VideoWall Plugins for After Effects

by kesakalaonu on May 27, 2015

after effects cs51 300x296 VideoWall Plugins for After Effects

One of the most common motion graphics you see on broadcast television, as well as motion pictures, is a video wall. A video wall consists of a grid of multiple videos all playing at once. In many examples, this is usually used to highlight a specific theme or subject, and is accompanied by text or other motion graphic elements. Creating video walls manually can be tedious if you don’t know how to start. But, nonetheless, it can be done. If you opt to go the third party plugin route, below are three plugins/tools from different companies for After Effects that can jumpstart your video wall creation.

Coremelt Video Wall Zoom & Panel Vision

coremelt logo 300x69 VideoWall Plugins for After Effects

Within the Coremelt Complete suite are two plugins I use to create a video wall. The first one is Video Wall Zoom from the ImageFlow FX collection. This generator creates a wall of images/movies, one of which zooms in to fill the screen, then zooms back down. Another just zooms in to fill the screen. Not only does it come with enough image/movie placeholders, but it also has an animation option that can be utilized in more ways than one. With the multiple image placeholders and animation settings, it can be used as a standalone motion graphic, or a chapter transition between segments.

Screen Shot 2015-05-26 at 7.04.25 AM

The second plugin from the Coremelt Complete set I would turn to for video walls is Panel Vision. Panel Vision is a part of the Shatter collection, which contains “3D” perspective plugins with interesting effects. Panel Vision allows you to tile up to eight source images randomly into any number of rows and columns. It’s great to use when you want to cram four to five videos into a wall with little effort. You can also combine with other plugins like I did in this tutorial below and get a circular shape.

BCC Wild Cards

boris logo 300x63 VideoWall Plugins for After Effects

BCC Wild Cards is used to generate an array of 3D cards with interesting and convenient animation options. This filter is a part of the Particles category in the Continuum Complete suite. It can be used to divide up one video into rows and columns of cards, or multiple videos into rows and cards. Below, After Effects guru Kevin P. McAuliffe shows us the possibilities you can achieve when using BCC Wild Cards with multiple videos.

One of the reasons I like this filter for video walls is the ease and flexibility in the control options. They are very straightforward and can have you up and running in little time. I have used it myself when I made a promo for my Premiere Pro project file giveaway, which you can see below.

I highly recommend giving this plugin a try if you want a quality filter for doing a quick video wall animation.

Red Giant Planespace

RedGiant logoBox2 White 294x300 VideoWall Plugins for After Effects

Planespace is a compilation of tools that are made to help manage large amounts of 3D layers in After Effects. Within this compilation are Cubic Distribution, Box Creator, Cylinder Creator, and Matrix Creator. One tool in particular that is great for creating a video wall is Matrix Creator. This tool can set up rows and columns with ease along with predetermined animated parameters. I’ve used this tool a few times when I wanted to create a video wall using 3D layers in After Effects, as opposed to having it contained within a filter. With Planespace, I can use an unlimited amount of layers to achieve the look I want. With this ability comes the caveat of slowing down After Effects if you have too many 3D layers.

Screen Shot 2015-05-26 at 7.05.07 AM

Overall, Planespace is great when you want to push the boundaries of After Effects’s 2.5D layers.

These are just some of the incredible tools and plugins you can use to create a video wall for your projects. Feel free to give them a try and add to your arsenal.

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Exporting/Compression Applications

by kesakalaonu on May 21, 2015

ATeam icons

Exporting your edit out of your NLE is one of the many important processes of post production. In the tape-based days of exporting, it could be a very tedious and time consuming process that required a lot of quality assurance. With the digital era of video and web based content taking charge, exporting your videos isn’t as hard as it use to be. As a video producer, it is my job to know what specifications are necessary to deliver to my broadcast and web vendors to ensure that my commercials get aired properly. That is why I need to know all the available media compression applications on the market. I’m going to highlight three applications that I’ve used for the last five years to get the job done.

