On the first article, we discussed creating the credits document using Inkscape. On the second article, we discussed using that document with Blender to create a rolling credits clip. In this article, we will be covering the use of Blender to combine the scrolling text and a video backdrop.
A lot of films and television shows will actually show the closing credits over the scene that’s still in progress. In this tutorial, we will cover a way of combining the credits clip with a video backdrop.
Before we begin, it is recommended that you have everything you need:
- Inkscape (I’m using version 0.48)
- Blender (I’m using version 2.63)
- The credits page document we created in the first article.
- A video clip to place behind the credits. For this article, I will use the “Timelapse Clouds” footage provided by 93 Films, as part of its free collection of stock footage.
It will be very important that you look over the second article, to make sure you understand the process of importing, texturing, placing, and animating the credits; we will be glossing over those steps in this article, as it assumes you’ve read the first two.
Inkscape Image Adjustments
In the last article, we created the credits roll by simply moving the credits upwards in front of a stationary camera. In this part of the article, we will take this process one step further by using transparent PNG file on the plane, and creating a video clip plane just underneath it.
This method has the advantage that we’re already familiar with the use of Blender’s scene to handle static image and video planes, so this will require only some changes to the initial PNG export (meaning we’ll be opening Inkscape again), some tweaks to the material and texture settings of the credits roll to allow transparency support, and the creation of a second plane for the video clip.
Alpha Image Export
Step one in this process is exporting an alpha-channel version of the credits roll; the idea is to make the backdrop completely transparent, so that its transparency can then be transferred along with the image to Blender for animation and integration.
First, let’s open Inkscape, and open the credit roll we made in the first article.
Resetting the Background
Before we do anything else, we need to change the background back from the deep gray color we set to help with the creation. To do this, we need to go to “File” and “Document Properties.” Under the “page” tab of the sidebar, you’ll see “Background” with a gray strip beside it. Click on that gray strip to open the color selection dialog, and drop the alpha back to zero. The background in the main window should go from deep gray, back to white. When this is done, you can go ahead and close the Document Properties sidebar.
Outlining the Credits
In a few minutes, we will see about making the backdrop invisible. However, we want to ensure that the text will remain visible, even on a white background. This is important for two reasons: The white backdrop of the current background will render the text invisible once the backdrop becomes transparent, and odds are pretty good that there will be light portions of the video clip we intend to display the credits over.
For these reasons, we need to do something to make the text visible, not only in the light portions of the clip, as well as the Inkscape background, but also in the dark areas of the clip, as well as the backdrop as it is now. Outlining is one of the best tools toward that goal.
To do this, we want to apply a “Color Outline” to the content.
Color Outline is one of the Filters available to Inkscape; it outlines whatever you’ve selected in Inkscape to the color of the filter. By default, this seems to be a maroon color. In order to apply the filter, we will highlight everything except the backdrop, and then go to “Filter,” “Morphology,” and “Color Outline.” Once done, everything will be instantly surrounded with a maroon color. If you like the effect, you can skip the next section.
Changing the Outline Settings
If you want to change the outline, say to black, you will need to edit the “Color Outline” filters.
To open the filter editor sidepanel, we can simply go to “Filters” and “Filter Editor.” The following box will appear.
It looks complicated, and it really is. However, there is an internal logic to the thing that allows immense flexibility in your designs. For this purpose, however, we don’t need to do a lot; we just need to change the “Flood” color of each of the “Color Outline” filters (one corresponding to each “object” that has the filter applied to it).
To do this, we will click on the first “Color Outline” on the left-hand side. Don’t worry about checking any boxes, we just need to make sure it is highlighted. Then, on the right, you’ll see several effects listed. The only ones we really need to worry about are “Gaussian Blur” and “Flood,” which adjusts the softness and the color of the affected object’s outline.
Changing the Outline Blur
First, we may want to change the blur radius of the outline; the larger the radius, the wider and softer the outline becomes, until it becomes a foggy backdrop behind the text. You can adjust it, or leave it at its default value of 3, but keep in mind, the blur can obscure the edges of the letters as well, so you don’t want to make the blur too extreme.
By default, the two values are linked; move one slider, and the other will follow along. If you click on the “Link” button to the right,
For our example, we’ll set the blur to 3 for the main heading, 2 for the sub-headings, and 1 for the list of names. This will prevent black from filling in the holes in letters like lowercase “a” and “e”.
Changing the Outline Color
The “Flood” is the part of the filter where the color of the outline is actually selected; the blurred area is filled with a specific color. Changing this will change the outline’s color.
The flood color can be changed by clicking on the box, and choosing your new color. Then, if you want, you can make the outline translucent by changing the opacity, but this is not necessary for our needs. In our case, we will simply change the outline color to black.
