The Art of Foley – An Inside Look at Sound Effects in Film

T H E   A R T   O F   F O L E Y –
An Inside Look at Sound Effects in Film

Sound Effects are a driving force behind every film that can steer the audience’s emotions and expectations. An image of a door could be shown but the audience would know the emotional tone whether they heard the sounds of wine glasses clinking with plates and silverware milling about , or alternatively bone cracking and chainsaws revving. In one instance the audience is invited into a feast and the other they want to run in horror. The senses follow the sounds. Creating high quality sounds to use in one’s films is an undertaking and an art form in itself. In one instance there is a vast array of high quality sounds already available to you at AudioMicro.com, but sometimes you just want that personal touch and feel the drive to create your own sound effects. In this post we will be taking a look at what exactly goes into making a custom high quality sound effect and a brief history of how it all came to be.

Creating Sound Effects for Film

One of the great unsung heroes of any movie is easily the Foley Artist. These artists are the ones who create all the sound effects you hear throughout the film by using everyday objects in unexpected ways to generate unique sounds. Think banging a couple of coconut shells together to create the sound of a horse galloping like in Monty Python’s Holy Grail; that is a prime example of foley sound.

While on location of a film, modern day audio equipment is optimized for picking up the actors voice while cancelling out all the surrounding and background sounds that would breath life into the scene. This could be something subtle like the actor’s footsteps, opening a door, or even just scratching his own face, to the more in your face fighting scenes, scuffling, clashing swords, etc. It is these artists’ job to find out how to recreate any sound imaginable for any given scene and convince the audience it’s the real thing. Some examples of this would be something like stepping on VHS tape to create the sound of walking through autumn leaves. You can then pick up the same VHS tape and shake it to give the sense of bushes rustling in the wind. Another example would be stepping on a bag full of corn starch to create that sound of fresh snow crunching and compressing as its walked on. Even snapping or twisting a bunch of celery can sound like bones cracking or breaking. At the end of the day if the foley artist did his job right you will never know he did anything at all.

The Origin of Foley Sound Effects in Film

Before this method of foley sound became mainstream in film it was common practice for the time to have sound effects added into broadcasted radio plays to help paint a richer picture of what is happening for the audience. This is what helped pave the way for post sound effects to emerge into film.

The term Foley Artists comes from its creator, Jack Donovan Foley, who as a Universal employee developed the method of performing sound effects in sync with the film’s moving picture in post production back in the early mid 1900s. Jack and his team would have the movie projected in front of them and perform all the post sounds needed in one go and record it on one single track. Nowadays with the invention of computers and development of Non Linear Editing there are infinite amounts of tracks sounds can be recorded, retimed, and adjusted on that simply did not exist back then. At the time this method of creating post sound was called ‘Direct to Picture,’ and it wasn’t until years later that it became known as foley.

Modern Recording Practices of Foley Sound Effects

Today the common set up for post sound is 2 foley artists and 1 sound mixer on the mixing stage. The two artists will work in tandem to create the sound and will work from visual markers and cues projected on the film supplied by the mixer to help them match timing. However, these days it’s less critical if an artist misses the timing as this can be adjusted by the mixer, but making sure the feel of the sound matches perfectly is more of what’s necessary. These specialized mixing stages the foley artists work on will commonly have special sectioned floors with various textures and materials to step on to create various sounds. Along with having an ever expanding warehouse full of props and everyday items they have catalogued and can use at any given moment.

In the instance that you might need to add some foley sound to one of your own projects you can always go simple and experiment with a basic audio mic recording various sounds like footsteps, slamming doors, breaking celery and then test it out by cutting and remixing the sound back into your edit.

If you need something more robust and professional sounding, or you simply don’t quite know how to get that exact perfect sound effect you’re looking for – audiomicro.com has you covered! Just head to the website, select sound effects, and search for anything you need! There are literally 1000s of professional high quality sound effects to choose from that you can remix and cut back into your projects with confidence.

Adding Noise & Grain back into your VFX

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So you’ve just spent hours, days, possibly even weeks arduously creating a visual effect. It might be a CG animation, matter painting, or a simply cell phone screen – and you’re ready to comp that bad boy into your final scene. So you color correct, motion track, and everything else you think necessary. But wait. Something looks a bit off. It doesn’t quite gel with the rest of your scene. The solution? Add Noise and Grain!

