Creating Reflections in an Eye Using After Effects CC


Every good editor and VFX artist aspires to be (or at least should aspire to be) invisible to the viewer. At no point do you want the viewer of your movie, short film, webisode, etc. to stop and say, “Wow that was an awesome matte painting,” or, “That was an incredible digital composition.” You want the viewer to be immersed in the universe the film is creating. As technology has advanced, editors and VFX artists have stepped up and taken a more active role in creating simple yet creative shots cinematographers used to take hours laboring over. One of the most noted of these instances is showing a reflection in someone’s eye. I will show you how to create this effect in three simple steps:

  • Capture Your Footage
  • Composite Your Shot
  • Resize, Crop, and Retouch


The two pieces of footage you will need include: a close up of an eye, and what you hope to reflect in the eye. For me, I aimed to create an iconic image of some enemy reaching towards the person as it reflects in their iris, and for this, I used my lovely assistant (my wife) to play both parts. Using some cheap macro extension tubes on my Canon DSLR I was able to get reasonably close up on my subject’s eye.

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The camera was locked down on a tripod and I had my actress sit down in a chair in order to minimize her movements. I then had her throw on a gas mask, switched out the macro tubes for a cheap wide angle macro attachment, and captured footage of her reaching towards the camera in a menacing fashion.

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By using the wide angle attachment, it created a slight fish eye distortion around the edges. This will blend nicely as the footage will be composited and reflected on an eye, which is curved in nature.


Now that you have collected your footage, import the clips you intend to use into a new composition in After Effects. Move both clips into your LAYERS WINDOW and make sure the reflection clip is on top.

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With the reflection layer selected, RIGHT CLICK and go to BLENDING MODE >> SCREEN.

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This will begin to blend the two layers together in an organic fashion necessary to create the foundation for our visual effect. Depending on the lighting for your scene, you may also play around with alternate BLENDING MODES such as OVERLAY and COLOR DODGE.


With your REFLECTION LAYER selected, hit S on your keyboard to bring up the SCALE option, and reduce the SCALE down significantly so that your reflected subject just fits within the iris of the subject’s eye.

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From there we need to cut the reflection layer into a CIRCLE using the ELLIPSE TOOL.

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Hit M twice on your keyboard with the REFLECTION LAYER selected in order to bring up the MASKING OPTIONS. Here you will want to INCREASE FEATHER to blend the edge of the circle cut we just made. Also, reduce MASK OPACITY until you feel the REFLECTION LAYER is appropriately blended into the eye.

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To add more drama to the scene, you can also quickly retouch the clips and add some COLOR CORRECTION. Go to LAYER>>NEW>>ADJUSTMENT LAYER and apply the TRITONE effect. You will be presented with three color ranges to identify: whites, mid tones, and blacks. For my scene, I pushed on the cooler spectrum and moved my mid tones and blacks into the blues, but you can experiment with your own scene for the desired effect.

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Creating Censorship in After Effects CC


Censorship is a commonplace practice with today’s television standards. Whether you are an editor censoring some bits from a hollywood film for television, or you work in reality television; censorship is a necessary tool for all editors to know. There are a few common styles that are associated with censorship, including the ‘black bar,’ the ‘blur out,’ or the ‘pixillation’ approach. These can be used on logos, to profane gestures, to nudity, and more. Each director, editor, or corporation may have their own preference, so I am going to show you how to create each style in After Effects CC.

Please note that in order to match the censorship to a moving object, you must track the motion and link your censorship to the tracked footage. I go more in depth on how to track footage in a previous tutorial you can read here.


Creating a black bar in After Effects CC is a fairly straight forward approach. To create a black bar simply go to LAYER >> NEW >> SOLID. You will be presented with a dialogue box for the SOLID SETTINGS. By default, After Effects sets the color to black which is exactly what we need here, so you may proceed and hit OKAY.

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You will notice now the black solid takes up the entire composition.

