What RollingCredits Does
An Introduction by John Lasruk

RollingCredits is an application designed to allow the user to create attractively-formatted, rolling credit lists in a word processing environment and output them as high-quality Quicktime movies for import into iMovie or other video editing applications.

Starting

When you double-click the RollingCredits application icon, it will open with a blank, unnamed document window which looks a lot like a word processor document.

To begin, you may wish to make a trip to the preferences panel. It should look something like this:

If these settings are to your liking, you can begin your RollingCredits project using the window that is already open. If you make any changes, these will be applied to new documents only, so you should close the currently-open window and immediately open a new document. (command-w, command-n).

Preview

Note that you can adjust the scrolling speed of your project at any time using the slider in the lower right corner of the main window, under the Preview button.

Now you can begin to enter the text for your project.

Text Entry

Text entry is simple. You can either type directly into RollingCredits, use copy and paste to move the text from another application or drag the text from another drag & drop-capable application. Text formatting will normally survive, especially if you are copying from an RTF document.

You can spell check your document while you type or afterwards (Edit menu > Spellling).

You can enter special characters, like stars, arrows or other doodads (actually called "dingbats") by selecting Edit > Special Characters... A window will open showing two panes. The left pane categorizes the special characters; select the one you need. The right pane displays the characters in that category; if you double-click one, it will be entered at the insertion point (cursor position.)

Once your copy has been entered, the fun part begins: formatting the text.

Manipulating Fonts

The Font panel provides an astounding array of tools to manage and manipulate your fonts.

The font panel lets you choose fonts from your font library, select style variations, indicate the size and color of selected text. You can set text underline and strikethrough parameters like single or double and set the line's color independently of the font color. Shadows for text can be set up using sliders to control the Opacity, Softness and Distance of the shadow. The direction of the light source is controlled by a circular slider. You can set the document background color.

You can see a preview of a Family and Face selection by dragging the Pane Adjuster to reveal a preview pane. The preview shows the currently selected font family and face as well as the current size. Note the little dot under "Font". Drag it down.

Adjusting Font Size

There are many ways to adjust the size of fonts in RollingCredits. Select the text you want to resize.

Type Command + to increase the size
Type Command - to decrease the size
Holding the keys down will smoothly increase or decrease the size

OR

With the Font panel open:
Drag the slider at the far right up or down to smoothly adjust the size up or down.
(The slider works within a default range of 8 - 200 pt - which you can change) With the preview pane showing, the current size is displayed.

OR

Key in the exact size you want in the Size edit field. Note that you can key in fractional sizes from very small type to very large.

About Font Size and Television: Television is a low-fidelity medium visually. We aren't talking about HDTV, but regular old TV. The 640x480 (or 678x576) pixel movies that RollingCredits produces are as good on your Mac's screen as you'll ever see them. Even the latest, high-quality sets will be a little fuzzier than what you see here and overscan trims a bit of the picture around the edges, reducing the number of visible pixels.

What's more, for most of us, the TV screen occupies a surprisingly small area in our visual field. Sitting at your usual viewing distance, hold your hand at arm's length and measure the size of your TV screen with your thumb and forefinger (it helps to close one eye.) For most of us, watching TV is like reading a business card... at arm's length.

For those reasons, minimum type sizes on television should be larger than you might expect. An old rule of thumb is one twentieth of the frame height, which works out to about 24 points. Because today's television sets are sharper, you might get away with 20 points or so, but any smaller would be risky.

You would also be well advised to stay away from highly-decorative fonts with small details, especially at smaller sizes. They don't work well on TV. You don't have to stick with only Helvetica, but bold and simple is best.



Tabs

You are, no doubt, familiar with tab stops in word processors. They work the same way in RollingCredits but are probably more important than word processor tabs. This is because a RollingCredits project is all about creatively formatting the information whereas in a word processor document, the information itself has top priority and the formatting of it is often an afterthought.

Look at the two sets of credits below. While the second set looks neater, the first set is actually easier to read. Furthermore, the first group is more freeform and relaxed, while the second is rather "uptight". While each delivers similar information, the formatting of that information adds another layer of meaning to it.

The ruler (above) is part of every RollingCredits window and is probably familiar to anyone who has ever used a word processor. The little horizontal bar at the far left is the paragraph indent marker and the triangle below it is the left margin stop. These are followed by a series of right-pointing triangles which represent left tab stops. The right end of the ruler is home to the downward-pointing triangle which is the right margin stop. All or any of these may be dragged to any position on the ruler.

Above the right margin stop is a little box containing the four tab types. These are, from left to right: left, center, right and decimal tabs. Drag them from the little box to an appropriate position on the ruler. You can remove a tab by dragging it down from the ruler. Changing the margin guides and tabs on a ruler while a block of text is selected will change the ruler for that block of text only. If no text is selected, the ruler should govern whatever is entered from the keyboard at the current cursor position.

We're sure you are aware of it, but it can't hurt to repeat that a tab is an invisible character that moves the text following it to the next tab position on the ruler. The position of the text will be determined by the kind of tab on the ruler. As an example, we repeat text block #2, above, with red arrows representing the tab characters:

Note that the first tab on each line positions the text following it on the left while the next tab positions the following text on the right.

Selecting Color

To With the color panel open (click the "Show" Color Panel button), simply select the text you wish to change. Then choose a color from the color panel. It's as easy as that.

