Lower thirds might seem like the least of your considerations when you’re putting together a film, but they have the power to make your production look smart and professional, or to annoy and frustrate.
Why Use Lower Thirds Titles
Lower thirds are often overlooked, but in reality, it’s essential to get them right. Your lower thirds give your audience information that they aren’t getting from anywhere else, in a visual way, usually through a combination of text and graphics. They’re a tricky balance, they must look good, be easy to read and also complement the visuals, giving more context to whatever is being shown on the screen.
Lower thirds are multi-purpose tool. You might be using them to explain the name and role of an interviewee, you might want to tell your viewer the location of your current visuals, or you might even want to give information like the weather or a temperature.
Like so many things, if you’ve got your lower thirds right, they shouldn’t stand out at all. Rather, they should blend into your project while clearly conveying the information you need to get across.
How to Use Lower Thirds Titles
Keep it Simple and Clear
Being able to read them easily is probably the ‘you had one job’ of lower thirds, so choose fonts and sizes that are easy to read. Sans-serif fonts are considered the easiest to read, and you should avoid picking a fancy, flouncy font and opt for a tried and tested favourite where possible.
Your colour scheme should tie in with your film’s overall look. Obviously, it depends on the production, but ideally try to keep lower thirds ‘on brand’ and stick with colours that don’t make text hard to read.
Say only what you need to within your lower third. Someone you’ve interviewed might have a number of titles, but it’s probably best to just pick the most relevant one so you aren’t cluttering the space. Lower third information should be readable at a glance, so that you’re not taking your viewers’ attention away from the main feature for too long.
You might have, for example, a name and a title to fit in the same lower third. Many filmmakers choose to create a hierarchy to make reading it easier. So, you might have the name in a larger font, above, and the title slightly smaller, below. What you give prominence to should be the most important part of the information you want your audience to take away.
Lower thirds don’t always have to be on the lower third of the screen, despite the name! Ideally, you’ll balance the placement with whatever is on the screen – you don’t want to cover up something important and you also want to try and add some balance, visually. If you have a person on screen, whose eye-line is a third of the way up, then you’d probably put the lower third in the traditional place. However, if you’re demonstrating a location and the most visually interesting parts of the shot are within that bottom third space, you’ll probably choose to put your information at the top.
Try a Lower Thirds Template
Using a template is a great way to know you’re getting something professionally made and presented, but that you can adjust to suit your project. Envato Elements has a number of great lower third templates that you can download for a monthly subscription. Here’s an example:
Lower Third Bundle for Adobe After Effects
This is a really varied pack including 16 lower third options, so there’s something for just about every project. They’re easy to customise, so you can change the colours and layout to suit the needs of your project.