Thursday, March 2, 2017

PE: Write-On Video Effect


The Write-on effect is introduced in Premiere Elements 14/14.1 and also is included in the current version 15. In the program's project, the effect is found under fx Effects/Video/Generate and seems best considered as a video clip only effect. See comment in ISSUE below. The Adobe details for this effect can be found in the Premiere Elements Effects Reference document HERE. Toggle Animation is a key player in this task function. Since this effect is not listed in that Adobe document as a Windows Only effect, it is assumed that the effect is an option in Mac* and Windows versions of Premiere Elements 14/14.1 and 15.


Consistent with the Adobe document on Write-on effect, I could not get the Write-on effect to work on a Timeline still. This issue was overcome by exporting the Timeline still as a video file using the Export & Share section of the project and then importing that video file into the project and applying the Write-on effect to that video file.

It was found that applying this effect to the video clip takes planning, practice, and patience. It was decided to share my first look experience with the Write-on effect when applying it to a video clip in order to give the look of the text "John" being handwritten on the video as the video is played back.

 Premiere Elements 15 Windows 7 Professional SP1 64 bit was used for the exploration.


Intent is to place Write-on keyframes in a path to give the appearance of a word or words being handwritten (character by character) across the Timeline video being played back. Either of the following two approaches should be considered.

A. Create a Write-on Guide in Photoshop Elements 15. See Figure 1 details.
Figure 1. Write-On Guide Created in Photoshop Elements 15 As PNG File Using New Document (Transparent)/Brush Tool (To Write Out John)/Line Tool (To Place Arrows-Arrowhead At End Of Each Arrow).
In this approach, the yellow dot seen in the Figure 1 png is the start of the path that travels progressively to form J (in this example) and then the rest of the characters of the word (in this case "John"). In this scenario, the png is just a guide. All Write-on keyframes are applied to the selected video as will be described in the suggested workflow section. The Write-on guide is deleted afterward.

B. Just use a pen or pencil to hand-write the word or words on a piece of paper, noting the path that the pen or pencil travels in using for handwriting the word(s). Draw arrows to indicate the path that the pen or pencil travels. Then refer to that flow path on the paper to remind yourself about the order and flow path of the Write-on keyframes being applied.

Write-On Effect 

Strategy A was used, and the following was obtained as a first try which needs a lot more work and/or editing.

 Figure 2. 640 x 480 WMV Video Displaying Premiere Elements 15 Video Write-On Effect.

The final Premiere Elements 15 Expert workspace details for this work can be seen in Figure 3.
Figure 3. Premiere Elements 15 Expert Workspace For Write-On Effect Test. Features Pointed To With Red Circles Include: "Write-On" Panel Name And Toggle Animation At Far Right On That Panel, Show/Hide Keyframe Controls At Top Right, FX Effects And FX With Pencil In Right Vertical Panel.

Step 1. 
Video on Video Track 1 and Write-on guide on Video Track 2. Followed by Write-on effect applied to video. For Premiere Elements 15, see fx Effects/Video/Generate/Write-On.

Step 2.
In the opened Write-on Panel set the Color and Brush Size. Important - Remember to have the video selected and click once on the word Write-on in the Write-on panel in order to visualize the circled X and subsequent keyframes. With the circled X over the initial brush dot, move the brush dot to start of the handwriting. (Subsequently that brush dot will be extended with keyframes/movements to progressively form the handwritten word.) Then
  • Select the Toggle Animation icon
  • With the right arrow key, move the Timeline Indicator 5 frames (or use Shift + right arrow if that is working or just tap the right arrow 5 times). 
  • With the mouse cursor move the circled dot with the X to the next position along the prescribed flow path.
  • Then move the Timeline Indicator 5 frames and move the dot with the X to the next position along the prescribed path. Continue in this pattern.
  •  Keyframes can be adjusted along the way or afterward using the handles of a keyframe.
  • Also to be explored are the options under Paint Style in the Write-on effect: On Original Image (seen in Figure 3), On Transparency, or Reveal Original Image (video shows through the body of the text). At the end, make sure that the keyframe** for each point is set accordingly.

More work needs to be done including use of interpolation methods for improving the handwriting movements. As mentioned previously here, this blog post offers a first look.

*I do not use Mac computer and consequently do not have access to Premiere Elements Mac versions.
**It is assumed that the user will have a basic understanding of Premiere Elements keyframing.