Best Fonts For Motion Graphics & Broadcast Video

I'm certianly not a master typographer. I see fonts used on television and wonder how they settled on using that particular font.  Which font is it?  Was it already a corporate branding mandate to use such a font?  

A font is supposed to help convey a message and emotion.  It should be easy to read within the context of the spot and whatever it is superimposed over.  

Here's a little secret. Sit back and watch any pharmaceutical company advert and see how cleanly and clearly they layout text to explain VERY IMPORTANT information.  Look up Nexium, Lyrica, Celebrex, Lipitor, and Restatis on YouTube to get started.  Consider it an Introduction to Broadcast Typography.

Can you adapt these techniques for your next project?  For extra credit, sit back and watch a News network.  How are they conveying information?  In my opinion, most fail because they try to push too much information at once.

Broadcast promos usually fit a branding package as well and a clean font to display show name, time and date. See this Spike TV Promo for example. If you are a regular viewer of the network, you are already trained where to look for that information because they follow the same formula on every promo. Every broadcast promo has a tag block to convey important information and is always abided by a style guide.

The logo in this Chiller spot has an interesting but everything else is a sans serif font.  Nothing fancy about the font, however, they took the time to animate the text in an interesting way.

A common theme in font usage for video is the use of ALL CAPS sans serif fonts, and the use of Condensed and Narrow versions of fonts to provide more space if restricted to a certain area of the frame because of composition.

Condensed and Narrow versions of fonts are common in broadcast television.  Consider using SMALL CAPS if text is beginning to get hard to read.

Condensed and Narrow versions of fonts are common in broadcast television.  Consider using SMALL CAPS if text is beginning to get hard to read.

So what are the best fonts to use? In my opinion, if it looks good, then it is good.  If you like a special effect font in a particular spot and the client approves, the only reason not to use it is if it's not legible on screen.  Thin and script typefaces should be avoided. I especially like font families with lots of weights and choices so you have variety to work with.

I particularly don't have a large font library. Adobe TypeKit does afford the use of more fonts, but it's nothing to get too excited about. I edit a lot of sales video presentations and there is always a lot of stats and figures that have to be presented in a short time so a strong sans serif font is good for me. 

Fonts I like to use are:

  • Avenir
  • Helvetica Neue
  • Futura

One final note, most of the time in the professional world the font choice has already been made by the client or ad agency so its just your duty to load it on your computer and tap away at the keyboard.

Tip: Can't name a font by just looking at it?  Try WhatTheFont!, by MyFonts.com, to load a screen grab of the letters and it will do a pretty good job a guessing the font being used.


What fonts do professional editors and motion designers use?

Helvetica Neue Black Extended Oblique. It’s a great action font and works well in 3D.
— John Dickinson, Motionworks.net
HELVETICA-NEUE-EXTENDED

Bank Gothic is a font that I use for of all things, slates... It’s both readable and important looking for conveying valuable yet seemingly mundane program information.
— Mike J. Nichols, @TheEditDoctor
BANK GOTHIC

Roadgeek...it’s designed to mimic U.S. highway signage, which it does very well when I’ve needed it in my projects.
— Tim Kolb, Video Director and Owner of Style4Type.com
ROADGEEK

Big Noodle Titling. I think Big Nood Titling is an awesome font because it’s strong and a little heroic. Always gets across the idea of EPIC when I use it.
— Brady Betzel, Editor
BIG NOODLE TITLING

Mission Gothic. I like the font because it’s shapes evoke a sense of retro style.
— Florian Lapiz, Freelance Motion-Graphics Designer & Prezi Trainer
MISSION GOTHIC

Alternate Gothic No.2 BT. It’s a font that can transcend a variety of projects and never look out of place.
— Kes Akalaonu, Video Editor/Motion Graphics Artist
ALTERNATE GOTHIC

Gill Sans, I like using that font for film and video because being a Sans-Serif font it’s easy to read if it’s on the big screen or on a mobile device and especially because it has a bit of character to it than just Arial.
— Brady Hallongren, Motion Picture Editor and Owner of Rocket Panda Post, Los Angeles
GILL SANS