Note that the magnifying glass icon allows you to select any color visible on your screen.

Click on the magnifying glass, move it anywhere on your screen, click again to sample. This is a useful technique for matching type or document color to inline graphics.

Document color (background color) is a document-wide setting. You cannot have more than one background color per document. Click the Document color button then select the color from the Color Panel.

Choosing the right color: If your RollingCredits movie is destined for television, be aware that very strong colors and TV don't get along together. Such colors, particularly pure reds, will look blocky and the colors will bleed on television. Use slightly grayed-down colors, or pastels instead. Similarly, large areas of pure white are a no-no; use light gray instead.

Kerning Text

RollingCredits uses the kerning built-in to some fonts. In addition, you can manually adjust the spacing between characters with simple controls. Adjusting the space between characters can create visually interesting titles as well as improving the overall look and readability of type. For example, the type in the left column has been manually kerned while the text in the right column is using the font's default kerning, which in this case is none. In unkerned type you can often see wider gaps between letters like "T" and "o".

To adjust the space between two characters, place the cursor between the 2 characters and use the buttons in the kerning section of the button bar at the bottom of the document window.

Use the + button to open up the spacing
Use the - button to close up the space
Use the Default button to set the kerning for the 2 characters to that set up in the font's kerning table.

To adjust the letterspacing for more than two characters, select the characters and use the kerning buttons to adjust the whole selection at once.

You may also kern using the option key plus the left (tighten) or right (loosen) arrow keys.

NOTE: You should adjust the overall spacing for a word before refining the kerning for individual pairs.



Setting Up Text Shadows

With RollingCredits you can set up text shadows with different characteristics.

Here is an example that uses tight kerning and a shadow to help define the shape of overlapping letters.

I start with some big black tightly kerned text.

Changing the color does not help much but it will allow the shadow, which can be black only, to work better.

Here I added a shadow using the slider setting as shown below.

Changing the slider settings so that the shadow is softer and the light source is from the right helps define the characters.

To help separate the different words, I used a more intense shadow for the capital letters. Once you have an adjusted shadow for the Capital letters, use the Copy and Paste Text Formatting Buttons to duplicate the shadow for the other Capital letters.

Or you can just space out the words.

Line Spacing

The distance between lines can also be part of the creative look of a RollingCredits project. Note in the following example that the second line actually overlaps the first. In this case, the line spacing is set to "Single" on the second line, with a line height multiple of 0.3. (Choose "Other" in the Spacing drop-down menu.)

Once you set a line height multiple, it remains available in the Spacing drop-down menu for easy access during the current session.

You can also adjust line spacing for interesting effects using the Line height option and choosing ("Exactly") a number (in points) that is less than the normal spacing of that line.

Individual letters or entire words may easily be raised or lowered by selecting them and typing option plus the up arrow key or option plus the down arrow key. Example:






Styles

If you are formatting long lists of text, you will soon grow tired of making repeated trips to the Fonts and Colors panels to apply the same settings to the text again and again. You need a way to make multiple settings to selected text at the same time. You need styles.

Let's say you have conjured up a type style you expect to use again. It is 55 point Marker Felt Wide, white color, softly shadowed, etc., etc., and we'll pretend it took an hour of playing around to get it right. It looks like... it looks like...

Here is how you add that style to the Style menu. First, select all or part of "It looks like this." (above). Next, click on the Styles button and select "Other..." (below left.) You will be presented with a dialog box like the one below right. (The buttons that look like familiar VCR controls allow you to scroll through all the styles in your document or previously-defined favorites. Ignore them for now.) Click the "Add To Favorites" button. You get another dialog box, of course.

Enter a name for your new style, click on both check boxes if you want the style to be an exact match for that magnificently-formatted piece of typographic art (see above), click the "Add" button and you have given birth to a new style.

Inserting Graphics

Raster graphics may be inserted into a RollingCredits document by dragging them from drag & drop-capable applications. You may drag the icons belonging to graphics files in the Finder to an open RollingCredits window. You may also copy and paste graphics from some, but not all, applications. Tiffs, jpegs, picts and some PDF and EPS files are all useable. These should be 72 pixels per inch RGB files. Bear in mind the maximum pixel width available to you in a document (see your preferences panel).

Once inserted, an inline graphic behaves like a text character although it cannot be resized. You can, however, position it using tabs or use line spacing values to move it up or down.

When push comes to shove, sometimes you just have to turn to other software for extra fancy effects. Use uncompressed tiff or pict as your file type for inline graphics; jpegs can have visible compression artifacts. To match the document background to the graphic's background, use the magnifying glass in the Color panel to pick up the background color.

Previewing Your Project

Preview

Clicking the Preview button on the right side of the button bar will scroll your document at the same speed it will scroll in your final RollingCredits movie. The rate at which it scrolls can be set on the sliding scale below the "Preview" button or in the Preferences panel. To stop a scrolling document, click the Preview button again.

Making a Movie

You can save a RollingCredits document as a Quicktime movie which may be imported into iMovie or Final Cut. This is essentially what RollingCredits is designed to do.

Select "Save movie" from the File menu. The movie's frame size in pixels is determined in Preferences and its frame rate depends on whether NTSC or PAL are the chosen format.

The process requires frame-by-frame animation. Depending on the length of your RollingCredits document and its scrolling speed, thousands of frames may have to be generated. This can require a fair amount of time if you don't happen to own one of the latest, fastest Macs.