Navigating the Landscape of Royalty Free Music

3 Tips To Make Your Life Easier

Any seasoned editor will tell you that finding music for a client is the bane of their existence.  They will also tell you it’s the most time spent with the least amount of pay off.  Hearing things like, “I don’t totally hate it,” or “well it’s not totally terrible” or my personal favorite, “love the cut, hate the music” regarding a cut you show a client that was supposed to be ‘final’ draft, will induce responses that are unbecoming of the totally ‘sane’ people we editors are.  I say ‘sane’ lightheartedly as we all know you have to be a little crazy to enjoy sitting in Premiere sifting through your client’s content, trying to piece together a puzzle that would make Walter Murch proud.  

Through years of experience, I’ve come up with three easy steps to steer you in the right direction for when you put on your newly delegated ‘producer’ hat and have to scrape the Internet for the perfect track or sound effects that will help you sell your edit.

#1: Know Your Client

This may not always be easy, especially with a new client, but knowing their taste in music is super helpful!  This goes far beyond that though and reaches deeper than knowing their genre of choice.  I don’t have to tell you that music and the psychology of sound are way deeper than the music itself.  Knowing things like the client’s age and upbringing, types of film they enjoy, and what their favorite color is, etc. will help you to determine their musical taste.  Now obviously you won’t always get a chance to do extensive research on your client, nor will you always get to hand them a questionnaire that will answer some of these things.  But as anyone who has read this far will know, nowadays we are more than likely the videographers shooting, as well as the editors, and we tend to wear multiple hats throughout production.  I often tell my clients that I’d like to be on set during the shoot days if I’m not the one shooting, just so I can better understand them and their vibe.  Simple things like letting them choose the music on set, or discussing favorite films, colors and clothing/fashion can all be super useful pieces of information that can be gleaned simply by you being there on set interacting with them.

#2: Know your Footage/Content

This one should be obvious as an editor, but I’d be lying to you if I told you every edit I do, I sift through all the footage and watch ALL of it.  We of course scrub through a majority of it, but in today’s fast-paced environment of Post production, where they wanted it yesterday, it’s hard to view it all.  There are a few key things to check for that can really help you understand the intention/direction of the edit and thus start you in the right direction for your music search.  

The first and obviously most telling thing, is frame rate.  I shoot and edit a variety of content from underwater, to fashion, to narrative, and one thing that’s always changing is the frame rate.  For the majority of my fashion clients, I shoot in slow motion for a couple of reasons, one to help smooth out less than ideal camera work when clients don’t want to pay for a Free Fly Systems movi pro gimbal and/or ready rig vest for stabilization, and two because life is just more sexy in slow motion. (If it wasn’t, the infamous Baywatch running scene wouldn’t have been a thing.)  Based off of that info alone, I know a slower song is in order to match the mood and vibe of the slow-motion footage.

Another key piece of information to look for in footage is color. How did the DP light the scene? Did he have a lot of color contrast? Is it heavily gelled, or are the color palettes neutral?  This is hard to assess if you’re looking at log or raw footage but hopefully your DP was nice to you and shot proxies with a look baked in so you can get a sense of what he was going for.  Better yet, maybe he was nice enough to give you the LUT he was using to monitor color on set.  By looking at the color, you can begin to get a feel for the mood of the piece, which again, gets you started in the right direction for your musical hunt.

#3: Know your Audience/Target Market

Now this one can be difficult because with the ‘budget squeezing’ we’ve been seeing in our industry, more and more clients are creating less content and pitching it to all the markets, hoping it will land with a few of them. But if the client has a target market in mind for the content, this can be extremely helpful.  For example, one of the brands I work for is a rental-based fashion brand.  Their customers can rent ‘looks’ for the month and can either return them or can purchase and keep their look permanently.  This knowledge helps me understand their target market a bit better and since it’s fashion client, I know the content is going to be seasonal and trend driven. 

That’s an example for one type of client and content creation, while another example is my underwater shooting.  This tends to be slow motion and depending on where I’m diving, determines the water color, either green or blue, which addresses step one and two, but leaves it open ended on step three the ‘target audience’.  For most of my underwater personal work (i.e. not for TV or commercials) I have a theme of conservation, therefore I can better determine my target audience.  With conservation you want to reach a broad audience. You want the older generations to see and hear your message but really, I think it’s more important for the younger generations to see and hear the message.  They are the future, will be coming into voting power, and will be the ones most affected by climate change.  Therefore, my target audience, although broad, will lean towards a younger market.

