Adding Noise & Grain back into your VFX

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Morph Cut Transitions

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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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Linking Mocha Track Masks

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Mocha is a great program for tracking. That data can then be applied and used in other software programs such as After Effects for various reasons and uses. Such examples include beauty retouching, set extensions, and rotoscoping among others. In Mocha you can use a tool to create a tracking area. The program then goes frame by frame and tracks the area designated. You are then able to use the data from that one tracking area, or, what I will be showing today, is using that track to act as a PARENT track and link other mocha objects to it. In this tutorial, I will show how you can track a portion of the rear end of a car that’s moving, and then use that track as the parent while highlighting other portions of the car rear (license plate, logos, emblems, etc.) and linking them to that parent track. This is a great technique to use to save time. Instead of tracking two or more objects independently, you only need to track one item and parent the rest using the same data.

I will break down this technique in the following steps:

– Creating a Parent Track

– Linking Tracks

– Exporting linked tracks and example uses in After Effects

CREATING A PARENT TRACK

At the start, I already have my footage open and ready in Mocha AE. To create a parent track I am going to use the X spline tool to create an object around the large concave marking in the rear of the vehicle.

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Below the timeline there is the Track forward and Track backward buttons as marked by arrow icons with the letter T. Go ahead and select the Track Forward button and allow Mocha to track the object we just created.

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Once the tracking has finished, in the LAYERS PANEL rename Layer 1 to Main TRACKER as this will help identify what you are linking to.

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LINKING TRACKS

Now that you have your main tracker, you can create new layers using the X spline tool again and link them to this main tracker to use the same set of tracked data. In this example of the car driving down the street, I am creating new layers around the license plate, Cooper title, and emblem that are all the on the rear of the vehicle and look to follow the same path as the main track layer I have created.

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In order to link these new layers to the main tracker, navigate back to the layers panel, select the layer you want linked to the main tracker, and then about halfway down the window on the left you will see a option for LINK TO TRACK. Open that drop down menu and select Main Tracker to create that link.

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Now these new layers you have created and linked to the main tracker follow along the same path! Congratulations!

EXPORTING LINKED TRACKS AND EXAMPLE USES IN AFTER EFFECTS

To get this tracked data out of Mocha and into After Effects where we can continue our compositing needs, simply go to EXPORT SHAPE DATA located in the lower right of the program window, a new window will open, and then choose ALL VISIBLE LAYERS and COPY TO CLIPBOARD.

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Back in After Effects, create a new Adjustment Layer and then go to EDIT > PASTE MOCHA MASKS. This will apply the shape data to the adjustment layer and create its own set of masks using the main tracker tracking data. At this point, you can composite as needed. In this example, I added a BOX BLUR to the layer, increased and feathered as needed, and now I have a tracked censor on the car.

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Another thing I can do is create a new solid and paste the Mocha Mask to the solid. This technique can always be used with JPEGs or other images if you wanted to track a new image onto the car or license plate.

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Nodes 2 from Yanobox

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Avengers. Ender’s Game. Iron Man 3. Rise of the Planet of the Apes. These are just a few films that have had the opportunity to utilize the plugin known as Nodes. With the release of Nodes 2, Yanobox has upped the ante with what this plugin can do. This motion graphic tool can import 3D models, interact with the After Effects camera, link text and images to individual nodes, and so much more. The best part is it supports the most popular editing and compositing programs on the market including: After Effects, Motion, Final Cut Pro X, and Premiere Pro. If you don’t believe how awesome and intricate this plugin is, take a look at this demo below:

I’ve had a chance to try out Nodes 2 myself and I was extremely impressed with how quickly I was able to pick it up. Here are a few quick examples of what I was able to create on my own, which to my surprise, rendered very quickly on my iMac. On top of that, I like that I can create certain animations with ease compared to plugins like Trapcode Form or Particular.