Noise is an artifacting seen when shooting on video, whereas Grain is an artifacting seen when shooting on film. In either case, when you comp your VFX, you will want to be sure to add this artifacting back into your work in order for it to appear more naturally as a part of your scene. It may appear to be subtle, but the eye picks up on these things, even subconsciously, and as you perfect your craft, it’s a good habit to get into to add grain back into your VFX before exporting.

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I’m going to show you my technique for adding grain quickly. To my surprise, after working professionally in the field close to five years, I couldn’t find any samples of adding grain when I searched for this technique online. So, for sake of variety after my effect break down, I will supply some alternative methods I also found online that more or less achieve the same goal.

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For my technique I’m using After Effects CC. With your layer selected go to Effects > Noise & Grain > Add Grain

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This will bring up a set of tools and controls for you in the Effect Control Panel

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For my magic recipe, after changing the view mode to FINAL OUTPUT, I adjust the intensity down to .1 >, the size to .08 >, and the softness to 1.5

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From there you can tweak as needed. For most general purposes, that is all you will need to get the job done. As I zoom into my comp I can see there is a nice grain running in through the grays and blacks that help blend the whole image together nicely.

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Now, beyond the technique I just described, there are a few other methods out there. For instance, there are some basic grain overlays that you can download for FREE here that will allow you to simply add above your layer, change the blend mode to OVERLAY, and adjust the opacity to your taste. Here is a video giving you the steps as well:

Otherwise, another method within After Effects is Match Grain (versus Add Grain which is the method I use). In my opinion, Match Grain doesn’t work well with a heavily compressed image or video. But if you are working in RAW, then this might be the best method for you! Check out the tutorial here that breaks down the effortless process of using a Grain Card in your composite to create the end result you are looking for.

Finally, if you would like to read more into the science of why noise and grain looks and performs the way it does, you can check this article here.

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FCPX Tips and Tricks Volume 2

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One of the things I’ve enjoyed about learning the inner workings of Final Cut Pro X is how to work faster despite having a different editing paradigm. Getting used to the magnetic timeline was a struggle at first, but now I’ve become accustomed to it. I find myself trying to do things that are akin to the magnetic timeline that don’t exist in track based NLEs. However, I discovered new tips and tricks from users across the world that make my FCPX experience more enjoyable. I’m going to highlight a few tips that hopefully help you in your FCPX experience.

Connected Clip Tricks

In this episode of MacBreak Studio, the folks at Ripple Training show us how to deal with connected clips. As great as the magnetic timeline can be, dealing with connected clips can be cumbersome. Their first tip involves changing a connected clip to a different primary clip. Holding down the option key, Mark clicks on the bottom of the connected clip and changes the connect to a different clip in the primary storyline.

The next tip involves deleting a primary clip and leaving the connected clip in place, or creating a ripple edit. If you hold down the Shift key and press delete, the primary storyline clip will disappear and the connected clip will be placed above a gap clip. To get the ripple edit, hold down option + command+ delete to perform the delete selection shortcut.

The final tip involves slipping a clip in the primary storyline without moving the connected clip. Holding down the tilde key and pressing the T key, you can slip your primary clip while retaining the position of the connected clip in the secondary storyline. A bonus tip is offered which showcases how to have the override connections command in place until you turn them off. Holding down the tilde key and the command key, let go of the tilde key and the override command will be active until you press the command key again.

Overall, this collection of tips got me excited at how much faster I could move FCPX, and knowing how to navigate the tedious nature of the secondary storyline.

Fast Editing With Clip Skimmer

In another edition of MacBreak Studio, the folks at Ripple Training offer insight into using the clip skimmer to navigate the intricacies of the primary and secondary storylines. With clip skimming enabled and the main skimmer disabled, users can focus on clips solely in the primary or secondary storyline. Using the clip skimmer enabled and the main skimmer disabled, they are able to make targeted ripple edits in primary and secondary storylines without effecting the entire timeline. They also highlight how much easier it is to insert clips into the secondary storyline when the clip skimmer is enabled so that you can be a power user.

