Watermark Effect in After Effects CC


At some point, you are going to do some work you either want to post online or send to a client for review, and you’ll want it to remain protected. One way is to watermark your work. Watermarking is leaving a faint design or signature that visibly identifies the owner of the work, while allowing the viewer the ability to see the overall piece. In this tutorial, I will show you a few methods (each building on one another) on how to create a stylish and effective watermark effect in After Effects CC.

Method 1: Lowered Opacity

Method 2: Bevel and Emboss

Method 3: Texturize


In most watermarking cases, you will have a PNG or Vector logo that uses transparent pixels and can be layered above your footage. If you don’t have one, you can create a new TEXT layer using the TEXT TOOL and typing in your full name as the watermark.

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For the remainder of this tutorial I will be using the logo PNG file, but these steps will be just as applicable to the text layer as well.


This first method is a quick and dirty one if you are under a time crunch and need to get the file to a client rapidly. With your logo image layered above your footage, simply hit the ‘T’ key to bring up your OPACITY control and reduce the number to 50%.

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If you feel 50% is still too distracting, you may want to play around with the OPACITY PERCENTAGE to get the level of watermark visibility you are looking for.

METHOD 2: Bevel and Emboss

Building off of Method 1, we are going to start to design a more aesthetically pleasing watermark that tends to be less distracting to the viewer or client. With the logo image selected in your LAYERS PANEL, go to LAYER > LAYER STYLES > BEVEL AND EMBOSS.

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This gives your image a bit of a 3 dimensional edge we can play around with. In order to leave the beveled edge visible, go to your logo image and twirl open LAYER STYLES > BLENDING OPTIONS > ADVANCED BLENDING. From here, reduce FILL OPACITY to 0%.

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For this method, you will want to start with a new version of your logo image that is unchanged and in its normal state.

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With your logo image selected, you will want to precomp the layer by going to LAYER > PRE COMPOSE (choose ‘MOVE ALL ATTRIBUTES…’) and hit OK.

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Now let’s add a new solid layer and put it in the background (LAYER > NEW > SOLID)

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Back in our original composition, turn off the eye on precomped logo layer making it invisible. Then, in EFFECTS & PRESETS type in TEXTURIZE and DOUBLE CLICK IT to apply the effect to the comp.

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In the EFFECTS PANEL, go to the TEXTURE LAYER drop down menu and select your logo precomp layer.

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Finally, you can play with the TEXTURE CONTRAST and LIGHT DIRECTION in order to experiment and reach your desired results

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Advanced Keying Techniques in After Effects CC


Some of you are professional filmmakers, editors, and visual effects artists. Some of you are dabblers who just enjoy learning the craft. And some of you are working at a dead end soul crushing corporate job for over five years and are desperately learning a new trade as a means to positively change your course of life (I’m talking to you, Phil!). Regardless of your background, one thing remains true for all – green screen keying can be a major pain in the butt! Sometimes it’s frizzy hair, other times it’s lacy fabric, but a lot of times it’s just plain old motion blur. The point is, regardless of background, we are all on the same playing field for this one. Luckily, there are a few techniques that will help stop you from chucking your monitor out the window.

Here’s the breakdown:

–       Keying with Keylight

–       Isolating and Desaturating

–       Tweaking and Tweaking and Tweaking …


So let’s take a look at our image first.

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Immediately you are confronted with the issue of frizzy hair in addition to green screen spill on areas of the armor. First thing is first, let’s key out the background using EFFECT > KEYING > KEYLIGHT. Then in the EFFECTS CONTROLS PANEL next to SCREEN COLOR, use the eye dropper tool and select the green background in the source footage.

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Not bad! KEYLIGHT definitely takes away 90-95% of the major green screen we needed to key out. Now we just need to focus on that final 5% where I can still see noise and grain on the image, along with green spill in the hair and armor.


At this point what we want to do is add in a Hue and Saturation effect, isolate the green spectrum, and desaturate that spectrum, thus taking the green spill in the hair and armor down to a neutral gray tone. To do that, with your source footage selected, go to EFFECT > COLOR CORRECTION > HUE/SATURATION.

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Now in your EFFECTS PANEL next to CHANNEL CONTROL, use the drop down menu and select GREENS.

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At this point you should be able to see selection bars appear on the color spectrum. You will want to widen the selection just a smidge. To do that CLICK AND DRAG the outpoint arrow to the left just to where the green turns to yellow. Additionally, CLICK AND DRAG the first bar also to the left just before the green fades on the spectrum.

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To wrap up this fix, simply CLICK AND DRAG the GREEN SATURATION bar all the way to the left to -100.

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The green spill in both the hair and armor has now been eliminated! Hooray for you!


Sometimes that’s not good – you have more green (or blue)! And no matter how much you try to isolate the spectrum, you can’t make that color go away without degrading or distorting the source footage itself. If that’s the case, I have a few last “break glass” techniques that might be able to solve your dilemma.

(A) Screen Shrink

(B) Clip White and Black

(C) Double Key Attack!

