Why are my titles and graphics pixelated in Final Cut?

Why are my titles and graphics pixelated in Final Cut?
This is a common question and there are several answers:

First, the Final Cut Pro Canvas usually shows titles and graphics more pixelated and lower quality than the actual quality. Render a title and play it on a real monitor – or render and export a 10 frame test to disk and view to see the true picture.

Read these articles on monitoring: http://dvcreators.net/tag/monitoring/ for more info.

If you are rendering to the DV codec, you will see an instant drop in quality. But don’t worry, as long as you export to a lossless codec your final project will look great.

This article shows how to export in high quality.

If you are delivering on SD DVD, you have a challenge. NTSC and PAL are not perfect formats- and SD is low resolution and fuzzy. If you’re a graphic artist used to creating crisp, clean pixel perfect graphics in Illustrator or Flash on your expensive LCD display, you’re in for a big surprise. Keep your fonts and graphics big and bold, and put a drop shadow or slight glow on your titles. Keep checking on an external NTSC or PAL monitor if your project is slated for SD delivery. Watch TV and see what graphic styles look good on your TV set- and model those.

Here’s a list of nevers:

  1. Never trust the Canvas Window to show quality
  2. When using Motion or Livetype, never render to a lossless codec like DV before importing into FCP – import the project or render to a lossless codec
  3. Never export from FCP using H.264 or any other lossy codec – always use a lossless codec (PJPEG at 90% – 100% is an exception)

For more info, check out:

Final Cut Pro Foundations

Final Cut Express Foundations

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  1. James Rostance 16 years ago

    Well done you guys.

    One of the big reasons fo buying a mac (after the ads), was that i ‘knew’ the quality of video would be right up there.

    Up untill now that hasnt been the case with graphics and i just couldnt understand why. The Lynda.com FCP tutorial didnt solve the problem, but you guys, in this article have revealed the ‘good graphics holy grail’.

    Beautifully simple, exactly what i needed to get amazing graphics and teh best possible quality export.

    Thank you

    • jon 13 years ago

      ok i ran into resolution problems with my mac. i was exporting the graphics from after effects pc which looked perfect using the animation codec with alpha channel and millions of colors. so i looked all over for an answer and none worked. there are two problems that cause my resolution problems with tv thirds.

      1. whenever you bring any graphic into final cut it will autmatically shift the aspect ratio to fit your composition. when it does this with a lower third with text, it creates a jagged look of pixelation. to correct this problem you simply
      _double click the layer
      _click the motion tab
      _expand the distort tab
      _change aspect ratio to zero

      2. when ever you start a sequence in final cut it automatically by default has the compressor of your sequence set to dv/dvcpro ntsc which is great when you are just trying to quickly edit some footage because your capture files will not have to render. but when you render an export to mov it uses that same compressor and makes all graphics look like junk. whenever i am trying to fix this problem i switch the compressor to h264 in sequence settings.
      _go to your browser
      _control click on the icon for your sequence you are working with
      _go to settings
      _change compressor to h264

      right now this works best for me exporting any video with graphics especially text
      im sure one of these other compressors are better but im not quite sure which one. but with h264 your resolution is great and your files size is small.

  2. Josh 16 years ago

    Thanks for your comments James, there are plenty more secrets on this:



  3. Daniel Seguin 15 years ago

    Also revise the Field Dominance of both your LiveType project (if it’s LiveType you are talking about), the title clip format in FCP timeline, and the sequence itself to make sure it matches the one of your TARGETTED OUTPUT (NTSC TV, progressive, computer monitor/web etc). If you want to publish to the internet, maybe you will want the Field Dominance to None. In some projects “progressive” projects, I found it to be the solution and I got correct title resolution. Hope this could help. -Dan

  4. Mike Langridge 14 years ago

    I had the same problem, but the cause and solution turned out to be more obvious and easily fixed.

    By default Livetype is not set to work at it’s best definition, and to change the definition you take a different route than that in FCP.

    In Livetype, I went to Edit, Properties, and selected HDTV 1080i 16:9 (which was my definition) and got far better quality.

    Thanks again to Apple pro support in Ireland!

  5. Jeremy @TWEAK 14 years ago

    One thing that has worked for me in the past when trying to get super smooth edges on graphics made in Photoshop is to export a ProRes clip from Motion, for example, and then import and render (if necessary) on your intended timeline (XDCAM, for example). This seems to keep the edges very smooth, even when exporting to relatively low-res web sizes (480 pixels or so).

  6. Ruben Huertas 12 years ago

    I am new to Final Cut Express and attempting to create a video to showcase properties for sale (I am a real estate broker). When I place text it looks really pixelated. The scale is at 100 and I tried exporting the video both as “QuickTime Movie” and “Using QuickTime Conversion” and in both instances I got the same result. The video part looks great, but the text continues to appear very fussy. I even tried different fonts in case that the program is friendlier with some fonts. Any insight would be greatly appreciated. Thank you.

    • Josh 12 years ago

      What format is your timeline?

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