Starting Up FCPX

When you open FCPX from the dock or applications folder, it usually opens the last library or libraries you were working in. But what if you want to select which libraries FCPX opens upon startup? The folks at fcpx.at inform us that by holding down the option key at startup, you will be presented with a dialog box showing you all available libraries. Selecting one of the available libraries or using the Locate function to add another library will open that library in FCPX.

Another way to chose which library opens when you start FCPX is to use the inexpensive companion application, Library Manager. The application has the ability to create libraries from scratch and open libraries by themselves if you chose.

Overall, I’ve found these tips to be extremely helpful in getting much more knowledgeable about how FCPX functions. Learning these tips have given me a great appreciation for the application and has suppressed my frustrations I had when it first came out. Try these tips yourself and become the power user of FCPX that you want to be.

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Sci-FI VFX Tutorials

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With the upcoming release of Star Wars the Force Awakens, and the premiere of the recent Star Trek films, there have been many visual effects that filmmakers have looked to replicate to bring to their productions. This can be anything from heads up displays, 3D spaceships, weapons, and much more. Looking at these effects as they are, it would be a daunting task to replicate them without prior knowledge. However, using a tool like After Effects can bring your imagination to life by watching the right tutorials. Below, I will highlight a few tutorials based on science fiction visual effects that you can bring to your video projects.

Lightsaber Tutorial

In this tutorial from VideoCoPilot, Andrew Kramer shows us how to use his lightsaber preset which he created using the beam effect along with other filters and expressions. This preset has all the functions you would need to create the perfect lightsaber effect without having to use a solid layer with a mask. This preset also reacts to composition motion blur to create realistic motion. Using an obscure layer as a matte, you can place the lightsaber beam behind your talent when their motion calls for it.

I recently used this preset on a set of commercials and it still holds up eight years after it was initially released. I found it easier to use and manage over a plugin like Saber Blade from Fan Film FX. You can download the preset here and use it on your next Star Wars fan film.

Transporter Tutorial

In this tutorial from SternFX and Red Giant TV, Eran Stern breaks down how to create this infamous Star Trek teleportation effect using Trapcode Particular. Using the path from a circle math, Eran creates a circular motion for the point light which influences the motion path for Particular. Next, he parents the light to a null object so that he can influence the motion even further. With Particular applied to a solid layer and the settings manipulated to emit a solid stream of particles, the transporter effect begins to take shape. Once he has the effect created with Particular, he precomposes it and duplicates it to manipulate other iterations. With a lens flare from Knoll Light Factory and a few animation keyframes, he completes the overall animation necessary to apply to it to his subject.

In a separate composition, he brings the transporter effect and talent to the forefront. Using warping filters and masks, he completes the effect with ease. What I like about this tutorial is the attention to detail that Eran brings to this effect. I’ve seen this effect achieved using particle images from Particle Illusion, which is passable to the common viewer, but this version of the effect really has the Hollywood finish to it. Although it is a dated tutorial, I find it still holds up after all these years.

Hologram Tutorial

This tutorial from PixelBump shows us how to create a Star Wars themed hologram using green screen compositing. He creates three compositions with his keyed talent and changes their colors accordingly using the Levels effect. With the addition of the wiggle expression to create jerky motion, he crafts the colorization needed to create the hologram along with the Venetian Blinds filter. With a combo of offset matte layers and glow filters, he is able to complete Star Wars-esque hologram.

This effect was achieved using native filters and techniques that exist inside of After Effects which makes it accessible to everyone. I recently had to do a hologram effect for a group of spots and I went the third party route using Holomatrix to create the effect. It is always useful to know how to create visual effects when you don’t have access to to third party tools.

These are just three science fiction effects-based tutorials you can use on your next video projects. Try these out and experiment to create something unique.

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FCPX to AE & Avid to AE

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Very often in the editing process, we get to a point when we need to shift from cutting and assembling our edit, and into the stage of refining it with motion graphics, visual effects, or color grading. Most modern NLEs have the tools that can do such tasks, but depending on the complexity of these finishing techniques, you may need to turn to a program like After Effects. It’s no secret that After Effects is one of the industry standard compositing/motion graphics applications that professionals of all tiers use to complete a project. Getting timelines or footage from Premiere to After Effects is an easy task that can be accomplished in multiple ways. However, if you an editor who uses Final Cut Pro X or Avid Media Composer, getting your timelines into After Effects may be a bit of challenge. However, there are dedicated workflows and applications available for editors of those programs.

