Sands of Time: A Boris Graffiti Tutorial
Advanced particle effects energize titles

by Tim Wilson

Boris Graffiti is much more than a mere character generator. Boris Graffiti plugs into a variety of non-linear editors on Mac and Windows, including those from Avid, Media 100, Apple, Discreet, Adobe and DPS. (You can find the complete listing at the BorisFX website.) Graffiti provides all text formatting options you'd expect, including kerning, tabs, word wrap and animated tracking. Unlimited layers of text can be rotated, extruded into 3D and lit using realistic lighting tools. Text can be filled using media directly from the NLE timeline without importing or exporting. Animation of 2D and 3D text, lights, and additional video and graphics layers can all be animated with full Bezier control.

Other CG software includes some of those features, but none offer all of them, and none offer Graffiti's level of control. Graffiti also adds 14 effects filters that help move it beyond simple character generation. As a specific example, I'm going to show you a quick effect using the "2D Particles Advanced" filter.

(People often ask me about the key differences between Graffiti and Boris RED, and here's one of several big ones: instead of 14 filters, RED has 54. The text function works basically the same in both, so you can also create this effect in RED. And, as a bonus to folks who think they might someday want to upgrade from Graffiti to RED, the custom keyframe settings you create in Graffiti can be opened in RED.)

I'm going to assume that you read my tutorial on creating Star Wars-style text scrolls, which also offered a pretty thorough introduction to Graffiti's interface. If you haven't yet, I encourage you to click on the image at left to read at least the beginning now, so you can get an idea of Graffiti's general layout. I'm going to skip all that here and focus on this little effect, a literal dissolve that I call "The Sands of Time." It's a variation on a tutorial from Graffiti's very good manual, which also offers a perspective on Graffiti's nature as a graphics tool: "Text and Titling" is chapter SEVEN in the manual, and begins on page 256!

Setting Up
I like to set up nearly all of my effects in Keyframer, a standalone version of Graffiti that allows you to create effects settings. You save them, and once in your host application (Avid, Media 100, Adobe Premiere, etc.), you can open the settings and apply them for rendering. There's an appropriate flavor of Keyframer that ships with all of Boris's NLE products, including FX and RED, and it's one of my favorite things about working with those products.

In Graffiti's Keyframer, the background is the brick wall graphic that serves as a proxy for your host timeline's video track 2. The Background track in Graffiti can't be changed. The principle is that you're applying Graffiti as a filter on a track, and you don't want your text effect to actually change the underlying video.

Well, that's the principle. Unprincipled cad that I am, I'll show you how to kick sand in the face of that concept too. Sure, it's cheating, but like I said, I'm unprincipled.

Let's make the effect five seconds long. Click in the Duration field of the timeline, enter "500" for five seconds, zero zero frames, and hit return. I typed in the words "Sands of Time," using the font Sand, of course, in 96 point size. It was actually my fondness for this font that led me to the effect. How can I make these words behave sandily, I asked? The answer it turns out, is handily. You can use whatever font you have available, though.

I normally never apply shadows to text in the Text Window, because you can't keyframe them. They stay stuck to the text no matter how the text moves, which is exactly the kind of CG behavior that I use Boris's tools to get away from. Instead, I normally create unshadowed text in the Text Window, and apply a shadow using the Shadow tab in the Controls Window. My only purpose here is to let you see the words a little better, so using the stuck-on shadow is fine.

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