Word replacement animation

Word replacement animation without keyframes!

Creating a word replacement animation in Final Cut Pro is actually easier than creating it in Motion. For one thing, it’s immediate and adaptable!


Let's begin!

Word Replacement in Final Cut Pro X

Starting at the end, this is what this effect looks like in the storyline:


word replace storyline

What you see is 9 Basic Titles. All we need to do is add the appropriate effects!

Start with a Basic Title and type the phrase you want as the “base” phrase. In our example, we’ll be using “For your needs”. However, we will need a large enough space for the largest replacement word to fit, so something like this:

“For your                   needs”



To this title, add the effect Move by Time (part of the Animate by Time effects bundle).

Add a Shape Mask and arrange it so that the left edge is near the ‘r’ in “your” and with a width all the way to the right. (The height only needs to be the height of the text — like a “channel”).

The purpose of the Shape Mask is to limit the region of the clip/title that will be affected by the Move by Time effect. Everything outside the bounds of the mask will stay as is. We only want to move “needs”.


About Move by Time

Move by Time is a precision timed effect. The first two parameters are the Start and End Offsets for the animation time. This effect uses the Start Offset X and Move X parameters. The others are not used (but you might want to experiment with Curvature). The values you see are specific to font size and text placements (width of your text up to the gap). We’ll get to the settings you see later.

Setting up

Count your word replacements. In this tutorial there will be four. Each has a different width. Although the replacements are all the same font, they are a different font from the base text.

If you want to “close the gap” either at the beginning or the end, add that to the number.

Set the length of time of your Basic Title to the length of time you need the words to appear. In General, they will all appear for the same length of time, but varying the times is optional. This tutorial uses exactly 2 second titles.

Duplicate the first title setup for the number of repetitions you need. Lay them out so that they are edge to edge — no gaps.

Adding Shape Mask
shape mask in place2
move by time params

Next, create another Basic Text. Change the text to one of the replacement words, change the font (or variation) and optionally the color, etc.

You can click and drag the text to “fit” next to your base phrase. Add the following effects: two Fade by Time effects and a Move by Time.

For the first (top) Fade effect *and* Move effect, set the Start Offset to 0 and the End Offset to 0.5 (1/2 second).  For the Fade, set the Start Opacity to 0, the End Opacity to 100%. For the Move effect, set the Start Offset Y to -90 (this can be adjusted at any time).

Depending on how long your titles are will determine the times you use. With our 2 second title, our example will use 1.5 and 1.9. The Start Opacity is set to 100% and the End Opacity is set to 0%.

Every replacement word in this example will use exactly the same effects and settings, so Option-drag copies for each word then change each instance to the word you need in sequence.


Finishing up (told you this was easy)

All that’s left is creating the offsets of the end pharse to match the size of the word spacings.

Each base title has one Move by Time effect added. When you set up the first instance, you can set the animation for the same timing as the others, however, in this example, I’ve set the End Offset Sec. parameter to 0.4 so that it animates a little faster than the others — it needs get out of the way!

For the first replacement word, move it into place, then select the base text title, place the playhead at the first frame and adjust the Start Offset X parameter so that the end phrase normalizes in spacing with the first part of the phrase.  Move the playhead to past the animation end (0.4 seconds) and adjust the Move X parameter to line up at the end of the word replacement (observe typographical spacing!)

For the subsequent words, you will need to adjust Start Offset X to line up to where you end the end phrase, then the End Offset X to the end of the replacement word as before. You can line up the end phrase positions in a couple of ways. Overlap the beginning of a following base phrase title over the end of the previous one, then adjust the Start Offset X value so that the words overlap (match), then move the subsequent title back in place. The other way would be to use a grid or a guide effect (also available on this site).


More information

Animate by Time is a collection of related effects: Color Fill (related to fade), Fade, Move, Rotate, Scale All (saves space), Scale by X-Y, and Slant. There is also a utility effect: Clip Time by Time which you can add to any clip, title etc. to show the precise time of the playhead location within the clip (you get decimal and a small “frames” display). [Fractional frame rates are NOT supported! They are OBSOLETE!] You can use Clip Time with fractional frames rates, but it won’t be as accurate (relative time is good enough, generally).

Animate by Time is broken down by functions, use only what you need when you need it.

The Animate by Time effects can be applied to anything (except transitions — fcpx won’t allow it). If applied to video clips there are rules that need to be observed.

Video (that is: everything within the Viewer frame) is cropped if it is moved out of its frame.

Effects that move clips offscreen need to complete their action completely before applying subsequent effects.

Explanation: if you Move by Time a video clip by half the frame, then add another Move by Time to move the clip back into place — half the video clip will have been cropped off, and cannot be replaced.

You can complete animations within one single Effect (start offscreen and move onscreen) and not “damage” the video. (Of course, you may opt to do this on purpose!)

Effects *change* video.  They are not “added on” like adjustment layers or titles.

You can add as many effects as you need to any given clip, compound clip, title or generator. “Compiling” a collection of effects to a clip does not create multiple “tracks” or layers — what you get is a single layer of video. They typically render much more quickly than titles or generators. Their order is Top – Down. The base effect is the first one added and the last one added is the top effect.

The Compositing, Transform, Crop, and Distort controls are actually Top Level effects and supercede all others.


Plan ahead!

Full Demo

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A good place to see all of my effects as well as several tutorials and other demonstrations in use is on my YouTube channel.

Effects used in this tutorial:

Animate by time feature
Animate by Time

Effects bundle

Keyframe-less animations for FCPX