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To reduce the size and shape to cover your desired target, you will first want to switch to your SELECTION TOOL by hitting V on the keyboard, or by selecting the arrow on your tool bar.

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You can now CLICK AND DRAG on one of the four corners of the BLACK SOLID and resize it to the desired shape. Also, by clicking and dragging within the shape itself allows you to reposition the solid on your composition.

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Some reality TV studios prefer to blur out logos or profane gestures in hopes to make a less visually jarring and subtle censorship on their image. To start, you will need to create a new ADJUSTMENT LAYER by going to LAYER >> NEW >> ADJUSTMENT LAYER. No immediate change will be seen in your composition, but if you look in your layers panel, you will see the layer sitting above your video layer.

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An adjustment layer is sort of like an empty bucket that is just waiting to be filled. You need to fill this bucket with the blur effect. To add the blur effect to your adjustment layer go to EFFECT >> BLUR AND SHARPEN >> GAUSSIAN BLUR. In your EFFECTS CONTROLS PANEL, you will see the BLURRINESS is set to zero. Go ahead and increase the number to about 75.

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You will notice the whole composition is now blurred out. To blur just the target, you will need to choose the ELLIPSE TOOL.

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With the tool selected CLICK AND DRAG to create an ellipse in your composition.

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In order to get rid of the hard edge CLICK to HIGHLIGHT your ADJUSTMENT LAYER in the LAYERS PANEL, and then click M on your keyboard TWICE.

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This will bring up your MASKING CONTROLS. Here you can increase the MASK FEATHER to blur the hard edges on your ellipse, as well as increase or decrease the MASK EXPANSION.

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Another approach that is commonly used in mainstream media to censor nudity and profane gestures is through pixelation. For the most part, the steps to follow are nearly identical to the ‘blur out.’ First, create a new adjustment layer by going to LAYER >> NEW >> ADJUSTMENT LAYER. Next, add the pixelation effect by going to EFFECT >> STYLIZE >> MOSAIC. In your EFFECT CONTROLS, increase the horizontal and vertical blocks to about 30 each.

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At this point, just as with the ‘blur out,’ you are going to use the ELLIPSE TOOL to create an ellipse around your target, and then use the MASKING CONTROLS to blur the edge and control the expansion of the ellipse.

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Color Keying an Image in Photoshop CC


As an editor there will be times that you receive green screen footage that needs to be keyed out and retouched in some fashion. The biggest obstacle of most editors throughout this process is finessing the image to eliminate all of the green. Two major issues to resolve are the green halo around a person or object, or the dreaded green spill in a person’s hair. I am going to show you how you can overcome these hurdles in three simple steps using Photoshop CC.

  • Color Range Selection (to get rid of the bulk of the green screen)
  • Adjust Hue Saturation (to remove the green halo)
  • Refine with White Matte Reduction (clean up remaining green spill)

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To first get rid of the bulk 98% of the green screen in your image using Photoshop CC, you will want to go to SELECT >> COLOR RANGE.

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You will now have a new window that allows adjustments, along with a white icon of your master image (the white shows what color is being isolated and selected, whereas the black is being ignored). If you pan your mouse over the master image, you will also notice you have an eye dropper tool. At this point, you will want to simply take your eye dropper tool and click on the green screen in your master image. Your icon in the color range window will change a bit, but will still show some gray or black in the green screen area that still needs to be added to your color range selection.

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In order to select the rest of the green screen, choose the eyedropper + icon below the save button in the color range window. Then, go back over your master image and keep clicking in the different color ranges of the green screen until you see your color range icon turn white in the appropriate areas.

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Once finished, hit OKAY. Now your master image will show a dotted line selection around your green screened area.

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Go ahead and hit DELETE.

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Looks pretty good now, right? If we want to make sure there is no more green, a good trick is to create a new layer and make it black behind your master image.

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I notice immediately there is now a halo around my subject, and if I zoom in, I can also see green spill in the hair and beard as well.

