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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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

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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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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

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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Best Drones for Filmmaking

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In this new era of filmmaking, getting complex shots has become much easier thanks to technological advances made by vendors across the world. It’s more affordable to get a rising shot thanks to jibs and cranes that are accessible to even the most low budget filmmakers. Getting stabilized shots are easier now thanks to amount of rigs available. Aerial shots have now become cheaper due to the influx of drones available on the market. I want to highlight some drones you may want to consider adding to your filmmaking kit so that you can increase your production value.

DJI Phantom 3 Advanced/Professional $1,3000

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This aerial drone is a new release from DJI and can capture great high quality footage from great distances. What makes this drone so popular is the following:

  • 3 Axis Gimbal camera which shoots HD (for the Advanced model) or 4K (for the Professional model)
  • Captures photographs at 12 megapixels
  • Live HD camera view via smartphone or tablet attached to the remote controller through the DJI app
  • Vision positioning through visual and ultrasonic sensors
  • Intelligent Battery with battery level indicator
  • Worry-free AutoPilot

As an owner of the DJI Phantom 3 Pro, I can attest to the incredible media captured with this camera. Within three days of learning to fly this drone, I was capturing great aerial shots that I would have had to pay a helicopter pilot to capture. With a $1,300 price tag, it is a steal for what you get from this drone. I would personally recommend this model for any prosumer or high end shooter who needs to capture aerial shots of client locations.

 

DJI Inspire 1 $3,399

 

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The DJI Inspire 1 is the more advanced and expensive model of the Phantom models offered. This drone is designed with strong carbon fiber arms and gives the user a full 360 unrestricted view when in flight. The Inspire features:

  • 3 axis gimbal 4K camera which shoots up to 30 fps, or 1080p up to 60 fps and takes photos at 12 MP
  • Optional dual remote control function
  • Powerful propulsion system
  • HD wireless video transmission
  • Vision Position system
  • Intelligent Power Management system

If I had the expenses, I would have considered investing in this. I would definitely say that this model is meant for high end, big budget filmmakers that have the funds to afford it.

3DR Solo Quadcopter $999.95

 

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The 3DR Solo is an all-in-one personal drone with a great ease of use and powerful new features. Within these powerful features are the following:

  • Computer assisted cinematography through the Solo app
  • Attach a GoPro to gimbal harness and stream HD video from your GoPro to your iOS or Android mobile device, at ranges of up to half a mile.
  • Easy to use aerial photography controller
  • Powerful smart battery which displays remaining time
  • Up to 20 minutes of flight time with GoPro attached

I haven’t had the opportunity to try this drone, but based on the preview video above and the feature list, it has a lot to offer. With the ability to mount a GoPro, you know what type of quality you are getting. With a price tag of $1,000, you are getting an advanced video production tool that will give see a greater return.

Overall, these three drone models are great if you want to add aerial videography to your business and skill set. I’ve only began my journey into aerial photography, but already I feel that it has added much value to my current projects. I look forward to seeing what I can do next.

Royalty Free Music

Using Adobe Hue CC

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Adobe recently released their Creative Cloud 2015 update, and it came with a whole new bunch of apps for your smart device that partner up with your full applications. One new and powerful app is Adobe Hue CC, which allows you to take a photo using your smart device, select a color swatch from the photo, and apply it as a color hue to your video footage via applications such as Premier Pro CC and Adobe After Effects CC. In this tutorial, I will show you how to operate the app and then apply a hue to your footage in After Effects in three simple steps:

– Understanding Adobe Hue

– Capturing an image with Adobe Hue

– Applying the look to your footage

UNDERSTANDING ADOBE HUE

Adobe Hue CC is a recently released app in conjunction with the 2015 application updates to Creative Cloud. The app works with your smart devices (currently only Apple products) and allows you to capture an image with the device’s camera, and then allow you to take the color data and apply it to your video footage.

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Here is a quick overview of how the app performs.

