The syncing of kinetic type –moving or animated text – to speech or song lyrics is a powerful effect, one that’s been used countless times to reinforce a message.

Here we’ll be tapping into the style of the initial video (rather than the later – and some would say inferior – official promo) for the Cee Lo Green song Fuck You. That first video made especially good use of type, styled to chime in with the track’s Motown-esque feel and contrasting neatly with the lyric’s modern references (“I guess he’s an Xbox, I’m more Atari”, for example) – and its blunt message. We’ll be eschewing After Effects’ many motion presets and so forth in favour of a traditional typographic feel and some suitably smooth motion.

Step 1 If you intend your clip to see the light of day, remember that the musicians whose track you’ve selected must have okayed your use of their work. We’ve chosen to work with Letting You by Nine Inch Nails, a track which can be freely downloaded from theslip.nin.com and used under a GNU General Public Licence (which means you can basically do whatever you want with it except sell it or claim that it’s yours). The angry, politically charged lyrics should provide an interesting contrast to our stylish type.


Step 2 Once you’ve transcribed the lyric (we’ve already done the work for you here; see letting-you-lyrics.ai on the Download Zone), you’ll need to put each line into a layer of its own in Illustrator, so you can control how the words are manipulated later in After Effects. The easiest way to break up the lyric like this is to run the excellent DivideTextFrame script (from wundes.com/JS4AI), which will split each line into a new textbox. If there are any words that you want to introduce to the movie individually, you will need to put them into their own textboxes now.