Adobe Media Encoder

Adobe Media Encoder CS6 Icon 300x300 Exporting/Compression Applications

My go to compression/exporting application for the last four years has been Adobe Media Encoder. In times of fast turnarounds and very specific video types, Media Encoder has been clutch more times than I can count. Since I’ve been using the Creative Suite/Creative Cloud, Media Encoder has been apart of the bundle. Long before Premiere Pro had the ability to export media from the application itself, you had to queue in Media Encoder to get the final render you needed. The latest iteration of Media Encoder is a stable and reliable application that is able to meet vendor specifications much easier than anything I’ve used previously. Whether I need Quicktime files or mp4 files, it gets the job done. Below are a few abilities of Media Encoder:

  • Match Source presets
  • Exporting Closed Caption data
  • Import and export of Avid DNxHD assets
  • Support for new formats such as Sony 4K AVC-Intra (XAVC), Panasonic AVCI-200, DNxHD in an MXF container, XDCAMHD in a QuickTime (.mov) container, and more

Apple Compressor

icon128 2x Exporting/Compression Applications

The next compression/exporting application I used quite often is Apple’s Compressor. Compressor has been apart of the Final Cut suite for the last decade, and the latest installment is much stronger and efficient than before. I’ll be honest about my use of Compressor. I used it mostly when I needed to make DVDs or seldom used file types. It got the job done until I shifted to an Adobe workflow. It could be that the computer I had previously wasn’t strong enough to harness its true power. Overall, I found Compressor to be a backup in case Media Encoder failed to deliver what I needed. I have found that the latest version of Compressor works great when I edit with Final Cut Pro X. It creates great master files and web ready H.264 files very efficiently and clean. It even creates video files for iTunes app display. In my opinion, it is one of the best compression/exporting applications on the market and shouldn’t be overlooked. Below are a few features of Apple Compressor:

  • Intuitive interface
  • Streamlined workflow
  • Share Final Cut Pro settings
  • Encoding available for Apple devices
  • Broad format support and more

MPEG Streamclip

MPEG Streamclip icon Exporting/Compression Applications

MPEG Streamclip is a free application available for Mac and Windows which can open a variety of file types, as well as transcode to a variety of formats. In my opinion, this application was at its peak when most NLEs couldn’t take raw formats like H.264 from DSLRs. With most NLEs now supporting raw format editing in real time, this application has become more of a last resort compression application when you have no other choice. When I edited with Final Cut Pro 7 and Premiere Pro CS5, using this application to transcode footage was a common part of my workflow. These days, I help new  filmmakers learn to use it when they don’t have access to the aforementioned applications above. Overall, MPEG Streamclip is still a versatile application and I believe you should have it in your arsenal just in case. Below are a few features of MPEG Streamclip:

  • Lets you play and edit QuickTime, DV, AVI, MPEG-4, MPEG-1, MPEG-2 or VOB files. Transport streams with MPEG, PCM, or AC3 audio (MPEG-2 playback component required), DivX (with DivX 6) and WMV (with Flip4Mac WMV Player).
  • Saves edited movies as MOV files, and (when possible) as AVI or MP4 files.
  • Handles files and streams larger than 4 GB, split in any number of segments, or with multiple audio tracks, and can also optionally handle timecode breaks. It is compatible with MPEG-1 and MPEG-2 video, MPEG layer 1/2 (MP1/MP2) audio, AC3/A52 audio, and PCM audio.
  • Supports batch processing: just drag some files in the batch list, choose a conversion and a folder, click the Go button, and MPEG Streamclip will automatically convert all your files.

As you can see, these three applications are very capable of creating deliverables necessary to get your project out. While there are other applications like Sorenson Squeeze, Red Giant Offload, and camera based conversion programs, these programs have shown that they can perform at the top level. Feel free to try them out and find out what works best for you.

