Graffiti 3D Shapes

When you think about Graffiti and 3D text, you probably think of extruded titles, which is only right. Graffiti was the first integrated titling software to offer true extruded titles inside over 20 NLEs. Although some other titlers have recently added extrusion, they don’t come close to the full range of Graffiti’s capabilities for 3D text: animated 3D text on a path (whose shape and position may also be animated), reflection maps, multiple 3D cameras, and more.

Those advanced capabilities only scratch the surface of what makes Graffiti unique when it comes to title creation in three dimensions. Graffiti is the only titler that allows you to wrap 2D text to 3D shapes, allowing you to bring your titles quite literally into another dimension.

You may have tried some of this yourself, because it really is very easy. Just as in Boris FX and Boris RED, all tracks in Graffiti have a pop-up menu that allows you to choose the track’s shape.

That’s the easy way, but not the most powerful. I’m going to show you a few finesse tricks that will help you to make much better use of Graffiti’s sophisticated 3D compositing environment. You’ll find that even most dedicated compositing applications won’t give you these kinds of capabilities. The good news is that even the more advanced approach is quite easy.

Create a two second Graffiti effect in your NLE as you normally would. (You can also build this effect in the Keyframer standalone utility. This will allow you to build and save the effect, then apply it in the Graffiti plug-in back in your NLE.) Because the background video won’t factor into this effect, it doesn’t matter what kind of footage you use, or even if you use none at all. For the purpose of this tutorial, I’m just going to use a gray-to-white gradient angled so that the darkest corner is in the lower right, but you can use anything you want, including video.

Although the emphasis in Graffiti is on the title, let’s start with the shape, in this case, a cylinder. When the Graffiti windows first open, whether inside your NLE or in the standalone Keyframer utility, the Text window is among them. Close it for now. Use the Media pop-up menu to change the media to Color. The default uses whichever color you last applied, or, if you haven’t set any yourself, uses black. Click the color patch to open the color picker, and choose a solid blue. You can also just enter values directly in the RGB boxes, which is what I did. The color won’t necessarily be visible when we’re done, but it will make things easier as you build your cylinder.

You can guess what to do next, and you’re right: use the Shape pop-up to set the track to Cylinder. It doesn’t look very cylindrical yet, but it will. First, instead of using a full frame-sized layer to create a cylinder, lets adjust the size. Because we don’t want the next few parameters to animate, press the “key” icon, so that any parameters you set will be applied for the duration of the effect.

Unlock the X and Y scale, and enter values of 50 for X scale, and 75 for Y. Now it’s starting to look a little more like a cylinder. Sort of.

If you tumble it back 60 or 70 degrees, you’ll see that it really is a cylinder, even if it’s still kind of flat looking. Settle on a Tumble value of minus 27 degrees, and change the Y Position to 218 and let’s fix that flatness.

Anyone who works with video and film knows that proper lighting is critical for creating depth, so let’s turn on some lights. As you go to the Lights tab, you’ll see that there’s a default light, but it’s not an especially helpful one for this effect. Start by turning up Diffuse to 150, and Specular to 30.

You can read the manual to get the details of what those things mean, but you can clearly see the outcome. You’ve added diffuse light to the scene, as well as a nice specular highlight. Feel free to play around with these values some more to come up with something that pleases you even more. You might, for example, lower the Falloff value to make a smaller highlight. But these will tend to be the first values you start tweaking when playing with lights.

Changing the position of the light from dead center will help too. You can simply click on the light’s Position point (the one that’s in the center of the Composite window), and drag it toward the upper left. You can see the position it’s ended up for me, but again, feel free to experiment yourself. Or take a shortcut and just enter X and Y Position values directly.

Last but not least, go to the Shadow tab and turn on a drop shadow that generally matches the position of the light you’ve set. This is pretty subjective, but you can see the values that I entered.

We’ve gone pretty far along without any text, but that’s the easy part. Create a new text page, and enter “GRAFFITI 3D SHAPES” in 80 point Arial. (You can experiment with the font later, but let’s keep it simple for now. As you close the Text window, you’ll see that the text is wider than your frame – don’t worry about that just yet either.