FCPX to AE (Automatic Duck XImport)

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This new plugin from Wes Plate brings the functionality of bringing Final Cut Pro X timelines into After Effects. The original Automatic Duck plugin allowed users to send Final Cut Pro 7 & Avid Media Composer timelines to After Effects for polishing and other effects. The process works by creating an XML in Final Cut Pro X. From there, open up After Effects and navigate to Import>Automatic Duck Ximport AE. A dialogue menu will appear and you can navigate to the location of your XML file. Select your XML file, decide whether or not to modify settings, and hit Return. The translation will produce a folder and composition based on what you named your timeline in FCPX. Open the composition and you can see what transferred and what didn’t. This plugin will read third party plugins like Boris FX, Coremelt, and others. The ones that probably won’t carry over are any FCPX Motion template based plugins, like those from MotionVFX, Ripple Training, or Pixel Film Studios.

I personally haven’t had a project to test this plugin, but when I do, I plan on trying this workflow to see if it is another solution I can have in my arsenal.

Avid Media Composer to AE

In this video tutorial, post production guru Kevin P. McAuliffe shows us how to roundtrip Media Composer sequences to After Effects and back. First, he right clicks on his sequence in the project panel and selects Export. In the Export settings, he selects Options and chooses AAF along with AAF Edit Protocol. He also selects Include Video/Data Tracks, enables the Link option, and sends the AAF file to the desktop. Inside of After Effects, he goes to File>Import> Pro Import After Effects. In the dialog menu, he navigates to the AAF file and modifies the settings to accommodate his file. This allows for After Effects to create a composition that looks identical to how his timeline was cut. From there, he breaks down how to export from After Effects using the DNxHD codec. Once he exports it out, importing it back in Media Composer is a smooth process based on the DNxHD codec he used.

I’ve cut on Media Composer in the past, and from what I see here, this is a very similar process to getting FCP timelines to After Effects. The only difference is the name of the file intermediate you use to get your timelines from one place to another. Personally, I’ve never been a fan of how Avid has compositing situations and its continual lack of blend modes boggles my mind. However, this tip is handy for anyone who deals with Media Composer on a regular basis.

From what you can see here, getting your timelines from FCPX and Media Composer to After Effects is not as hard as it looks. Knowing how to use these methods can be beneficial for those situations when you need to hand off your timeline to a visual effects artist or animator. There are probably other methods than the two I highlighted here, so feel free to find those so you have a backup plan.

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AE Tips from UkraMedia

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Every so often, there will be people on Youtube who produce useful content which can help make you better at a particular task or application. If you know the places to look, or you happen to find a clip based on dumb luck, then you can gather great nuggets of information from professionals who take time out of their day to create great content. One particular Youtube author who has helped me become more proficient in using After Effects is Ukramedia. Known as Sergei to his friends, Ukramedia produces tutorials for After Effects and Cinema 4D which showcase ways to use said programs in ways you may not have thought before. His most recent tutorials involve shortcuts that AE users may not know of which can help you use the program more efficiently. I’m going to highlight shortcuts I learned from his three-part series. Hopefully, you can learn something new yourself.

20 Useful Tricks in After Effects You May Not Know About – Part 1

Align Tools

Using the alignment tools can save you time when you have multiple assets across the screen. Using the multiple alignment tools, you can use your mouse to put assets in place as you see fit. You can align your assets to the selection you have in your composition, or based on the dimensions of composition.

Scaling Multiple Keyframes (Alt + Click and drag)

With my keyframes selected, I can use the alt key and change the duration of my animation to be either shorter or longer. This is a much more efficient way to change your animation duration than having to move individual keyframes one by one.

22 Useful Tricks in After Effects You May Not Know About – Part 2

Center Anchor Point/Center in View

If you have ever dealt with text or shape layers, then you will know that anchor points on these layers shift depending on size or position not related to the Transform parameters. If you want to have your anchor point centered on these layers, hit Control+Alt+Home on a PC or Command+Option+Home on a Mac to center it. For positioning any layer in the center of the compositon, all you have to hit is Control+Home on a PC or Command+Home on a Mac to have it relocate to the center of the comp. I’ve found these shortcuts helpful when dealing with layer positioning and continue to use them regularly.

