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

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

– Create a Main Track in Mocha

– Create cover layers in Mocha

– Export and Composite in After Effects

 CREATE A MAIN TRACK IN MOCHA

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

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

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

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

CREATE COVER LAYER IN MOCHA

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

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

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

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

EXPORT AND COMPOSITE IN AFTER EFFECTS

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

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

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

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

ON

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OFF

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

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Using Mocha Masks in After Effects CC

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Mocha AE is the version of Mocha that comes with After Effects CC. It has a great number of tools to access with tracking and rotoscoping, however, it’s not nearly as robust as the stand alone Mocha Pro program. Today we will take a look on how to take footage from After Effects CC, bring it into Mocha AE, track the footage, and then create a mocha mask from the tracking data to apply back into After Effects. To clarify, a Mocha Mask is a no different from any Mask created in After Effects using the pen tool or marquee tool; it just uses the tracking data created in Mocha to move the mask instead of going frame by frame by hand and moving anchor points. Mocha Masks are great to use when you are handling beauty retouching, censoring a section of video, or isolating a specific part of video for color correction.

The steps are as follows:

– Sending footage from After Effects to Mocha AE

– Tracking with Mocha AE

– Exporting Shape Data and Importing Mocha Mask into After Effects

– Example use of Mocha Mask

SENDING FOOTAGE FROM AFTER EFFECTS TO MOCHA AE

Once you create a new comp with your video footage, select the footage from the TIMELINE and go to ANIMATION > TRACK IN MOCHA AE.

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TRACKING WITH MOCHA AE

With your footage now in Mocha AE, first select the X SPLINE tool along the top tool bar.

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Using the X spline tool, create a shape around the item you want to mask. In this piece of footage I decided to track an unwanted logo on the side of a car.

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If you want to smooth the edges of your x spline and not have such jagged corners, RIGHT CLICK on the mask and go to  POINT > SMOOTH.

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With your shape created you have the ability to name the shape in the LAYER PANEL along with changing the masks color. This is helpful when creating a series of masks you need to keep track of.

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In order to track the mask you’ve created, look at the tools below the timeline. You will see a RIGHT ARROW with the letter T. This is for track forward (the broken arrow with a T next to it is for only tracking one frame forward). Click the Track Forward button and let Mocha analyze the footage as needed.

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EXPORTING SHAPE DATA AND IMPORTING MOCHA MASK INTO AFTER EFFECTS

With your mask now tracked the way you want it, you’ll need to export the data in such a way that you can import a mocha mask into After Effects. To export your Mocha Track data, select EXPORT SHAPE DATA located in the lower right of the program. From here, a message window will appear. Select COPY TO CLIPBOARD.

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Back in After Effects, create a new Adjustment Layer CMD + OPTION + Y. With this new layer selected go to EDIT > PASTE MOCHA MASK.

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EXAMPLE USE OF MOCHA MASK

As an example, I will quickly show you how to censor your tracked item now that you have a functioning Mocha Mask in After Effects. In After Effects, go to EFFECTS & PRESETS and type in BOX BLUR. Then click & drag the box blur effect and drop it onto the adjustment layer. With the blur effect added to the adjustment layer, you have the ability to go into the EFFECT controls and increase the RADIUS and ITERATIONS until the desired effect is reached. With the Mask tracked to the footage, the effect with follow along perfectly!

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Advanced Photo Animation Techniques

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How many times have you been involved in an edit where there are more photos than b-roll? I’ve been in that situation more times than I can count. The quick “pan and zoom effect” (aka the “Ken Burns effect”) seems to do the job. However, applying this technique to a handful of photos would quickly get boring and repetitive. For this reason, I’ve searched for new techniques I can use when I’m presented with a photo heavy project. These techniques include the Cinemagraph effect, 2.5D effect, and camera mapping effect. For these techniques, you can perform them in a range of applications such as After Effects, Motion, and Cinema 4D.

Cinemagraph Effect

A cinemagraph is a photo animation in which minor and repeated movement occurs. These are usually created by taking still photos and video recording them performing a certain activity (i.e blowing bubbles or dancing) so that it can be composed into a seamless loop of sequential frames. Below is an example of what a cinemagraph looks like. This term came to fruition back in 2011 when photographers Kevin Burg and Jamie Beck were using the technique to animate fashion and newspaper photos.

The folks of Vox Lab explain how to create a cinemagraph in the tutorial below. They demonstrate on a video clip of a class in session.

Under the right conditions and with proper planning, the cinemagraph is definitely a technique that can come in handy when you want to add some unique motion to your photos.

The 2.5D Effect

This effect goes by many names, such as Kid Stays in Picture, Dimensional Stills, and Parallax effect. Whatever you may choose to call it, it involves extracting portions of your image which can later be animated in 3D space to give the illusion of motion. The one thing about this technique is the amount of work necessary to extract portions of your image. Some images are easier than others, but when you properly extract portions of your image, animating it will be easier depending on how far you plan to go with it. Below is an example of what it looks like when animated.

In the tutorial below, photographer Joe Fellows shows you how to create the 2.5D effect. His technique goes a bit further than the example above, but it definitely adds more life to the photo than a simple pan and zoom.

The folks of Cineflare offer a plugin called Pop Out that helps speed the process of creating this effect. You can check it out below.

Camera Mapping Effect

Camera mapping is similar to the 2.5D effect, but the difference is this technique uses projection. With camera mapping, you can project an image or video onto a screen and give the illusion of depth by using zooming and angles. In the breakdown below, you see how the creator is able to take an image that originated in 2D, and by using multiple techniques essential to camera mapping, they were able to create the illusion of depth.

In this tutorial below, mograph artist Casey Latiolais shows us how to add some life into a simple 2D image by camera mapping in Cinema 4D. These techniques allow the 2D image he is using to have a much more life-like appearance than before.

Overall, there are lots of techniques available for animating photos that can help invigorate your projects. You don’t have to settle for the simple Ken Burns technique for every photo, and if you put in the proper preparation, you can create some stunning animations. Feel free to try any of these techniques the next time you are presented with a barrage of photos.

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