A lyric video is a video that places lyrics on the screen accompanying a song—and they’re wildly popular on YouTube. Sometimes people just pull them up to learn the lyrics to their favorite songs. And with celebs like Taylor Swift joining in, the trend has only grown in popularity. To make a professional lyric video, you don’t need to be an AE pro, but you should have a basic understanding of keyframing in order to achieve precise timing. Here we’ll create a lyric video with a song called “Xerox” from our library. Check out the before here and see the after below.
Choosing a Template
Browsing our typography templates is a great place to start. One thing to look for is a template that is already animating full sentences and includes a variety of animations. As you browse, you’ll notice some templates are more geared towards titles and some are more “typography” style—the typography style will give the most flexibility. We chose this template because we can see without opening the file that each word is animated individually, which means it will be very flexible for our lyrics. Also, remember to think beyond the initial vibe of the typography template; a few simple swaps can transform it.
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Get the Look
Adding a motion background is a great way to change the look of an AE template. Here we used a Bokeh Rain background to create a moodier feel. Changing the font and color helped transform the template from playful to melancholy to match our song. To complete the look, we added a Hue/Saturation effect to the motion background and changed the blend mode of all layers to “overlay.”
In addition to having your AE doc open, consider opening a text doc with your song lyrics. Use this to experiment with line breaks. Think about which words you want to emphasize with different animations.
Let’s look at the timeline: with each word as its own layer, the timeline will start to look cluttered. Ensure each layer is labeled by clicking the name and pressing Return/Enter to change it. Color labels can also help you visualize each verse so you can work through it in pieces. Right-click the color label to the left of your layer name to change the color.
Because you’ll be working with timing, it’s important to make sure your project is playing back a preview in real time as well as you work. If playback is stalling on your computer, try these tricks: In the Preview window, lower the playback resolution. This does not affect the final output. Also, try checking the “cache before playback” checkbox so AE can prep a preview for you before attempting to play it back. A green bar across the top of the timeline indicates playback will be in real time.
Lyric Videos and Timing
Lyric videos are all about timing. Once you’ve imported your song and dragged it to your timeline, at first the timing is going to be way, way, off. To get started, try opening the disclosure triangle next to the audio track to display the audio waveforms. This will give you a visual as to the general timing of the song. Another helpful tool is markers: select your audio track and press Control-8 to put a little marker on the layer to indicate the beginning of a new phrase.
Begin by clicking and dragging layers in the timeline to approximately where each should begin. Work with one phrase at a time. You can also click and drag the ends of each layer to extend the time the layer appears on screen, although predefined movement may mean this the element is offscreen anyway.
Another way to tweak the timing of a layer is to adjust its speed. This will proportionally adjust the timing off all keyframes for that element, essentially applying slow or fast motion to the element. Right-click the layer and choose Time > Time Stretch and type in a percent. Typing “80%” for example will slow the layer slightly, playing it back at 80% of the original speed.
To get the precision required for a lyric video, however, will require tweaking keyframes. If you need a refresher, try this post. The main attributes you will need to keyframe are position (p), scale (s), and opacity (t).
In short, lyric videos are a great way to generate video content with fairly low lift—perfect for indie bands who want to create a professional music video without the budget for a shoot or burgeoning motion designers looking to show off their chops. Plus, they’re really fun to watch and make! Click the link below to explore our amazing typography templates and start creating your lyric video or learn more about how to use Adobe AE.