Default Render Setting

To change the default setting you see when you send a comp to the render queue, first send a composition to the queue. Control+click (command+click on a Mac) on the output module, and the next time you send a composition to the render queue it will have the last setting you used as its default setting.

Delete All Effects from Selected Layers

If you want to remove effects from your layers, you may be used to clicking on effects in the effect control panel and pressing the delete button. Well, you can actually remove them with the keyboard shortcut Control+Shift+E (Command+Shift+E) with the layer selected. This will remove all effects from your clip. If you only want one effect removed, then stick to the mouse click and delete method.

25 Useful Tricks in After Effects You May Not Know About – Part 3

Solo Properties/Hide Properties

If you have ever been in the situation where all the parameters are showing on your layer, it can be hard to read. What if you just want to focus on a few properties at once? Command click the properties you want and press SS on your keyboard to solo those properties. These selected properties will be visible until you click off of them. If you want to hide properties, all you have to do is hit Alt+Shift+click on the property to hide them. Knowing these shortcuts will clean up having to see multiple properties of layer when you don’t want to.

Save Frame as Photoshop Layer/Still

To save a frame of your composition as a Photoshop document or still image, park your playhead over the frame, go to Composition>Save Frame As>Photoshop Layers. This will bring the frame into the render queue and it will export as Photoshop document which you can modify to your liking. If you want something other than a Photoshop file, change the output module to a still codec and it will save it as a png or jpeg. In the past, when I needed to export a still image from After Effects, I would set my work area to one frame and export it like a normal comp. I’ve been using this method recently as it does not save a timecode to the title of the image.

Scroll Selected Layer To Top Of Timeline Panel

If you are ever in the situation where you are 50-100 layers deep into a composition, navigating the composition can be hard to deal with. If you want a particular layer to be at the top of the hirearchy, select it and press the X key. This will shift the layer to the top of the order until you navigate away from it.

Select and Deselect All Visible Keyframes

To select all the keyframes across multiple layers without using the mouse to select them, select the layers and hit Control+Alt+A (Command+Option+A on the Mac) to select all the keyframes. To deselect all your keyframes, select your layers and hit Control+Alt+Shift+A (Command+Option+Shift+A on the Mac). These shortcuts are very useful for when you need to select all your keyframes and a mouse select isn’t enough.

Sergei’s tips and tricks have reinvigorated how I look at After Effects and have also allowed me to dive in further into what it can do in a much broader viewpoint. I highly recommend you subscribe to his channel so that you can learn a few tips and tricks yourself.

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Greenscreen Compositing: Place Talent in Vehicles

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One of the benefits of using greenscreen is the ability to control the environment your talent is placed in. The amount of time, effort, and money it would cost to shoot in certain locations can be very expensive. Luckily, with a little pre-planning and a carefully executed shoot, greenscreen can put your talent wherever you need them to be. One of the unique places to put your talent is inside of a vehicle. The challenges in doing so are many. First, you have to remove the greenscreen through compositing filters. Then, you have to insert a background and any other elements to sell the composite as realistic. That’s easier said then done. With that being said, I will present some tutorials to help filmmakers place their talent inside of vehicles.

Inside of a Car

In this tutorial, filmmaker Lee Whitman shows us how to create a car driving shot using a greenscreen and native filters in After Effects. Using greenscreen for car shots is a common practice in Hollywood because of the difficulties of getting a good shoot of a car driving while focusing on the talent. In the tutorial, he has the greenscreen placed at the back end of the car so that he can key it out easily. From there, he masks out any additional set pieces that can interfere with the key. Using the bundled Keylight filter, he removes the greenscreen background which now allows him to place anything he wants in the background.

Now that he has his talent keyed, he can insert any background he wants. To help sell this composite, he uses some driving footage he captured from the perspective of the backseat, as well as some footage from the roof of his car. Using corner pin effects, the Levels filter, and blurs, he is able to create a convincing effect of his talent driving the car. When it comes to putting a talent in a vehicle, you have to think about the smallest details to make it believable, or your audience will be taken out of the moment.

