Tip #900: Putting Text Message on Screen

… for Visual Effects

Tip #900: Putting Text Message on Screen

Larry Jordan – LarryJordan.com

There’s no perfect answer – but, at least, you have options.

Image from “Sherlock” on the BBC.

Topic $TipTopic

This article, written by Rubidium Wu, first appeared in PremiumBeat.com. This is an excerpt.

Text messages are one of the main ways people communicate. And, as art imitates life, text messages have made their way into films and TV, which presents a problem for filmmakers — how to show a text message exchange in a way that doesn’t bore the audience.

Here are several ideas:

  • Method 1: Place Text on Screen. The first (and probably most popular way) to show a text message exchange is to shoot the phone itself. This is also how a lot of filmmakers show emails when the need arises. But it leaves you with a dated interface.
  • Method 2: Display Unfiltered Text On Screen. Rather than attempting on-screen OS representations, you can take the approach popularized by shows like Sherlock: Just display the message on the screen in plain, unfiltered text. (See screen shot.) This has the dramatic advantage of the above method, but it’s device agnostic — it works just as well for an early flip phone as it does for a future phone. However, this causes problems if you need to localize your film for multiple languages, as these titles are burned in.
  • Method 3: Use Subtitles. Why not, as some filmmakers have done, just insert a subtitle for the text message, as if it’s another character speaking? While this method doesn’t exactly scream “high production value,” it does help you avoid dated footage, allows you to see character reactions, and can be changed to any language.


The article linked above includes more details, and a free template offer for After Effects users.

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