CAPTURING AN IMAGE WITH ADOBE HUE

The app itself is very intuitive. Simply open the app and give it permission to use your smart device’s camera. Once the camera is opened just point and shoot.

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You will notice as you point the camera there are a series of color orbs floating in the image. These are the swatches that are sampling the color data from the image you are providing. Once you snap the photo, you will be taken to a page with a stock sample image and the same color data swatches. Here, you can test and choose which color hue is best suited for your needs. In addition, you are able to increase and decrease the amount of the applied effect with the slider control, and even upload additional reference photos or videos to preview with your look.

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When you are happy with the look, simply select the CHECKMARK icon at the bottom of the screen and you will be taken to your LIBRARIES page. Here, you are able to review your looks, edit them with alternative color data swatches, and create and categorize new libraries as needed.

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APPLYING THE LOOK TO YOUR FOOTAGE

Back in Adobe After Effects CC, you are now able to load up and work with your footage as usual. However, next to the EFFECTS & PRESETS tab you will now notice a new tab for LIBRARIES.

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Here you will find all the looks you have created on your Adobe Hue CC app. To apply the look to your footage, simply drag and drop the look directly onto the footage, or first create an adjustment, and apply the look to the adjustment layer.

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If you twirl open the layer you can go through EFFECTS and see what options you have. You can adjust the opacity of the look – which simply means you are able to fade off the look and blend it more with the original footage if the look is too intense or needed to be keyed on or off over time. You also can create a mask around a section of your footage and set the MASK REFERENCE to use the mask you create to apply the look only to the masked region on the footage.

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Overall, I find the app extremely intuitive and provides the ability to apply the looks I find in everyday life to a project I am working on. This is most definitely a welcomed addition to the already very powerful Creative Cloud line up.

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Luca Visual FX Hi-Tech Overlays

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The team at Luca Visual FX have been working hard to bring a new product to the market that will benefit post production professionals across Mac and PC computers. It is Hi-Tech Overlays. This product line expands the alpha transitions and overlays that LVFX created in the past. This update brings a new model for users to access the elements they need at a moment’s notice. I’ve had a chance to preview the new library and had a chat with the guys of LVFX. Here are a few questions users may have.

What are Hi-Tech Overlays?

It is an alternative solution to our Hi-Tech plugins for FCPX that provides users of software such as Premiere Pro, Avid Media Composer, After Effects, Motion, and Final Cut Pro a way to build Hi-Tech mographs for promos, sci-fi, music videos, news and sport, corporate productions, and more.

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I see that you implemented a new system for the users to access the product. Tell us about it.

Yes, all mographs and images are provided in full resolution and the user will download from our web site only what they need any time they wish, right from the moment of purchase. We started working on this new way of delivering a product in December 2013 and hope to provide the easiest and most convenient way for our users to access a vast library of interchangeable mographs and images.

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Will the library be based on a subscription that you pay monthly, or is there a lifetime license?

No monthly subscriptions to pay, but only a single lifetime license that people can easily purchase on our web site. The user will receive unique and safe login details shortly after completing the payment, and will be able to download both Hi-Tech default looks of effects like holograms, displays, sci-fi mographs, fractals, etc., and individual elements to customize and combine as desired. The library also includes High-Tech Elements Vol.1.

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I have issues with Quicktime on my PC. Is it possible to get the Overlays in a different format?

All files are delivered as .mov, so as long as the user has Quicktime correctly installed everything should work correctly.

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Will there be tutorials on how to achieve the results you showed in the demo?

Yes, we have already edited four of them and more will come. They show how to customize not only the elements, but also how to combine them creatively in order to create unique looks. The first four are available on VIMEO.

If I own the FCPX templates of this product, is there a way to get access to this library to get additional elements?

Hi-Tech Overlays is essentially a cross-platform alternative to Hi-Tech for FCPX that will work with more hosts. FCPX users would find in the library what they have already in the form of FCPX templates. There are, however, several advantages in using individual layers. We also intend to expand the library and add more and more elements for our users. Should FCPX users wish to access the library in order to handle individual layers, we recommend to email support@lucavisualfx.com with their request.