If you have trouble shooting driving plates for your talent, look no further than the collection of plates from Artbeats. This collection features every perspective you need to make your talent look like they are driving down the road.

Inside of a Plane

In this tutorial, After Effects guru Andrew Kramer shows us how to create a believable tracking shot of two passengers inside of an airplane. First, he uses masking to isolate the talent from the tracking markers he has in place. Using a third party plugin from the Foundry, he tracks his points in 3D space and attaches a null object to them to use for tracking data. From there, he removes the greenscreen as well as the tracking markers to finish isolating his talent. Using high resolution images for his backgrounds, he constructs the inside of a plane which tracks to an outside shot of the plane’s wing and engine in 3D space. Adding elements like his free particle collection and his visual effects collection of Action Essentials, he goes further in making the composite believable.

This level of attention to detail is necessary when creating a shot where the camera moves. A simple key and background replacement for your greenscreen talent would not make this composite believable. Going the extra mile for even the smallest details has a big payoff in the end.

Inside of a Helicopter

On a recent project I worked on, I had to place my talent inside of a helicopter using greenscreen and some props to give the illusion he was flying it. This would have been a challenge had I not done some testing prior to the shoot and followed these steps accordingly:

Step 1: Key out your talent and insert any additional assets

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I first isolated my talent and the empty chair using masks and Keylight as you can see below. I duplicated my footage twice to make color changes to my empty chair and the talent so I can integrate them appropriately.

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From there, I added some stock images of passenger seats and placed them behind my talent. What I’m trying to accomplish with this composite is that this helicopter can carry multiple passengers.

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Step 2: Key out greenscreen helicopter and motion track

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Next, I used this 3D helicopter overlay. The background was blue and the windows were green. To properly key this, I needed two instances of Keylight with one focusing on the green and the other on the blue.

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Since I keyed out the windows, I needed to created the appearance of tinted windows. Using a solid layer and the track matte function, I created the windows. Using the Gradient Ramp filter, I used opacity and the Screen blend mode to fade it down. The last thing I did was created a null object and tracked the motion of the helicopter. I believed this was necessary so that my talent could match the movement of the helicopter, otherwise it would not look as believable.

Step 3: Combine your talent with vehicle asset

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In a new composition, I brought the composition of the helicopter and my talent with seats together. I parented the null object with the helicopter tracking data to my talent.

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Using solid layers and additional motion graphic elements, I created the back of the helicopter area so that it finished the illusion. I put it all together to finish the helicopter composite, and all that was left was to pair it with a background.

Step 4: Gather background asset and modify where needed

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Using a DJI Phantom 3 Professional drone, I flew around at high altitudes back and forth as well as up and down. Capturing the footage at 4K, this would give me the flexibility to scale in or out for my composite. After bringing it into After Effects, I treated the color levels with Colorista 3, and used an adjustment layer to add a slight blur.

Step 5: Finish the effect with background and talent

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Once I paired my helicopter composite together with the drone footage, I was close to finishing this visual effect. One of the few things that can cheapen something shot on greenscreen is edge lighting and color matching. Using filters from Key Correct Pro, I applied the Light Wrap and Color Matcher filters to blend my talent together with the background. With all of these steps combined I came to the result in the video below.

Placing your talent inside of a vehicle can be a very detail oriented composite, but when done right, you can make convincing composites that wouldn’t make the audience think twice. Next time you have a shoot where you have to place your talent inside of vehicle, consider using greenscreen to do it.

Sound Effects

After Effects Add-Ons

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Being one of the longest industry standard post production applications in the world, you would think After Effects would have every function to make your life as an artist easier. With the ability to create vector shapes, rotoscope, track in 2D/3D, and more, it is a pretty comprehensive application. However, on its own it can only do so much. That is why there is a community of developers who have created add-ons for After Effects to make the user experience more bearable than before. These add-ons can make animating multiple layers more efficient, the creation of a folder structure at the project, and other features. I’m going to highlight three of these add-ons.