These tips are the first three areas I consider before I begin my music search, and honestly, it helps me cut my time in half.  An added benefit is it also allows me to find songs for later projects as I’m browsing for the current project, since I’ve come to learn my repeat client’s aesthetics, style, and target audience.  I’ll have days where I’m browsing through AudioMicro.com and I’ll hear a song that may not be right for my fashion client, but would be perfect for that sustainable fish sourcing project I’m working on, so I’ll download it and save it for later.

Hopefully, these tips help you navigate your way through the bumpy seas of finding royalty free music for your client video projects.  Thanks for reading.

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Ryan Waller is a true nomadic soul, at heart. Finding his grounding in the world of film and motion production, Ryan has been working passionately as a colorist and editor in Los Angeles, California. Ryan’s first love though is and always has been the sea. When he isn’t working on land as a filmmaker and artist, Ryan is leading expeditions on the water teaching people the values of sustainable fishing and proper ecological practices. His merging of art and water has helped him become one of the predominant water based motion picture artists in Los Angeles.

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.

8 Bit TV Interference Background

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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Morph Cut Transitions

NLEs

Jump cuts can be a pain to deal with when cutting interviews and other types of video projects. Sometimes your talent talks too long or you need to hide unnecessary motion. All conventional wisdom says the best way to hide a jump cut is to use a cutaway or b-roll. I wholeheartedly agree and use that wisdom quite often in my own work. However, there are times when those options don’t exist and you are left with jarring jump cuts that can distract or interrupt the piece. Thanks to technological advances in editing software, there are ways to hide a jump using a Morph Cut transition. I’m going to highlight how each of the three top NLEs on the market are able to do this.

Avid Media Composer Fluid Morph

The Fluid Morph effect predates any other morph cut transition that has been brought to the market lately. In this tutorial, GeniusDV master trainer Jon Lynn shows us how to use the Fluid Morph effect to hide jump cuts on an interview clip. First, he makes blade edits at certain points, and then adds the Fluid Morph effect. In the Effect Mode panel, he changes a few parameters and sets the duration to three frames long. After a quick render, you see that the Fluid Morph was able to hide the jump cut in the interview. From what I know about diehard users of Media Composer, this effect exists in many of their favorite effects bins.

Adobe Premiere Pro Morph Cut

Introduced back in April 2015, the new Premiere Pro Morph Cut transition works to hide jump cuts between edits. Located in the Dissolve category of Video Transitions section, this transition analyzes in the background and attempts to morph frames together to create a seamless transition from multiple frames. From personal experience, I’ve found this transition works best on interviews with static backgrounds and not a lot of motion from the talent. Otherwise, it can be a hot mess when applied. Overall, I see this transition getting better with time as Adobe engineers improve the code base.

Final Cut Pro X mMorph Cut

This recent release from MotionVFX brings Morph Cut transitions to the world of Final Cut Pro X. For just $59, you can salvage interviews from long pauses, stutters, and mistakes. The transition works fluidly to fill gaps and instantly smooth out shots. I haven’t had a chance to try it out myself, but based on the demos I’ve seen, this seems like a must-have for editors who do a lot of interview work. With all the innovation that FCPX has brought to the table, I was a bit surprised that it took this long to finally get this plugin. I’ve seen tutorials where it was possible to do this but it seemed rather tedious in execution. It’s good to see that FCPX has this ability.

From what you have seen here, the Morph Cut method of hiding a jump cut can work depending on the footage and the circumstances on which you use it. While not perfect by any means, it is a method that can be called upon to smooth out an interview or other type of video project. Try using the Morph Cut method on your next video project and see how it effects your final edit.

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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.

Royalty Free Music

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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Creating Fire Heat Waves in AE CC

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Fire is a common element VFX artists need to work with in television, film, commercial, and web content. In a previous lesson, we looked at where to find fire elements and how to quickly composite them into your scene. In this lesson we are going to take the fire composite one step further and add heat waves into our scene. Adding heat waves is more of a judgement call made by the compositor if he feels the element is necessary. But in the case of a larger, hotter fire, the area above and surrounding the flame becomes slightly distorted from heat rippling in gas form.

To create this heat rippling effect, we first want to create a new solid in our composition (I named mine DISPLACEMENT) and then go to EFFECT > SIMULATION > PARTICLE PLAYGROUND.