What manipulation options would allow you to get the best results with Hi-Tech Overlays (i.e color change, distortion, time remapping, etc.)?

There are tons of ways to modify the overlays. The only limit is one’s creativity. For example, with filters, the user can indeed change the color and distort (some examples can be seen on the demo) but also add glow, blur, and many other stylizations. Another way to create unique compositions is to combine individual elements taken from different categories (i.e. Holograms and sci-fi overlays or Screens and Fractals, you name it), use blend modes to create nice superimpositions and layers. Another great advantage that not even the FCPX template can offer in such extent is the use of any transition you can think of in order to create your own Build-In and Build-Out at the beginning and end of your composition. An example is shown at the very beginning of the demo where all elements come together in different ways. Possibilities are endless!

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Do these elements come with embedded alpha transparency? If they don’t, what would be the best practice for getting transparency?

Yes, absolutely, the alpha channel comes with every single element of Hi-Tech Overlays.

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Overall, I believe Hi-Tech Overlays will definitely be a product with infinite possibilities for the user. The amount of ways you can mix and match the elements will definitely draw the user to think outside the box when they apply mograph to their projects. I strongly recommend that you try experimenting with different colors and manipulation effects to see how far you can push each element. In the process, you may create a unique look that wasn’t thought of before.

Royalty Free Music

New Features in FCPX 10.2

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

FCPX: 3D Text

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

FCPX: Save Effects Preset

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

FCPX: Improved Masks & Color Correction Effect

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

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

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

Royalty Free Music

Rotoscoping with Silhouette FX

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Rotoscoping is the process of tracing over footage, frame by frame, in order to create a matte to be used as an element for compositing over another background. Think of it this way; say you have a three second video clip of a golfer hitting a ball. If you wanted to place that golfer on an alien planet, or deep underwater, playing a round of golf, then you would need to go frame by frame tracing around the golfer swinging his club and then composite over the new background. Rotoscoping is a time intensive process. With the example of the three second video clip of the golfer, at the standard rate of 24 frames per second, that means you would need to rotoscope 72 frames to complete the sequence. In the past, I’ve showed you how to use the rotobrush in After Effects. However, with longer sequences, it’s better to use a dedicated roto program such as Silhouette FX. In this tutorial, I am going to show you the basics of roto with Silhouette FX in two simple steps:

– Breaking the image down into Shapes

– Moving Shapes throughout the Sequence

*Before we begin, if you need help setting up your shot, or need some initial background on Silhouette FX, I would recommend you refer to a previous tutorial I posted titled “Creating an Alpha in Silhouette FX” which you can review here.

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BREAKING THE IMAGE DOWN INTO SHAPES

Once you import your media and setup a new session, you will need to select your spline tool from the left hand side of the canvas window. Your options are B spline, X spline, or Bezier. Please note that if you intend to import the roto’d footage into NUKE for compositing, then you will want to avoid using the X spline tool as there seems to be issues with NUKE interrupting those particular splines. I would recommend going with the B spline in that instance.

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Whichever tool you decide to use is up to you, however, the technique is universally the same. A successful roto is built upon breaking the image down into a series of shapes. In this example of a video clip of some hands, I will focus on the left hand first and break down each finger into a series of ovals and curves that contours around the joints.

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This is because as the video clip progresses and the hand begins to move and flex, moving individual shapes located around the anatomical joints is much easier than trying to create one large outlining shape around the entire hand and trying to move that frame by frame. It doesn’t matter what the roto subject is – a hand, a face, a machine, a book – it is your job as the roto artist to visually break down the subject into a series of shapes and animate those shapes over the course of the footage.

MOVING SHAPES THROUGHOUT THE SEQUENCE

At the bottom of Silhouette you will see the TIMELINE. This is where you will be able to visually see all the keyframes and movements you are making with the shapes throughout the sequence.