Mister Horse Previewer

 

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This After Effects plugin is something that should have been in the program from the get go. With this plugin, you can view imported footage, images, and music in a separate panel and see the first frame of compositions. I can’t count how many times I wish I could quickly preview an asset without having to go through much hassle. Ever since I purchased this plugin, I feel more at ease when importing assets into After Effects knowing I can see them on their own without having to open the layer panel view them. You can purchase this plugin for $21 at Videohive.

True Comp Duplicator

 

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This is a script I’ve been using for the last two years and it has been an invaluable asset to my workflow. If you are a heavy After Effects user, you will know how much of a pain it can be to create duplicates of a composition which contain multiple precompositions. It’s not as simple as duplicating it from the project panel, unfortunately. What this script does is create a complete duplicate of a comp hierarchy, including sub-comps.  If a comp is used multiple times, the comp only gets duplicated once and all remaining references point to the first duplicate.  If the comps are arranged in a special folder hierarchy in the project panel, that folder hierarchy is preserved or duplicated (depending on user preference) for the duplicated comps.

Based on the tutorial provided by Lloyd Alvarez, this script is very in-depth and can is definitely a timesaver. The best part is that you can pay your own price to get this plugin.

Text Box Script

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This free script from Motion Boutique creates a rectangular box around a text layer. A modern look for infographics and other motion graphics involves text being inside of a box. This script helps speed up the process of creating shape layers around the length of your text. I’ve used this script on a few projects myself and it has been a blessing to use. All I have to do is create my separate text layers, plug in my parameters for the script, and voila! I have a text box graphic. Grab this script now and see where it fits in your workflow.

Sound Effects

Wrinkle & Basic Blemish Removal with Mocha AE and After Effects CC

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Beauty retouching has evolved throughout the ages. First, we had make up artists who would do their best to mask and cover various blemishes. Over time, it became possible to retouch photographs by hand to cover any blemishes the makeup artist was not able to clear. Now, we are not only able to retouch images, but high resolution video itself. Right now there is a growing niche market of beauty retouchers and artists taking on the role of a “digital make up artist,” retouching and removing various wrinkles, blemishes, shine, and more. I will show you how to remove wrinkles and basic blemishes using a combination of Mocha AE and After Effects CC in three easy steps:

– Create a Main Track in Mocha

– Create cover layers in Mocha

– Export and Composite in After Effects

 CREATE A MAIN TRACK IN MOCHA

With your footage in Mocha, first look at your subject and decide where exactly your will be focusing.

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Looking at my subject, I can see she has some general light blemish marks along her left cheek. Additionally, as she scrunches up her mouth she creates a dimple in the corner of her mouth which will act as a good “wrinkle” example for us, as well to show the range of this techniques use.

The goal here is to smooth out that dimple in the corner of her mouth while also blending away those light blemishes along her cheek. In the footage, she keeps her head in that general direction. This allows certain features of the face to be ideal for motion tracking, such as the eyebrows, chin, and nose (the ear and hairline is also good, however, in this sample the hair is covered by the ear and the wind is blowing her hair around her forehead, making these options not possible). Using the X spline tool, create a generic shape around the eyebrows, chin, and nose and TRACK FORWARD.

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You can label that layer in your LAYERS PANEL as MAIN TRACKER to help stay organized. We will not create an additional layer that we can animate over the course of the clip while linking it to the Main tracker for general motion.

CREATE COVER LAYER IN MOCHA

The Main track is to capture the overall movement of the camera and of subject’s head and face. Throughout the clip, the subject moves their mouth slightly with a few other facial muscles contorting. We need to create a cover layer that will focus on the wrinkle and blemish area while also remaining flexible as the subject contorts their face and mouth. From here, I am going to create a cover layer focusing on the areas mentioned.

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The mask at first seems a bit jagged, so highlight all the points, right click, and go to POINT > SMOOTH

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Now, make sure you have that new cover layer highlighted and go to LINK TO TRACK > MAIN TRACKER. This will now link the cover layer to the main tracker allowing it to follow along with the camera and facial movement. For the fine tuning of the face contorting throughout the clip, scrub through the footage. As you see the mask intersecting with areas of the mouth and her movement, grab the points and adjust accordingly. This will create a keyframe on the timeline indicating that the mask will be in that form at that exact point on the timeline. Continue to scrub through the footage adjusting all remaining points as needed.