Go to the Backdrop tab, and select Make Backdrop Track, which you’ll then see in your timeline.

Click on that new backdrop track, and set the color to a darker blue than you used for the cylinder. I took the easy way again, and just entered a value for pure blue (16, 16, 235), and lowered the opacity to 30 percent.

Now let’s put the two elements together. It’s as easy as drag and drop: drag the title layer onto the Face track for the cylinder. You can see right away that the title wraps around the cylinder, which is cool enough.

The real magic begins when you now turn off the color media.

As you’ve already seen, every track in Graffiti has both a shape, and media. Go down to the Media track for the color, and turn off its visibility by clicking on the “eye” icon.

With the media for the cylinder gone, only the shape remains. And because the title is now nested onto the cylinder’s face, it takes on the attributes applied to the cylinder’s shape: its position, lights and shadows in this case.

So why not just start with a cylinder shape with text media? You’re about to see why. In general, the controls available at the media, or Face, level of a track are specific to that track. For text, this is where you add a backdrop, or apply character-based transformations such as animated tracking. The assumption is that geometric information like position or rotation are supplied by the controls at the Shape level. And that’s often good enough. However, by nesting the text layer inside the cylinder, we’ve effectively added a second set of geometric controls. Let’s take advantage of that now, by rotating the text to minus 36 degrees.

We haven’t rotated the cylinder, of course. Its orientation is still straight up and down. We’ve only rotated the text layer that’s mapped to the surface of the cylinder. The cylinder’s geometric controls are still available, and very much have their uses, too. Add a little spin to the cylinder – note that I said the cylinder, and not the text – to make it look a little nicer. I settled on 36 degrees, but that’s not especially important. From there, set the number of spins to 1, and change the interpolation to linear. This is one parameter that we want to animate. You’ve already seen the finished animation, at the beginning of this tutorial, but here’s how the controls stack up.

The cylinder now spins once over the duration of your effect. As the cylinder spins, the text mapped to its surface picks up the applied light, and casts the applied shadow.

Now that the elements are all in place, and you have some idea of where all the controls are, you can begin to customize the effect some more. You can unwrap the cylinder (Cylinder tab, Wrap Percentage), change the text (and notice that the backdrop automatically scales to fit), animate the orientation of the cylinder and the text independently, and so on. You might even want to build some effects that leave the cylinder media on. There’s nothing that says it needs to be invisible.

Because the back of the text layer is always visible, you may want to make the back look differently from the front, which is very easy indeed. To make the distinction more clear, start by going to the text’s Backdrop track and increase the opacity to 100%. Then on the Cylinder’s Shape track, click the S (Single) symbol to toggle it to M (Multiple), to allow you to now separately apply different media to the inside of the cylinder.

You’ll see right away that the result is rather odd, because the outside and inside layers are so differently sized. Things will make a little more sense when you do to the back layer what you did to the front. Expose the back layer’s Face track. Duplicate the Text track by selecting it and pressing control-D on Windows, command-D on Macintosh, and drag the duplicate to the Inside Face track. Turn of its Media track, and you’ll now have the same thing on the inside and outside of the cylinder, ready for you to make a change.

The one that seems obvious to me is to make the inside a bit lighter. To do this, select the Backdrop track of the text on the Inside Face and make the color a bit lighter.

That’s just one idea. Feel free to play with more ideas of your own.

This tutorial is based on one of hundreds of presets in the Graffiti Keyframe Library. It’s in the Animated category, in a group called Others. All of the settings there are intended to give you a starting place for effects of your own, although in some cases, the settings are just complicated enough that it may not be immediately obvious how to customize them. Hence this tutorial.

You can play with the other settings in the Other category to get some more ideas along these lines. You can also take a look at an earlier tutorial I wrote called Around the World, which also takes advantages of mapping text and graphics to shapes.

Integrated shapes. Multilayer compositing with independent 3D controls. Lights. Auto-scaling backdrops. Most titling software has one or two of these at most. None of them offer all of this, as well as a vast range of other capabilities that we haven’t even touched on in this tutorial. The message, though, is perfectly clear: to take your titling to the next dimension, you need Boris Graffiti.

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