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Here are the playback controls:

X – Move one frame forward

Z – Move one frame backward

L – play video forward

K – pause video playback

J – rewind video playback

You can also zoom in and out of your image with ‘I’ and ‘O,’ and SPACEBAR allows you to pan around the image as needed.

As you move forward frame by frame you will not be using the X spline or Bezier tool to move the shapes you created. Instead, you will be using the Transform tool or the Reshape tool:

T – transform Tool > creates a box form around your shape allowing you to manipulate the corners of the box in order to stretch and form the shape. This is ideal for most simple movements between frames. The more basic movements you make, the less chance there is for “jitter,” which is an anchor point from one of your shapes jumping around from being manipulated wrong throughout the sequence.

R – Reshape Tool > this tool allows you to manipulate the individual anchor points of each shape. This should be a last resort method of moving a shape and only needs to be used in shapes that have extreme changes that cannot be captured using the transform tool. An example would be an article of clothing where a wrinkle appears for a few frames and then disappears.

To summarize, you will be using the X and Z keys to move forward and backward one frame at a time and using the Transform tool to move the shapes to capture broad movements, or the Reshape tool to capture fine details. Once your finished, use the J,K, and L keys to playback the footage and watch the shapes to make sure they stay on track with the roto subject. If there is an issue, simply stop the play back and make the adjustment as needed.

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Creating an Alpha Matte in Silhouette FX

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An Alpha Matte is a black and white piece of footage that instructs a program what is transparent or opaque. Think of a family photo – say you took that photo of you and your family in your living room, but you wish you could place them in a more exciting environment. By creating an alpha matte you can instruct a program, such as Adobe After Effects, to only see you and your family and make the background completely transparent. Thus, allowing you to insert a new and exciting background – outer space, the jungle, Paris, etc. I will show you how to create an alpha matte using Silhouette FX in three simple steps:

– Setting up a New Session

– Creating the Alpha Matte

– Exporting the Alpha Matte

SETTING UP A NEW SESSION

When you first open Silhouette FX you will need to import the footage you intend to roto – this may be a video clip or a sequence of JPEGs or DPX images. For this example I will be creating an alpha matte from a single image. To import the footage go to FILE > IMPORT > MEDIA, and then navigate to the desired footage and select OPEN.

You will notice the footage is then added to your PROJECT PANEL for visual reference. At this point, you need to open a new session with this media before you can start to create your matte – think of a new session as a new composition if you are more familiar with an Adobe After Effects pipeline. To create a new session, simply go to SESSION in the top toolbar and select NEW SESSION (or hotkey COMMAND + N). An info window will pop up allowing you to name the session and adjust any settings needed. For this training exercise, keep all the default settings and leave only ROTO checked as the available Node.

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CREATING THE ALPHA MATTE

Now that you are ready to create the alpha matte you will notice a set of tools located on the upper left hand side of the canvas window.

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About halfway down that list you will see an icon that looks like a dot with a curved line and an x – this is the X SPLINE TOOL. Just beneath that is the BEZIER TOOL.

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Both tools are sufficient in completing this task. If you use Photoshop you most likely already know all the subtleties and tricks behind them. I find the X Spline tool better suited for rotoscoping human anatomy. However, if you intend to export your matte to composite into NUKE, there tends to be some ingest errors as X Splines are not supported in NUKE and, in turn, attempts to be converted into faulty Beziers.

To use either tool simply click and select it from the tool set, navigate over the canvas image and click to create an ANCHOR POINT. Move your mouse and click again to create a second ANCHOR POINT. Now you’ll notice a line is connecting the two points. Continue to click around to create your desired shape and finish by returning to the first anchor point you created. Click on it one final time to close and create an OBJECT.

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OBJECTS you create are then stored in the OBJECT LIST window located to the right of your screen.

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You will also notice in the lower right of the OBJECT LIST window is a ‘+” icon – if you click on it you will create a LAYER. You can highlight shapes and drag and store them in these layers you create. Layers are helpful to help sort all of the objects you create for quick reference and control.