Overall, Nodes 2 is an incredible plugin that needs to be experienced firsthand to admire its depth. With this plugin, I am able to create breathtaking and stylized motion graphics that would require multiple plugins and tinkering to achieve the look Nodes can create effortlessly. I’ve always been a fan of the Yanobox plugins, and this Nodes sequel more than lives up to its predecessor. I like how the controls are easy to experiment with, as well as the presets. The presets provide a great starting point and can be manipulated at will. The fine folks of Noise Industries have provided very detailed tutorials for your favorite software application, which you can check out here:

If you are looking for a plugin that imports stunning 3D models, build networks of node structures, and allows you to create an limitless amount of text and image connections, then look no further than Yanobox Nodes 2. At the price of $299, it’s a no brainer purchase that will save you hours of work and allow you to explore more creative depths than you can imagine.

Sound Effects

Luca Visual FX Backgrounds & Overlays

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The team at Luca Visual FX has brought another product to the market which will benefit professionals across Mac and PC platforms. It is the incredible and extraordinary Backgrounds & Overlays. This product is an extremely versatile collection of 100 HD clips which are an indispensable addition to any editor’s library.

It is compatible with the following software:

  • Final Cut Pro 7/X
  • Adobe Premiere Pro
  • Adobe After Effects
  • Apple Motion
  • Avid Media Composer
  • DaVinci Resolve
  • HitFilm
  • Sony Vegas

I had a chance to test drive this new product.

What are Backgrounds & Overlays?

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It is a vast collection of 100 Full HD dynamic motion graphic clips designed to be used as backgrounds and/or overlays for a variety of projects. You can use them in promos, VJing, music videos, sports, news, corporate, and much more. On the dedicated web page at the Luca Visual FX site, you can preview the entire collection and see what each background has to offer.

What are some of the best ways to customize these clips?

Editors can use blend modes from their host programs, change the speed rate, scale, crop, position, or add any third party filter or built in effects to customize these clips. Also, stacking several instances of Backgrounds & Overlays allows the creation of complex and beautiful effects by simply using blend modes. Use effects such as blurring and distorting to maximize your customization. In this clip, I created some examples to showcase how far you can push these clips.

To see how these clips can be manipulated and integrated into your projects, take a look at this tutorial where I show you how to use them with footage and text:

Is it possible to get the Backgrounds & Overlays in a different format?

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All files are delivered as .mov files, so as long as the user has Quicktime installed everything should work correctly. If you need further assistance, you can contact customer support here.

Can you list some scenarios where these clips work best in?

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As mentioned above, they can be used for a variety of video projects. Here is a list of effects that I’ve done which you can try out yourself:

  • Video inside of text or shapes effect
  • Text backgrounds
  • Feathered shape overlays
  • Heads up displays
  • Frames and borders
  • Picture and picture background
  • Lower thirds
  • 2D & 3D animation inserts
  • And many more effects

Overall, I believe that Backgrounds & Overlays will be a product that users will turn to when they need to amp up their productions. With the dynamic range of motion graphics, and the fully customizable options that are available, the sky is the limit with creative opportunities. I strongly recommend that you download some of the demo watermarked clips and see what you’ve been missing. They are now available for download on the web page.

The launch price of Backgrounds & Overlays is $49.  Don’t miss out on this versatile product line.

For readers of this article, LVFX is offering a 10% off coupon when you make a purchase using this coupon code: BO2015S

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What is HitFilm?

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With all the editing and compositing programs available for filmmakers on Mac and PC, it can be hard to decide which program suits your workflow. The general understanding of post production is that editing should be handled in one program, where visual effects and motion graphics are handled in another. Programs that utilize this workflow are Premiere Pro/After Effects and Final Cut Pro X/Motion. With Avid Media Composer, professionals cut in the program but usually go to programs like After Effects, Fusion, Nuke, or Motion for graphics work. However, there are programs that have the best of both worlds all in one package. Autodesk Smoke has both editing and node based compositing capabilities. Another program is HitFilm Pro. I want to discuss HitFilm Pro, and why you should consider using it if you want an affordable all-in-one post production software.

What is HitFilm Pro?

HitFilm Pro is an all-in-one editing and compositing program. Designed to handle projects on the small scale to big budget, HitFilm can withstand it all. Bundled with over 180 effects, and the ability to switch between editing and effects smoothly, this program can do some amazing things whether it is in 2D or 3D. Need to motion track titles to a moving object? HitFilm can do it. Need to make your talent look like they are flying through the clouds? HitFilm can do that. This piece of software is pretty comprehensive and is only limited by what you want to create.