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To shave off the next 1% of the green screen in our master image, we want to eliminate the green halo around our subject. To do that, we are going to add a HUE/SATURATION layer from our ADJUSTMENTS tab.

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The goal is to isolate the green halo and desaturate it out of the image. In the properties window that opens up, you will want to change MASTER to GREENS.

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Then go to the SATURATION slider and reduce it to about -70 or -80.

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Finally, adjust the slider at the bottom until the full range of green has been eliminated from around your subject.

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Last but not least, now that we have isolated and desaturated the green spill around our subject, the extra bits are now white instead of green. There is a nice tool that eliminates all white matting. To finish up our image, go to LAYER >> MATTING >> REMOVE WHITE MATTE.

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Creating Time Lapse Photography With After Effects CC



Time Lapse Photography is the process in which you take a series of photographs over an extended period of time centered around a dynamic subject and then combine the photographs together into one video that shows this transformation. That is a very technical way of saying it is a video made up of a series of pictures that shows things like flowers blooming, or the sun setting, or even building a structure. Each of those examples take hours, days, sometimes months to complete the process. It is not realistic to think that video would be the optimal way to capture this evolution. Instead, the idea is that taking a series of pictures with the camera unmoving and locked down on tripod can do a much better job capturing your subject and saving the creator ample hours of video scrubbing and space on their hard drive.

Here is both my example along with a couple other photographic time lapses to help inspire you and get your brain juices flowing on what you might aim to capture after going through this quick tutorial:

Now I am going to show you how you can create your very own photo time lapse in 3 simple steps:

  • Capturing the Photos
  • Importing the Photos and Exporting the Video
  • Additional Tips to Use as Needed

Capturing the Photos

Before going out, before finding your subject, and before you even snap a single picture, you need to make sure you have the right equipment to get the job done. In most cases the best means to capture your time lapse is first and foremost with a DSLR camera. DSLRs will allow you the most control over your image settings and maintain the highest quality possible. My recommendation is to go with a Canon or Nikon (I am using a Canon Rebel T2i for this tutorial).



Secondly, your camera needs to be locked down at all times during the photographing process to a tripod. By investing in a good solid tripod you are ensuring the overall outcome of the photographs reducing the possibilities of shake, movement, and blur. Moving the camera even a few millimeters can ruin your entire composition. A good time lapse has a consistent object that does not move (ground, buildings, vase) contrasted by one that does (people, sun, flower).



Finally, touching your own camera to take each shot runs the risk of moving the camera, and so to eliminate this threat the best piece of equipment to invest in is a intervalometer. An intervalometer is a time set shutter remote that plugs into the side of your camera. All you have to do is set the remote to whatever time interval you want the photos captured and how many you want and it handles the rest from there.



Once you have all the equipment you need go and find the subject you want to capture. Again the best outcome will be with a contrast between dynamic and static objects that evolve over a period of time. Mount your DSLR to your tripod, lock it into position, and set the camera to manual. Take a test shot first to make sure the exposure and framing is where you would like it to be and then plug in and program your intervalometer. Let your camera run through its process collecting the photos and once it is finished you are ready for the next step.

Importing the Photos and Exporting the Video

Take the memory card form your DSLR and plug it into your computer. You are going to want to create a new folder on the desktop to store these photos. Drag the photos from your memory card into your new folder.

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Now there are multiple programs out there to combine these photos into your time lapse sequence, however, I find the best to be Adobe After Effects CC. The reason for this is because of how simple yet flexible the program is in regards to your files, file type, and output. To create your time lapse all you need to do is click and drag the folder containing your pictures and drop it in the projects panel in After Effects. After Effects will then interpret and combine the information into a single file from which you can click and drag into a new composition.

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I shot in camera raw and so the size of the composition is much larger than it needs to be. To fix this I can go to COMPOSITION >> COMPOSITION SETTINGS >> PRESET (drop down menu) >> (choose appropriate format). For me I’m going with the 720 HD format.

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When I hit okay I notice that now my sequence is too large for the composition. To fix it I can just scale down the sequence.