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It’s good to break your image down into a series of objects instead of trying to outline the entire subject with one giant outline. It is easier to make adjustments to isolated shapes.

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EXPORTING THE ALPHA MATTE

Once your alpha matte is finished, you are ready to export. Simply go to SESSION > RENDER SESSION (or hotkey COMMAND + R).

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You will be presented with a Render Options window. To ensure you are getting just the alpha matte, uncheck COLOR and make sure ALPHA is the only format checked. For format type, use the drop down menu to select TIFF. Change the range to CURRENT FRAME. Finally, to finish under output, you can select the three dots next to DIRECTORY to be able to set your render destination, input a FILENAME, and hit APPLY.

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You have now successfully created and exported your alpha matte. From here, you can import the matte into another software program, such as Adobe After Effects, and combine the matte with the original image in order to eliminate the background and continue to composite as needed.

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Quick Blemish Removal in After Effects CC

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Most people, including myself, have some sort of blemish, scar, or imperfection they wish they could keep from showing up on camera. After Effects CC has developed a new matte tracking process that makes removing unsightly blemishes a breeze. In this tutorial I will show you how to complete the effect in three simple steps.

–       Creating the Matte

–       Tracking the Matte

–       Removing the Blemish

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CREATING THE MATTE

To start, lets create a new composition with our footage and take a closer look at what needs to be retouched.

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In this clip I can see we need to do some blemish removal in the cheeks and along the jaw line. Additionally, if you notice near the right ear (stage left) there is a long stray hair we can also quickly take care of with this technique. For now, let’s focus on his right cheek (stage left).

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Essentially, the process is simple but time consuming. We need to focus on each blemish individually, and create a sample clean area that matches the blemished area to be superimposed and smoothed over on top to create a seamless appearance. To do that, first DUPLICATE THE SOURCE FOOTAGE. We will need to duplicate the source footage EACH AND EVERY TIME we need to create a new blemish cover. Then, create a mask that isolates the blemish and the extends out to take a sample of the clean surrounding area; just as this picture shows in detail.

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TRACKING THE MATTE

By isolating the blemish in the matte it creates a great tracking marker for the program to follow. Now, RIGHT CLICK on the matte and choose TRACK MASK.

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A window in the lower right will now appear with TRACKER CONTROLS

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The default method tracks position, scale, and rotation which will be fine for this example. Next to ANALYZE, select the forward arrow and allow After Effects CC to track the mask throughout the duration of the clip.

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In your timeline, this will create a series of keyframes tracking the mask to your subjects movement. It is important to have a perfect track in order to ensure the blemish cover moves along with the subject to create a seamless and clean appearance. If the track was unsuccessful, some helpful tips would include:

–       Analyze frame by frame and move the mask manually back on point when it loses its subject to ensure a locked track.

–       Start at the end of the timeline and analyze backwards (sometimes starting with a different point in time helps the computer algorithm lock on better and understand your point of focus).

REMOVING THE BLEMISH

Once you have a mask sampling a clean area of the skin and tracked that mask to the subjects face throughout the duration of the clip, it’s time to get rid of that blemish! Using the directional arrows on your keyboard, or clicking and dragging with your mouse, move the mask on top of the blemish area

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You are probably saying, “That just moved the blemish over with the mask! It didn’t fix anything!” – well – we’re not done yet. At this point, open up the mask tools by having the mask selected in your layer window and hit MM on your keyboard to open up the entire tool set.

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REDUCE the MASK EXPANSION so that the blemish sample disappears and you just have a small sample circle to use.

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INCREASE the MASK FEATHER to smooth out the sample’s circle edges, thusly blending it into the face, creating a smooth and clean finish that follows the face throughout the clip.

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You now just successfully removed ONE blemish. Depending on your subject, you may have more to go. Just repeat the process as described as many times as necessary to create the final retouched image.

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