What is the general workflow when using it?

First time users can take different approaches to post production when they use this software. Gone are the days of switching between apps to do essential parts of the post production pipeline. Now, you have the choice between doing compositing or editing. In the second video above, Axel Wilkinson shows us a general overview of the HitFilm interface and how users can get up to speed crafting their videos in no time. Switching between the editing tab to the composite tab is something we could only dream of in the past. That reality is here with HitFilm Pro.

What effects can I create in it?

Like I said before, what you create in HitFilm Pro is limited to your imagination. Below is a list of effects and compositing capabilities it possesses:

  • Chroma Keying
  • Live 3D Model Rendering
  • 3D Particle Engine
  • Mocha 4.0 for planar tracking
  • Fire, lightning, and weapon based effects
  • 3D camera projection
  • Color correction/grading

Essentially, it possesses the capabilities of the popular NLEs and compositing programs on the market. Many web-based filmmakers have used created effects with this program, which include Corridor Digital, Film Riot and Freddie W. The effects I’ve seen created by users of this program would blow away even the most capable pros.

Why should I buy it?

There are many programs you could be using to complete your post production work. Many of which are trusted to get the job done by seasoned professionals. However, just because one workflow is trusted and most used does not mean it’s the only one that matters. Using HitFilm Pro will give you the ability to have the best of two disciplines in one program. No need to farm your visual effects out to a separate application. You can do it all in the application by tabbing over. With HitFilm Pro, you finally get the program that let’s you be all things post production without much hassle. When you have the options that this robust program offers, it’s a no brainer.

Overall, the team at HitFilm have created a comprehensive and robust application that can tackle even the most daunting of projects while making it affordable to every filmmaker. Download HitFilm Express 3 for free or purchase the pro version for $299.

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Motion 5 Tutorials

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Since its creation in 2004, Apple Motion has been an application that has evolved quite nicely, despite the fierce competition it faces from other apps like After Effects and Nuke. In its current iteration, Motion provides the plugin architecture for Final Cut Pro X, which means that all FCPX effects are actually Motion templates. With that advantage, users can create just about anything with Motion. Below are a few tutorials where Motion users illustrate how versatile the application is for their workflows.

Creating a Transition for FCPX

This tutorial highlights one of the core features of Motion, which is the ability to create custom transitions. Gone are the days of having to stack layers and utilizing keyframes. With a decent understanding of the Motion interface and its functions, users can create unique transitions to suit their video projects. In this particular example, the author shows users how to create a ripple flash transition from start to finish. When I discovered that you can create transitions and other effects in Motion, I decided to give Motion another try after years of being an After Effects user. I found this tutorial useful because even at the basic level, you can get an understanding of how far you can go with the creation of custom effects.

Animating a Photoshop File

There will be situations where your client wants to create a spot and you have no b-roll. Even worse, you have very minimal images to work with. However, they provide you with a layered, high resolution Photoshop file which you can animate and turn into a motion graphic with a little imagination. In this tutorial, Telemundo editor Brett Gentry shows us how he was able to take a client graphic and turn it into a 30-second spot using a combo of Motion and Photoshop. Utilizing markers, keyframes, and behaviors, he takes what I call a simple “Ken Burns effect” and makes an entertaining spot for an event. I will be first to admit that the Motion interface can be daunting at first glance, but watching how others work in it so efficiently inspires me to learn more.

Creating a Auto Green Screen Keyer with Background

There are projects you receive where the talent was shot on a green screen, and you need to key them out and insert the same background. If this is no more than five people, no big deal. However, if it is multiple talents and it needs to look like they were all keyed and composited the same way, it can become tedious. In the tutorial above, Brett shows us another way he uses Motion to create an auto keyer effect, which will allow him to key not only his talent, but insert/manipulate the background he wants behind them. This is convenient when you need to cut multiple spots or short form videos and time is not on your side. This effect is also a viable solution for the scenario I mentioned above with multiple talents. If you publish enough parameters and include the necessary assets, you can save a lot of time by creating an auto keyer effect in Motion.