The rest of the settings are beyond the scope of this document (and mainly beyond my understanding at this time. :-/)
In any event, we just need to repeat the “Flood” color change for the other “Color Outline” entries on the left; as you go, you’ll notice that for each one you change, another line or group of lines will go dark, including all the formatted text (if you kept them grouped).
Eventually, the red will disappear from everything.
Making the Backdrop Transparent
Next, we want to change the backdrop to be invisible without changing its position or presence; it is important towards ensuring that the text does not become the whole of the image file (and thereby affecting its dimensions). In this case, you simply need to click on the backdrop, and then double-click on the “fill” box at the bottom right.
Once you’ve double-clicked “Fill,” the “Fill and Stroke” sidebar will appear for the backdrop box. At the bottom, you will see a slider called “Opacity.” Simply slide it to 0%, and the backdrop will disappear. However, it is still there, and will factor into the exporter’s calculation of the image dimensions.
At this point, the text’s black outlines will be visible. Note that while the text looks like just an outline, it’s not. The background and the backdrop are transparent, but the text is actually white.
Wrapping Up with Inkscape
Now, as we covered in the first article, make sure everything is selected (using CTRL-A), go to “File” and “Export Bitmap…,” and save the article.
Go ahead and close Inkscape. At this point, we can move onto Blender.
Blender Scene Processing
Now that the alpha credits page is ready, we can begin the process of importing, adjusting, and animating the credit scroll in Blender. We will also add a panel to hold the video clip that will show behind the credits.
Importing the Alpha Image in Blender
The image has now been made, it’s time to go into Blender. Go ahead and follow all the steps in the second article up until you reach “Material Adjustments.” In this case, we’ll be doing the settings very differently.
Setting the Panel Properties
Unlike the black background used before, this time, we want our material to be invisible, while only the visible portions of the texture should be seen by the camera. In this way, we can ensure that everything that is not a credit item shows nothing but the backdrop, which will be showing another plane with a video in it.
For the material settings, go ahead and set diffuse and specular intensities to zero. After all, if we have lighting in the scene, we don’t want it affecting our credit plane.
This time, we want to make sure that transparency is turned on, and its alpha setting needs to be set to zero. This makes the underlying material completely invisible. We also want emit to stay at zero; the texture will do all the emitting this time.
All the other options can remain as they are; they won’t have any effect on the texture.
This is where the bulk of our settings are performed in order to accomplish our goals.
Tell Blender to Use the Image’s Alpha Channel
First, in the “Image Sampling” section, we want to make sure that “Use” under “Alpha” is enabled. This tells Blender that we are using the alpha channel in the credits plane. This ensures that all parts of the credits image that is transparent will be treated as transparent in Blender as well.
Ensure that UV Mapping Is Set
Next, in “Mapping, ” we want to check to make sure that “Coordinates” are set to “UV,” the “Map” is set to “UVMap,” (or whatever you called it if you made it manually), and that the “Projection” is set to “Flat.” Anything else, and the plane may show a distorted version of the credits… if it shows anything else at all.
Now we get to the meat of the texture settings; these settings are the keys to making the texture visible, transparent, and colored.
The first setting to set is “Alpha.” We don’t need to do much here, but check the box. This option ensures that the alpha channel of the image becomes the alpha channel of the texture. It’s a minor distinction, but an important one. Without the alpha control set, the text will follow the alpha setting of the material, meaning that it will all be invisible. By setting alpha, we are ensuring that the text will be drawn.
Now, once alpha is set, you can see a black cutout where the text should be. If you have lights in the scene, this may not be the case; the light might be enough to show the text, but lacking sufficient light, the text is dark.
Since we don’t have lights enabled, and we want the text to glow on its own, we will now enable the emit. Just like alpha, we just want to enable the feature; we don’t need to make any changes to its value.
Now, we’ve gone from black to white. Somewhat better, but it’s not quite what we were looking for. We want to see the distinctions between the outline and the text, as well as the color of the logos we added to the credits document. So, we will now enable the “Color” option, once again, with no changes made to its value; the default value is fine.
The credits are looking much, much better, but what is that weird, white outline to the text and images?
By default, the plane attempts to draw the entire document, alpha channel and all. This can pose some issues where shaped transparencies are concerned. I’m not sure if it’s a flaw in the program, or an issue with the file format, but the image will cause this fringe every single time.
This doesn’t mean you have to put up with it, however. The “Stencil” option at the bottom of the Influence section will “cut off” all pixels that are completely transparent, alpha zero. In this way, it will remove the odd outline, and the text will look a lot better.
Once complete, our “Influence” options will look like this:
Importing the Video Clip
The plane with the rolling credits is complete. Before we move anything, however, let’s get the video clip imported. This is done the exact same way as the credits image above; both the manual and “Import Images as Planes” options treat video and pictures the exact same way.
