently of all other sides. Drag the point at the middle of the top edge of the position box down. As you do, watch the Video Preview window. Keep dragging until you've cropped the top edge so that it sits just above the text. Crop the bottom edge of the box up to just below the text and if you want to, crop the left and right edges too. I'll bring my right edge in to just after the text, but leave the left edge so that the texture bleeds off the left edge of my video screen. Close the Event Pan/Crop window.
Figure 5 shows the result of my work. Notice that I've added a drop shadow and glow to my noise texture track, changed the value of Color A in my noise texture from green to a blue that matches the video's background, and finally changed the color of my text to gray to make it stand out more effectively.
This article walks you through a very simple lower third. Vegas Pro software offers so many other features that we could use to spice things up even more that there's no way I can go over all of them now. But at least you have a basic idea now and you can incorporate other techniques that you already know to create even more compelling lower thirds.
Handsome Actor, aka Gary Rebholz, is the training manager for Sony Creative Software. Gary produces the popular Seminar Series training packages for Vegas Pro, ACID Pro, and Sound Forge software. He is also co-author of the book Digital Video and Audio Production. Gary has conducted countless hands-on classes in the Sony Creative Software training center, as well as at tradeshows such as the National Association of Broadcasters show.