Text Behind Glass Effect

I’ve highlighted the effects you can create in Motion for workflow tasks like titles, transitions, and effects, but it is always interesting to see how far one can push Motion to create things you would only expect in After Effects. This tutorial above is a prime example of something I wasn’t sure Motion could create. Editor/plugin author Simon Ubsdell takes a concept that originated in After Effects and creates it from scratch in Motion. Using textures, text layers, blend modes, filters, and behaviors, Simon creates this effect which can be used for promos, documentaries, or identifiers. I have to give kudos for the content that Simon has produced as of late. I’ve always believed the reason Motion wasn’t as popular as After Effects was because of the vast community and gurus that are out there. Seeing a dedicated user showcase Motion capabilities peeks my interest to add this tool to my skill set.

Overall, Motion has matured into a intricate and versatile tool that editors should take the time to learn. The market tends to favor the After Effects user, but every now and then there are jobs for people with Motion knowledge. Knowing this tool can benefit you in the long run.

Sound Effects

Understanding the Roto Node in NUKE 9

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The Foundry’s NUKE is at the forefront for leading compositing programs in visual effects for television and film. Great news for those of you who want to learn NUKE and be ready for professional studio work. There is a FREE, non-commercial version to download. Once installed, you are ready to take on this tutorial and learn the functions of the roto node in a node based compositing program.

PLEASE NOTE* I have covered the topic of rotoscoping in basic and advanced tutorials previously in other compositing programs – Adobe After Effects & Silhouette FX. This tutorial is for those coming in with the knowledge of what rotoscoping is, but need or want to learn the interface of NUKE, since it is a node based compositing program. If you want to learn more of what rotoscoping is, please refer to my older lessons where I spend more time explaining the concept of rotoscoping.

I will break this tutorial down into three parts:

–       Adding the Roto Node

–       Shapes and Splines

–       Keyframing Shapes Over Time

ADDING THE ROTO NODE

Go to the DRAW NODES on the left hand side node bar > CLICK > and select ROTO. In your Node Graph, a roto node will appear. Simply hook up the viewer to the roto node in order to proceed.

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For those of you who are used to stacking layers in other compositing programs, such as After Effects, this might take some getting used to. Though the concepts remain the same, with node tree you are essentially mind mapping your ideas that are connected. I will go into more detail on Node Trees in another lesson.

SHAPES AND SPLINES

In your viewer, you can CLICK and create an anchor point. Continue to click around and you will start creating a shape. You can close the shape by either clicking back onto the first anchor point you created, or by simply hitting the ENTER key at any time.

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With the roto node active, on the left side of your viewer you will see your curves selections. The most commonly used are Bezier and B spline, but feel free to experiment with them all.

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Above the curves selection you will find your selection tools. These will control how and what you select of your splines in the viewer. For example, SELECT POINTS will allow you to select anchor points without selecting the splines themselves. Again, I encourage you to explore and tinker with all the tools to become familiar.

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In your properties window to the right, you will notice a list of shapes you have drawn in your viewer which will help you keep organized and remember which spline was used. Additionally, next to the shape name you have the EYE ICON which turns the shapes visibility on or off. Next to that is the LOCK ICON, allowing you to lock individuals shapes. That way they cannot receive or remove any keyframe data that has been established to that point. Next to that is the COLOR ICON which allows you to double click and choose a new color for that shape. The rest we will explore in a later lesson.

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KEYFRAMING SHAPES OVER TIME

Now let’s take a look at how we can start to animate these shapes across a timeline. By default the AUTO KEY feature is enabled. This is the skeleton key icon you see in the upper left hand corner near your selection tools.

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With this feature enabled, you can look at your frame on the timeline and see there is already a blue keyframe placed there.

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You can take your mouse and move the playhead further down the timeline, and then make adjustments to your shapes. You will notice another keyframe is automatically added (notice at frame one, and then again at frame 20, there is a blue dash representing the keyframe).

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Using your selection tools, you can move each control point individually, or you can highlight some or all of the control points on the shape and move those as needed. Additionally, you can go to your PROPERTIES window on the right and open the TRANSFORM tab to bring up the transform controls on your shapes. This will allow you to create separate transform keyframes on the timeline that handle transform, scale, and rotation.

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