Once the video is imported, we will set the material’s “Diffuse” and “Specular” to 0, and its “Emit” to 1.
Setting the Video Clip Options
There are some settings for the video clip that are not available for pictures, however. Of these, only one is needed to be set; this ensures the clip will continue right up until the end of its playback.
For the texture options, under “Image” you will see some new options:
NOTE: If you used “Import Image as Plane,” sometimes, the “Match Movie Length” button will not appear at first. Reloading the image will fix this and show the button. To reload the image, simply click the circling arrows icon to the right of the source path field:
Once we see “Match Movie Length,” we’ll click it. The “Frames” value will change to match the number of frames in the video clip; in this case, 691. If you want to change the clip’s start and end frames, you can do so.
Positioning for the First Frame
Once again, we want to make sure the current frame is on the first frame you expect your credits to start scrolling. If the credits page is going to be a self-contained clip, to be added later in the VSE (Blender’s Video Sequence Editor) or another NLE, then you can start at frame 1. Since we want to start there, let’s go to frame 1 in the timeline.
Move Credits to Start Point
Just like previously-mentioned in the last Blender article, we will move the credits panel so that the top edge is just beneath the camera’s view in the viewfinder. Now, we’ll use “Object,” “Animation,” and “Insert Keyframe” to lock the credits plane in place for the animation start. To do this, we will need to select “Location” from the menu.
Move Video Clip to Backdrop Location
Now, at this time, the video clip is at the exact same place as the camera’s source, so it will pretty much block everything out. We want it to be behind the credits panel, and out just far enough that all its sides touch, or slightly overlay, the edges of the viewfinder.
To do this, we simply click the blue arrow of the video plane and drag it down (or, with the plane selected, type “G” and “Z” which grabs and constrains the plane to move up and down only). Keep dragging until you are almost able to see the edges of the clip in the viewfinder’s view… and then move it back so that the edges are just outside the visible area of the viewfinder. This is important for ensuring that the clip’s own edges are not visible in the video… unless you’re going for the “Widescreen View” (and that’s pretty tacky in these days of adjustable video windows; we don’t need a 4:3 video clip showing 3:2 or 16:9 video).
As you can see in the upper-right corner, where my viewfinder is, the white box (which is the video clip box) is just outside the visible radius.
At this point, we should not need to make any further changes to the video clip, so there’s no need to lock it or the camera in place; only the credits plane will move.
Positioning For the Final Frame
When you clicked on “Match Movie Length,” you may have noticed the size of the clip in frames. If you didn’t pay attention at the time, go back and check this number again (691 frames).
This is the number of frames that the backing video clip has. We can set it to cycle, but that would completely destroy the atmosphere of the clip. For example, in this clip, which is time-lapse clouds, the idea is that we’re sitting while the clouds are passing us by. However, if the clouds suddenly reset, the sense of time is disrupted. Since we don’t want this, we want to make sure the final clip does not exceed the 690th frame.
Additionally, we want to give the closing logo at least 3 seconds screen time, plus another 2-second allowance for the fade-to-black that we can apply to the clip in whatever NLE we intend to use this with. So, when you calculate 690/30 (690 frames divided by 30 frames per second), you end with 23 seconds. If you divide the total by 25 (frames per second), you end with 27.6 seconds. This gives us more leeway, as we’ll have 22 seconds of credits animation, and 5 seconds of paused credits, awaiting fade-to-black.
Of course, this also means that the animation won’t be as smooth, but since I don’t have the camera to make my own stock footage, I gotta go with what I can get. Your mileage may vary.
In any case, we’ll go and change the end value to 690. Additionally, we will move the current frame to 550, which is at the 22-second point.
Then, change the credit position to stop where you want it to stop. You may need to re-lock it for each preview render until you’re happy with the result.
Setting the Plane’s Acceleration
Once the first and last positions of the credit plane are set, go into the animation page and change the animation curves to remove the curves, which can allow the credits to just start and stop instead of following inertia.
Finalize and Render
Finally, go into the render options, change the filename, file type, and dimensions of the render, and begin the final render.
…We’ve covered the creation and animation of a credits roll, both with a solid-color background, and with a video backdrop. We’ve also covered the creation of the credits roll, along with the appropriate alignment, using Inkscape as the layout tool. There are more articles coming in the future covering other processes, but this should give you a basic understanding of not only making credit rolls, but also an introductory tutorial for creating text layouts in Inkscape, and working with video clips using Blender’s 3D modeling interface, and how you can use these features for high-quality work.
You are not limited to just credits; with time and practice, you can also use the Blender interface to actually handle video clips with more flexibility than an NLE provides, and with time and practice, you can actually create effects that can approach, and in many cases, exceed, what you can do with After Effects. All it takes is imagination, practice, and the understanding that every tool is simply a shortcut for a group of steps that anyone can do if they know how.