Mininum Font Size for the Big Screen?

schui's picture

I wonder if one of you typophiles is an expert in typography for the big screen.
I'm working on a title design and some rolling credits for a short movie.

The font I'm using is NITTI TYPEWRITER in size 35px. But I heard some concerns that the font still might be too small when shown on a cinema screen. The film will be shown on the big movie screen as well as on television.

Does anyone know, what the minimum font size for screening text in a movie theater should be?

Is there a common rule of thumb how a font size "changes" between a TV screen or a big screen?

JamesM's picture

> The film will be shown on the big movie screen
> as well as on television.

Seems to me that if it's big enough to be readable on a typical tv, it'll certainly be readable on a big movie screen.

Bloodtype's picture

Remember if it's white on black, it should be more like 10% grey to avoid strobing :)

oldnick's picture

Most credits are WAY too small once they hit the home screen. Unless there is a compelling reason to use small type (like, a gazillion credit lines that have to be shown in a very short time), bigger is always least, for old fogies like me...

aluminum's picture

is PX a standard measurement unit for on-film typography?

Si_Daniels's picture

Let's say a big TV has a ppi of 35, the text would be about one inch tall. Seems like it would be okayish for normal viewing distance.

schui's picture

is PX a standard measurement unit for on-film typography?

I don't know. But After Effects uses px instead of pt for measurement.

@sii: is 35ppi the common amount for recent television sets? or how did you come up with that number?

Si_Daniels's picture

It was a guess. You can use this to get actual ppi sizes for different screens...

1080p is 1920 x 1080

... and then calculate the physical type size.

Nick Shinn's picture

It should be possible to do "angle of vision" comparisons between (hand-held) print, home-viewed TV (both "standard" and HD), and cinema theatre. In each case one would calculate based on screen/page size, viewing distance, and definition.

From my own experience with HDTV, looking at the micetype disclaimer text in ads, It looks like you can now get as many lines of sharp and readable type on a TV screen as you can a magazine page.

Robert Trogman's picture

I worked for Saul Bass and found out that the big screen minimum was about 18 pt. for sans serifs.

Si_Daniels's picture

Hi Robert,

I'm curious 18pt on 35mm film is pretty big, far bigger than movie credits we usually see. 18pt on a big screen 70ft across seems too small to read from the back of the theatre? So I'm assuming design size for these credits would be smaller? Can you explain the design process you used, eg 18pt on letter size paper.

Stickley's picture

Coming from a broadcast view, it's 18 pt (px) minimum for standard-definition, double (36) for high-def as it is twice the resolution at the same screen-size - which it why it's high-def.... 18 is legible in HD, but best to avoid in case of down-sampling to SD (becomes 9pt, much too small). You might want to take all of this into consideration with your for-film designs.

Here's a similar topic:

Rob O. Font's picture

I'm curious because I think all screen type should be defined based on a proportion of the screen/window, and not point size, which seems irrelevant under the pressure of user distance.


Chris Dean's picture

Bernard, M., Liao, C. H. & Mills, M., (2001). The effects of font type and size on the legibility and reading time of online text by older adults. Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems.

An easy read. Mary Dyson from Reading has done a ton of studies of reading on the screen.

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