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That red funnel is called the CANON. Move the canon to the core of your heat source (in my comp I am using the fire element as my source).

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First thing you will want to do is increase the BARREL RADIUS so that the particles stretch horizontally with the width of the heat source. Increasing the barrel radius will stretch the particles in both X & Y directions. Using the POSITION controls, adjust the particles to begin at the base of the of the heat source (not below it).

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Now we need the particles to increase and match the speed of the heat source (in my case the fire). To do that, increase the velocity in the particle playground settings (aka speed) of the particles. For me, somewhere around 150 did the trick. The particle speed now looks good, but towards the end of the particle’s life it begins to slow and dip back down. I want the particle to continue a smooth trend upward. To fix this, I can reduce the particles GRAVITY FORCE to 0. With the gravity set to 0, there is no source to pull the particle back down to earth.

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The last thing you will want to do with the particle playground itself would be to increase the PARTICLE RADIUS to around seven or so. The size of the particle will determine the size of the wave. Keep this in mind as you decide how subtle or obvious you want this heat wave to appear.

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With our particle system running the way we want it, let’s duplicate it!  We will want to change the duplicate particle from RED to GREEN and adjust the velocity setting slightly so that it doesn’t follow the exact same path as the first particle system.

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We now need to pre-compose these two particle systems together by highlighting both in the timeline and hitting COMMAND+SHIFT+C on the keyboard. Be sure to move all attributes and name this as WAVES COMP.

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To finish, select the WAVES COMP and go to EFFECTS > DISTORT > DISPLACEMENT MAP. Under the effect controls, go to DISPLACEMENT MAP LAYER and change it to WAVES COMP. This will use the WAVES COMP as its reading source for the displacement; thus creating the heat waves. To control the amount of displacement, you can increase and decrease the vertical and horizontal displacement controls to your liking. There you go! Heat Waves!

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Finding & Compositing Fire Elements in AE CC

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Digitally composited fire is a common element that comes up regularly in television, film, commercial advertising, and web content. For obvious reasons, it is much safer than dealing with real fire, and generally it is significantly cheaper than dealing with practical live flames, which always includ additional expensive permits and safety staff on set. That is why it’s a must for VFX artists to understand where to get fire elements for use, how to composite them, and how to add that extra lively touch of heat waves coming off the flames.

WHERE TO FIND FIRE ELEMENTS?

Digital fire elements are easy to find. One of the most common fire element packages comes from VideoCopilot.net’s Action Essentials 2. The package additionally comes with other action elements including: smoke, muzzle flashes, bullet casings, explosions, and more. The 720p version is available for only $99.95, and the 2k version is only $249.95.

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MotionElements.com is another good resource for purchasing royalty free digital elements a la carte style. A quick search for fire video elements brought up hundreds of results ranging in price and quality. What I like particularly about this site is they also offer 30 FREE elements weekly via email, and occasionally fire elements come at no cost to you whatsoever. Check it out and sign up!

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ArtBeats.com operates similar to Motion Elements pay-per-item service. The footage here is generally better, but it also comes with a price. The old adage of “You get what you pay for” is true in this case, and with Art Beats you get the absolute best.

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HOW TO COMPOSITE FIRE

To composite a fire element, we first start out with our scene in After Effects CC. Here, I am using a personal stock photo of a pumpkin farm.

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From there, I am going to navigate to my Action Essentials Fire element on my computer’s hard drive and drag and drop it into my scene.

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To start compositing the fire into the scene, we obviously need to get rid of all the black. To do so, simply right click on the element in your timeline and change the BLENDING MODE to ADD.

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From there we want to adjust the SCALE and POSITION to line up the fire where we want it to go. For me, the fire element is a big too long for what I need so I am also going to use the PEN TOOL and create a MASK only around what I need and FEATHER the edge.

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Right now the fire still seems a bit flat, so to give it some pop I am going to add a glow. To do that, with your fire element selected in the timeline, go to EFFECT > STYLIZE > GLOW. Increase the GLOW RADIUS to your preference (I went around 150).

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In future lessons we will look at adding heat waves and smoke. As they are released, I will also add links to those tutorials here.

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FCPX to AE & Avid to AE

FCPX-AE & Avid-AE

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

Screen Shot 2015-09-18 at 10.03.12 AM

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.

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