Screen Shrink

Sometimes your footage has a distinct “halo” around it. Whether it be green, blue, or gray – if it’s distracting in the final composite, it’s gotta go! To get rid of this annoying little halo, simply go into your EFFECTS PANel under KEYLIGHT – twirl open SCREEN MATTE, and next to SCREEN SHRINK/GRO, reduce the number from 0 to -1 or -2. Don’t go bananas with this setting as it removes the number of corresponding pixels from the outer edge of your keyed image.

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Clip White and Black

When you play the footage, you might notice a clear haze of noise and grain playing along. In most cases, this is caused by a change in the shade of green or blue backdrop (maybe from uneven lighting or a cast shadow). To resolve this issue, simply go into your EFFECTS PANEL under KEYLIGHT – change the VIEW to COMBINED MATTE – twirl open SCREEN MATTE, and next to CLIP BLACK you will want to increase until the black in your image are pure black. Reduce the number next to CLIP WHITE until the whites in your image are pure white – NO GRAYS!

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Double Key Attack!

You might be really picky and nothing I have taught you has resolved your little dilemma. In this case, may I suggest a double, if not triple, key attack! What does that mean? Well, just as it sounds really – use your first KEYLIGHT to remove 90-95% of your green screen to start, then zoom into your problem area and apply a second KEYLIGHT using the EYE DROPPER to select that specific green spill. It may still leave you with a final 1% of green, and at that point you can either accept that 1%. Or, go back for a third KEYLIGHT and see if you can’t finish it off once and for all.

In the end, there are just some circumstances that are beyond your control, and green and blue screens will find a way to bleed through into the final work. Take for instance this screen grab from BBCs Orphan Black Season 2 Finale. In this image you see the actress with blonde hair dancing. If you look closely at her hair, you will see pale blue wisps running through it as she dances and whips around her hair in excitement. What I’m trying to say is do everything you can to key out the green or blue screen, but don’t lose your mind over that last 1-2% if it’s at the cost of degrading the source material.

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3D in AE




After Effects has been the industry leading compositor, visual effects, and motion graphics application since its early days back in 1993. Back then, it was known as CoSA. This application has been used on small and large scale projects by post professionals across the world. Aside from that, After Effects by far has one of the largest communities than any other post production application on the market. One of the unique things about After Effects is that it can “interact” with 3D elements, but it is still a 2.5D application. In the last 21 years, this application can now handle the 3D pipeline thanks to third party developers and companies like Maxon. I want to highlight some of the third party plugins available to help you get 3D objects and/or text into After Effects.



Founded by Zax Dow, Zaxwerks provides a plethora of 3D plugins for AE that can handle just about any 3D pipeline. Used by news broadcast and high end production companies, Zaxwerks’ two biggest plugins are ProAnimator and 3D Invigorator. ProAnimator provides the user with real-time 3D rendering, raytracing capabilities, image based lighting, real time ambient occlusion, and much more. 3D Invigorator has 3D text, modeling creation/import, and animation capabilities. Some of the difference between Invigorator and ProAnimator is that 3D Invigorator uses the AE keyframe system, as well as AE camera, whereas ProAnimator has its own integrated 3D animation system. It comes as a plugin for After Effects as well as a standalone application. It’s currently in its 8th version with more features being added per update. It currently retails for $499. In my opinion, I believe these are great plugins for creating incredible 3D animations as seen in their gallery. However, with limited training and a very small community embracing it, it doesn’t get as much praise as it should. Hopefully, that should change in the coming months.

Element 3D


The 3D object plugin from VFX and AE guru Andrew Kramer, Element 3D was a plugin so revolutionary that it changed how artists handled the 3D pipeline. This plugin can not only import 3D models from popular 3D applications, but can also do much more. You can take a model of a a few buildings and duplicate it to create a city with little effort. This plugin also simplifies the animation process using its own render engine, in addition to taking advantage of After Effects motion blur and camera abilities. This plugin possesses the ability to easily create 3D text using text layers and masks for the basis. What makes this plugin so popular for 3D work, is the fact that it was used on creating the credits for Star Trek Into the Darkness. They also provide extensive training, taking you into the depths of the plugin. On top of that, it costs $149 with model packs ranging from $99-$200. I’ve used this plugin to create my new intro, and its updates make it a must have plugin for any artist. It’s currently in its 1.6 version, but will see a V2 update shortly.



Cineware is the new plugin for After Effects CC, and allows users to import Cinema 4D scenes into After Effects. This plugin helps improve the 3D workflow, when, normally, users would have to export high resolution scenes from Cinema 4D to do further compositing inside After Effects. Dropping Cinema 4D scenes into After Effects allows users to interact with the scene as well as integrate into an AE composition. This plugin is available for Adobe Creative Cloud users, but the fact that something like this exist now only opens the door for new users of both programs. As great as the concept of this plugin is, it’s far from perfect. If you intend to use Cineware, you should have a beefy laptop or desktop, as well as a high end graphics card for those intense C4D scenes. There are plugins available for helping deal with Cinema 4D scenes, such as Cineware Proxy, which helps to speed up the workflow. I believe that the Adobe AE and Maxon teams give a bright light into After Effects’s future. I can only see things getting better with time.