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To export your sequence go to COMPOSITION >> ADD TO RENDER QUEUE. To keep your file size manageable click on LOSSLESS next to the OUTPUT MODULE, go to the FORMAT OPTIONS>>VIDEO CODEC>> and choose H.264 then hit OK. Last thing is to go to your OUTPUT TO and designate what the file name will be and where it will render to. Once finished click OK and hit RENDER. Review your video time lapse video and make further changes as needed.

Additional Tips to Use as Needed

Here are some extra tips and tricks to keep in mind as you go through this process:

  • If you cannot afford all the equipment but have a smartphone there are apps out there that will create photographic time lapses.
  • If you are using a DSLR, keep your camera in Manual mode and take multiple test shots to adjust the aperture, shutter speed, and ISO where they need to be before plugging in your intervalometer.
  • If you are using a DSLR, keep in mind which file type the pictures are being taken in- whether it is JPEG or Camera Raw will have a huge impact on your post production of this time lapse (camera raw = best quality but huge file size. JPEG = low to medium quality but with a much smaller file size).
  • Photoshop CC has a great Automate feature to crop, resize, and retouch multiple photos at once if you want to make adjustments to your composition after the pictures have been taken.
  • In After Effects CC, you can add an adjustment layer above your sequence if you would like to add color correction or effects changes.
  • In After Effects CC, after rendering out your sequence into a movie file you can re-import the video back into After Effects and make adjustments to the speed or even have it play in reverse.


Interview with Digital Compositor Diego Galtieri


Digital compositor, Diego Galtieri, was kind enough to answer some basic questions surrounding the role of a digital compositor. Diego talks about what the role of a digital compositor is, what type of programs and processes he uses as a digital compositor, and how to get a job in the industry.

Diego currently is employed by Stargate Studios and has worked on television shows such as AMC’s The Walking Dead, Heroes, and most recently Doctor Who. With nearing a decade in the business you can review his whole body of work on the Internet Movie Data Base (IMDB). One of Diego’s most notable contributions to the compositing world is the iconic scene in the very first episode AMC’s The Walking Dead showing an aerial shot of the protagonist (the Sheriff played by Andrew Lincoln) trapped in a military tank while a swarm of zombies overtake the city streets.


In creating a final image the process included multiple set extensions along with layering in numerous digital zombies to really bulk up the numbers. When a scene calls for a high volume of people, in this case zombies, it is not always in the budget to get all those actors on set, in make up, fed, and organized. That is where visual effects comes in and blends together live action with digital footage seamlessly saving time, money, and headaches.

The process from filmmaking to post production in this instance would look something more like this: The raw footage is shot on set with the actors while a VFX supervisor guides the process on where to place green screens and leave negative space for his VFX artists to work. A digital matte painter would then go in and key out the green screen in the image and create set extensions and matte paintings to create the atmosphere and look the director was going for. Motion capture artists would bring in actors to act out the motions they require in order to create a digital zombie form, along with taking numerous stills of zombies already on set in full make up and prosthetics. From there a 3D artist would compile the data and still images and create his wire frame model of the zombie and utilize the motion capture data collected to bring it to life.

It is at this point a digital compositor would receive the files from both the digital matte painter and 3D artist and begin to layer in all the extensions and 3D mo-cap models on top of the original raw footage creating one final seamless and realistic looking image — THAT is what a digital compositor does. He composites. He is the one who works with a post production team taking in all the various visual effects from all the various types of artists saved in all the various types of file formats, looks at it all like a puzzle, and begins to piece it all together. Once the digital compositor assembles the final image, it then goes off for color correcting and for sound mastering before the scene is considered finished.

Post production and VFX is such a time labored and artistic field that works so unbelievably hard to convince you, the viewer, that what you are watching is “real,” or at the very least, visually compelling.

This is Garrett Fallin with AudioMicro telling you that no matter what life throws at you that you can always “fix it in post.”