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Once you think you are finished, let the footage playback a few times and watch the facial movements against your keyframed layer to make sure everything meets your expectations.

EXPORT AND COMPOSITE IN AFTER EFFECTS

Once you are ready to export the cover layer, go to EXPORT SHAPE DATA located in the lower right of the program window. At the pop up window choose COPY TO CLIPBOARD.

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Back in After Effects, create a new Adjustment Layer (CMD + OPT + Y) and then paste the mocha mask shape onto the adjustment layer by going to EDIT > PASTE MOCHA MASK.

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With the cover layer now composited on top of your source clip in After Effects, go ahead and add a BOX BLUR to the Adjustment Layer. Increase the BLUR RADIUS to 10 and open the mask settings and feather the edges to about 15.

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And now take a look at with the cover layer on and off

ON

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OFF

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You can see the blemishes have been removed and there is a general smoothness to the dimple around her mouth as well. As you increase the BLUR RADIUS, you can further smooth out the wrinkle. Be warned that increasing this too much will distort the image and will not look realistic whatsoever. You’ll need to use finesse. In another lesson, I will go into more detail on how to eliminate glaring blemishes, scars, and birth marks.

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Scar Blemish and Birthmark Removal in Mocha and After Effects CC

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In this day and age of digital revolution, it should be no surprise that make up artists are not the only coverage actors and actresses receive these days for blemishes, scars, shine, wrinkles, and more. Digital beauty retouching is a growing niche market where VFX artists are now able to accurately track the motion of their subjects face throughout the course of the video clip, and then isolate the blemished areas and clean them up further and more accurate than any makeup can cover. In a previous tutorial, I showed how to create a basic cover that can eliminate wrinkles and basic textured blemishes. In this tutorial, I wanted to focus on the harsher blemishes, scars, and birth marks that tend to stand out more prominently, and need some more direct care to treat.

I will break the technique down into three steps:

– Creating an isolated primary track

– Creating a Linked Mask of a Clear Area

– Exporting and Final Composite in After Effects

CREATING AN ISOLATED PRIMARY MASK

With your footage in Mocha, we are first going to create an isolated mask around the prominent blemish, scar, or birthmark. In my sample footage I am going to focus on two areas – one blemish and one mole as an example.

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In the previous, I had you create a general track mask around the whole face. This time, since the blemish area is so prominent, you can zoom in and create a mask just around the problem area itself using the X spline.

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Below the timeline you will find a set of arrows with a letter T by them indicating Track forward and backward. Go ahead and track forward to the end of the clip.

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In your layers panel you can rename the layers to BLEMISH 1 & BLEMISH 2 just to keep things organized.

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CREATING A LINKED MASK OF A CLEAR AREA

Using this tracked data, we are now going to create new layer masks just slightly next to the source blemishes in order to capture a blemish-free and clear reference area to composite over the blemish itself. With the X spline tool, go ahead and create a new layer mask just next to each isolated blemish.

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I also went ahead and changed the color of the cover mask to a blue and renamed the layers to COVER 1 & COVER 2 to keep things organized.

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At this point, LINK both COVER 1 and COVER 2 with their partnering BLEMISH 1 and BLEMISH 2. That way, both covers follow along perfectly with their blemish counterparts.

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Scrub through the footage or simply let it playback and make sure both covers follow perfectly.

EXPORTING AND FINAL COMPOSITE

In this situation you will want to export each cover layer one at a time because you will be compositing each potentially slightly different from one another and will need individual control. With the first cover layer selected, go to EXPORT SHAPE DATA in the lower right of the program window, select it, and choose COPY TO CLIPBOARD on the pop up window.

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Back in after effects we are going to DUPLICATE the source video (CMD + D). With the duplicate video selected go to EDIT > PASTE MOCHA MASK.

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Zoom in on the cover mask and now click and drag the mask over the blemish.

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Open up the Mask controls under the duplicate layer and increase the feather and slightly decrease the expansion. You can also SOLO the layer to see how much feather you are applying.

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You can now play back the video and make sure the feather and expansion amount is adjusted appropriately so that it looks natural and properly covers the blemish. Repeat the process for Blem 2 and for any other scar or birth mark you need to digitally remove.

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