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Mocha Tracking in Silhouette FX

by Garrett Fallin on May 5, 2015

headlogo 400x400 300x300 Mocha Tracking in Silhouette FX

Silhouette FX is a dedicated rotoscoping program. Rotoscoping is the process of tracing a video image frame by frame creating a matte for later compositing. Essentially, think of of a father and son throwing a football back and forth in the front yard. What if you wanted them playing catch in a more obvious atmosphere – like a warring alien planet! You will need to rotoscope, or trace, around the father, the son, and that darn football in every single frame of that video clip. Once you are done tracing, you will have a series of black and white images called an alpha matte. Other software can then interrupt the image’s black as transparent and white as opaque. Therefore, the background will be removed, leaving you with just a go-lucky father and son playing catch. Now you can add in a new background, like that warring alien planet, underwater Atlantis, or in front of the great Pyramids of Egypt.

In the past I have shown you how to create an alpha using Silhouette FX, and also rotoscoping with Silhouette FX. This time, I am going to break down how to motion track. This is an advanced technique that is required for reducing the workload of rotoscoping by hand each frame of movement. The idea is that if you can mocha track an entire limb, for instance, throughout a shot, you will be able to apply your shapes using that tracked data and greatly reduce, if not fully eliminate, the need for manual frame by frame adjustments. I will now show you how to mocha track in three basic steps:

  • Setting Up Your Track
  • Tracking
  • Filing and Functionality

SETTING UP YOUR TRACK

Mocha Tracking is a partnership in the newest version of Silhouette from the planar tracking program, Mocha. I use this tracking program the most while working, and I find it to be the most accurate in diverse situations. Mocha is a planar tracker, which means that you create a shape (plane) that, when isolated, you can use Mocha to track from similarities in pattern, color, contrast, etc. The tracking shape will then follow along the path of tracking while storing the information in a layer (known as the tracking matrix). By storing the tracking information in a layer, you are able to add limitless shapes under that layer and the tracking data will apply to each of those shapes. Extremely helpful!

In the scene I am using I have a pair of hands with tracking markers on them. Tracking markers are not necessary, but are helpful in certain circumstances and encouraged if you have a savvy VFX supervisor on set to make those calls.

Screen Shot 2015-04-21 at 12.40.28 AM

To Mocha track, I first need to create a layer in the Object list panel.

Screen Shot 2015-04-28 at 10.40.05 AM

From there, using the B spline tool (it doesn’t matter if you use x, b, or bezier. I just prefer using B spline with human anatomy) draw a shape around the “area” you want to track. Now, I say “area” because you might want to track just the thumb, the index finger, wrist, or something that has a consistent movement throughout the clip. Think of a man walking from the profile view – you wouldn’t track his head and expect your shapes to adhere to the legs properly. You will need to track the head separate from shapes on the head (nose, chin, forehead), the thigh separate from the calf, the forearm separate from the shoulder, and so on. Since each section usually takes 5 – 10 shapes to complete, having a track all of those shapes can follow is a huge time saver. So again, I am going to draw a shape around the “area” I want to track.

Screen Shot 2015-04-28 at 10.47.08 AM

Keep the tracking shape tight around the area you want to track without it being a pixel perfect shape to what you need to roto. It needs some data from the surrounding area to differentiate pattern and movement. At this point, let’s go into our tracker controls.

TRACKING

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Looking at the controls (unless I have a scene where the cameraman is moving around a scene while filming) I generally only want to track the TRANSLATION, SCALE, and ROTATION.

Screen Shot 2015-04-28 at 10.50.34 AM

In Pre-Processing, you can check on PREVIEW and play with the Blur, Sharpen, contrast, etc., until you get a high contrasted image that gives nice shapes and patterns for your tracking shape to follow.

Screen Shot 2015-04-28 at 10.51.50 AM

Now go ahead and Track forward.

Screen Shot 2015-04-28 at 10.53.01 AM

FILING AND FUNCTIONALITY 

Back in the Timeline you will notice the LAYER you created now has multiple keyframes under whats called the TRANSFORM MATRIX.

Screen Shot 2015-04-28 at 10.53.22 AM

This is your tracking storage, and now you can create any number of shapes you need under that layer, and that tracking data will now apply to each of those shapes.