Sound Effects


Adobe Creative Cloud – What You Need to Know


Adobe made the announcement at Adobe MAX – the Creativity Conference, on May 6th 2013 that they will no longer be making any new editions to the Creative Suite (CS) line up. Instead, moving forward they will be putting all of their attention in the Creative Cloud (CC). But what does that mean to you, the consumer? Outlined below are different categories which highlights everything you need to prepare yourself for its launch this June.

Topics to be covered:

  • What is Adobe Creative Cloud?
  • How much does it cost?
  • What new features does it offer?

What is Adobe Creative Cloud?

Adobe Creative Cloud has everything you have come to love from Adobe software – Photoshop, After Effects, Illustrator, and more – now using the cloud. This allows you to keep everything in your creative world in sync from your files, to fonts, settings, and updates all across multiple devices. You also gain access to Behance, the world’s leading creative community, where you can post, share, and connect with like minded creators around the globe.

To clarify, Adobe Creative Cloud (CC) is not new. CC was released with Adobe Creative Suite 6 (CS6) back in 2012. The sudden stir about CC is because during Adobe MAX 2013 conference it was announced that moving forward Adobe will no longer be releasing any new version of CS and will now only be focusing on their CC service. As such, with CC utilizing cloud based technology Adobe will no longer be selling a boxed version of their software and instead will be moving towards an online monthly subscription system. By doing so this will allow Adobe to innovate, update, and develop their software programs much quicker and seamlessly offer it to their subscription users.

How much does it cost?

By signing up for CC, you will be able to access all of their programs for $49.99 a month (about $600 a year) with an annual commitment. Previous Adobe product owners (CS3 or later) will get a 40% savings for the first year and be charged $29.99 a month (about $360 a year) for an annual commitment. Students and Teachers have a 60% discount paying $19.99 a month (about $240 a year) with an annual commitment and proof of institutional affiliation. Alternatively, if you only require the use of a single Adobe program, or just looking to try something new, instead of utilizing the whole collection, individual programs run $19.99 a month – no annual commitment required. If you’re nervous about jumping into the creative cloud and want to try everything out to see if it fits your workflow, no fear, there is a free 30 day trial offered as well. For additional pricing for larger creative teams and companies I recommend checking out Adobe’s pricing page for more information.

What new features does it offer?

Adobe CC offers everything you are already used to using with your regular Adobe programs – and more:

  • Photography: A new addition that everyone is looking towards is the new camera shake reduction ability becoming available with Photoshop CC. What that means is you now have the ability to save those blurry pictures you took. What happens is it analyzes the general path of motion and then compensates and corrects the issue. You even have the ability to choose where you want to be in focus and leave the rest of the image still blurred out.

  • Video Editing: Rotoscoping just got a little easier – and let’s face it – rotoscoping is no walk in the park, and anything that can make the job easier is warmly welcomed. For those of you who are already aware of Photoshop’s ‘Refine Edge’ tool, it now can be applied to moving images in After Effects CC.

  • Design: Amazing new tools like the Kuler app for smart phones will allow you to use images to extract color swatches that can be imported and used with your designs. Type is now easier to edit as each character performs like its own object and can be scaled, rotated, and resized like any other object.

  • Web: The internet is everywhere, and more and more today we are finding and using it on devices other than a computer – smart phones and tablets are on the rise and not going away anytime soon. Dreamweaver CC now offers a fluid grid layout that allows you to adjust your designs on the fly in order to fit the size requirements of alternate devices utilizing CSS3 and HTLM5 coding.

  • Promotion: Need to reach the top creators and show them your best work? Why not let them find you? With the CC workflow you can now upload your work to Behance, the leading professional social network. Creators from all over the globe will be able to review, critique, and connect with your work by viewing your online portfolio – all easily managed by Adobe CC.

These are just a few of the hundreds of new features available on Adobe CC. If you would like to be one of the many creators to join the Creative Cloud experience, you can sign up today on the Adobe website and keep current with all new features and announcements.