Overall, these are some of the options for dealing with true 3D in After Effects. There are other options out there, but these three are currently the most popular of the bunch. Obviously, you can fake 3D in After Effects in a variety of ways, but with each new update, After Effects becomes stronger and more efficient for dealing with compositing, motion graphics, and 3D.

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How to Create Nested Sequences

A Team NLE

Timelines, or sequences as they are known in certain NLEs, are the foundation for editors to arrange their footage into a comprehensive narrative. Timelines allow us to insert video, audio, titles, transitions, and more to take us from point A to completion. However, there comes a time when you are editing in your preferred NLE and having a lot of tracks or connections clutter your timeline. In a situation like this, creating a sequence within a sequence, or nesting, will consolidate your assets into one. Every major NLE has the ability to create nested sequences, or compound clips as they are called in Final Cut Pro X. With the video tutorials below, I will highlight this technique so that it can become a part of your skill set.

Avid Media Composer


In Avid Media Composer, the act of nesting is known as collapsing. As Avid guru Kevin P. McAuliffe shows us in this tutorial, when your timeline gets heavy in effects and clips, collapsing items in a sequence can be much more effective than using video mixdowns. In order to collapse your video/audio assets, select all that you want to include and hit the collapse button, or a custom keyboard shortcut. Once your assets are collapsed, you can step into the collapsed sequence, or double click and modify your clips as needed. If you are a Final Cut Pro or Premiere Pro editor, Media Composer’s method of nesting may seem a bit confusing at first, but with time and practice it starts to make sense. One of the drawbacks of a collapsed sequence in Media Composer is that you can only see one timeline at a time.

Premiere Pro

Premiere Pro CS6

Adobe Master trainer Maxim Jago shows us the process of nesting clips into a sequence in this PeachPit tutorial. Nesting sequences in Premiere is very similar to Final Cut Pro Legacy’s process. Select the video and audio assets you want, go to Clip> Nest and it will ask you to name your nested sequence. Once you’ve given it a name, it will appear in the timeline as one clip, as well as the project browser. I like this form of nesting because I can cycle between open sequences with ease.

Final Cut Pro X


In Final Cut Pro X, the process of creating nesting sequences is called creating compound clips. In this tutorial, master trainer Jon Lynn shows us the process. You can create compound clips from the timeline as well as the Event browser. Select the clips you want in your timeline and go to File -> New Compound Clip (press option + G). You can also select your highlighted clips, right click and select new Compound Clip. Similar to Avid Media Composer, I would have to “step in” to see the assets in the compound clip, and since FCPX doesn’t allow you to see multiple timelines at once, we’ll have to wait for further improvements.

Overall, the art of nesting a lot of content into its own sequence is something that comes in handy on small and large projects. Even with all the innovations made by these primetime NLEs, nesting is a technique that won’t be going away anytime soon. I strongly recommend you learn how to nest content into its own sequence in whichever NLE you use.

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Creating a 3D Opening Card in After Effects CC


The image of an opening book or card in a movie, TV show, or commercial is nothing new. With the advancement of visual effects, this can now be created in a variety of dedicated 3D modeling programs or, in this case, advanced compositing programs such as Adobe After Effects CC.

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I will show you how to achieve this effect in three simple steps:

–       Source Images and Setup

–       Creating and Rigging the Card

–       Animating the Movement


First, you will need to find images that can be combined together to create the final look of your card. Therefore, since a card is paper, you will need an image of paper. You can source your image by doing a quick GOOGLE search, or if you are working on a professionall project and need royalty free images, you can take a photograph of the paper you will be using yourself or join a royalty free stock image site such as thinkstockphotos.com or photobucket.com.

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In After Effects, once you find the images you will be using, create a new composition (I made mine 1080 HD and five seconds long). If you have a background image, you will place that first (scale and position to fit) and possibly add a light vignette to the overall composition.

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At this point you can place the first paper image (scale and position as needed) into your composition.

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It looks a little flat so why don’t we first add a black solid (LAYER>NEW>SOLID). Use the rectangle masking tool to create a shape slightly larger than the paper image, feather the edges, and place it underneath the paper to give a subtle shadow effect.

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This first page will be our inside page. We can add now add some text (Use the text tool in the toolbar > color and font at your own preference).

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Now we can create the top cover page that will be animating open in just a moment. Simply duplicate the first page (Command+D on the image layer) and move it to the top in the layer panel.

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Create more text that will go on the cover, and then you will be ready to move towards animating the card.

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Turn both the cover page and cover text into 3D layers. We will be controlling the cover page for the animation, so go ahead and parent the cover text to the cover page using the pick whip.

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With the cover page selected, you will see the page has an XYZ axis in the middle.

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This is the anchor point of the image and it will act as the hinge where the page will bend. Using the Anchor Point Tool (From Toolbar or shortcut key ‘Y’) move the anchor point to the far left of the page (place the green Y axis arrow right along the edge of the page).

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Open the rotation controls on the cover page (have the layer selected and hit ‘R’), and key frame the Y axis increasing over the time of the composition in order to create the visual effect of the card opening to reveal the inside contents.

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