Screen Shot 2015-04-28 at 11.00.59 AM

Screen Shot 2015-04-28 at 11.00.48 AM

Notice towards the bottom of the list, I labeled that initial b spline I used for tracking as my “tracking shape” and just locked it and turned it off. That way, if I need to adjust the track down the line, I still have it for reference.

For your reference, here is the video that particular sample clip came from. In this example, you can see how rotoscoping became important for us (me and the other artist working on this clip) in order to strategically animate on new skin tones and iron man hand blasters.

Royalty Free Music Orange 468 60 Yellow Dress zps3d728d61 Mocha Tracking in Silhouette FX

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New Features in FCPX 10.2

by kesakalaonu on May 1, 2015

FCPX logo 1 300x300 New Features in FCPX 10.2

Since NAB happened last week, we were introduced to all the new products and updates to various products for filmmaking. From more efficient user friendly drones, higher end cameras, and software updates, it was a filmmaker’s paradise. One particular update that caught my interest was the release of Final Cut Pro X 10.2. Some of the features that were introduced were needed, and some of them made motion graphics, visual effects, and color grading much easier. I want to highlight three features that I found interesting and offer an opinion on how they will be beneficial to your workflow.

FCPX: 3D Text

One of the newer and greatly appreciated additions to FCPX 10.2 is the ability to create and manipulate real 3D text. Users can tweak animations, materials, reflectivity, and many other options with this new feature. In the past, if you wanted 3D text in your edit, you would go to plugins like Element 3D, mObject, or a dedicated 3D program. From what I’ve seen and played with myself, this is a very intricate feature, and one that requires quite a bit of computing power to truly witness its potential. It would be wise to have a strong Mac on your hands if you plan on utilizing this feature. This 3D text feature is great, and I believe it may minimize the need to run to third party plugins. Many FCPX plugin makes have already stepped up to the plate, such as Ripple Training, MotionVFX, and Stupid Raisins. They offer their own 3D text assets for users to utilize in their projects. I can only see this feature becoming stronger in later updates.

FCPX: Save Effects Preset

save presets 300x247 New Features in FCPX 10.2

This feature has been long asked for and it finally has appeared; the ability to save effect presets for later use. In the legacy Final Cut Pro, this feature was present along with the ability to save presets in a project. In FCPX 10.2, you can now have saved effects appear in the effects browser, which is much easier than having to do paste attributes all the time. I haven’t had much time to play with this new feature, but if it functions like people say it does, then it is very welcomed.

FCPX: Improved Masks & Color Correction Effect

draw mask detail 300x145 New Features in FCPX 10.2

color correction effect 300x79 New Features in FCPX 10.2

The masking feature in FCPX 10.2 now allows their own category in the Effects browser, as well as the ability to keyframe them much easier. The new Draw Mask filter gives you the ability to draw masks which can be linear, bezier, or B-spline smoothing. Also, the Shape Mask now has the ability to convert control points into editable bezier control points. One of the many strengths of FCPX was how strong its masking capabilities were in comparison to other NLEs, and this new feature definitely ramps up its strength. Much more compositing options will now be doable without leaving the comfort of your NLE.

Another new feature introduced is color correction is now an effect. In the Effect Browser, you can choose the Color Correction effect and place it on your effect. From there, it will open up the Color Board and allow for further tweaking. Since it is now treated as an Effect, you can apply color correction before video filters, or insert multiple color correction filters anywhere in the stack of video filters. After you stack and arrange the processing order of multiple corrections and filters in the Inspector, you can save this look as an Effects Preset for for re-use.

ccstack 300x254 New Features in FCPX 10.2

As you can see, the new features available in Final Cut Pro X 10.2 have shown that Apple is serious about the filmmaking community. In time, I hope they address other grievances editors have with the program so that it can be an easier sell to hold outs. Overall, I think these new additions showcase how much potential lies within this program, and I look forward to what they will include next.

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