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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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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AE Tips from UkraMedia

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Every so often, there will be people on Youtube who produce useful content which can help make you better at a particular task or application. If you know the places to look, or you happen to find a clip based on dumb luck, then you can gather great nuggets of information from professionals who take time out of their day to create great content. One particular Youtube author who has helped me become more proficient in using After Effects is Ukramedia. Known as Sergei to his friends, Ukramedia produces tutorials for After Effects and Cinema 4D which showcase ways to use said programs in ways you may not have thought before. His most recent tutorials involve shortcuts that AE users may not know of which can help you use the program more efficiently. I’m going to highlight shortcuts I learned from his three-part series. Hopefully, you can learn something new yourself.

20 Useful Tricks in After Effects You May Not Know About – Part 1

Align Tools

Using the alignment tools can save you time when you have multiple assets across the screen. Using the multiple alignment tools, you can use your mouse to put assets in place as you see fit. You can align your assets to the selection you have in your composition, or based on the dimensions of composition.

Scaling Multiple Keyframes (Alt + Click and drag)

With my keyframes selected, I can use the alt key and change the duration of my animation to be either shorter or longer. This is a much more efficient way to change your animation duration than having to move individual keyframes one by one.

22 Useful Tricks in After Effects You May Not Know About – Part 2

Center Anchor Point/Center in View

If you have ever dealt with text or shape layers, then you will know that anchor points on these layers shift depending on size or position not related to the Transform parameters. If you want to have your anchor point centered on these layers, hit Control+Alt+Home on a PC or Command+Option+Home on a Mac to center it. For positioning any layer in the center of the compositon, all you have to hit is Control+Home on a PC or Command+Home on a Mac to have it relocate to the center of the comp. I’ve found these shortcuts helpful when dealing with layer positioning and continue to use them regularly.

Default Render Setting

To change the default setting you see when you send a comp to the render queue, first send a composition to the queue. Control+click (command+click on a Mac) on the output module, and the next time you send a composition to the render queue it will have the last setting you used as its default setting.

Delete All Effects from Selected Layers

If you want to remove effects from your layers, you may be used to clicking on effects in the effect control panel and pressing the delete button. Well, you can actually remove them with the keyboard shortcut Control+Shift+E (Command+Shift+E) with the layer selected. This will remove all effects from your clip. If you only want one effect removed, then stick to the mouse click and delete method.

25 Useful Tricks in After Effects You May Not Know About – Part 3

Solo Properties/Hide Properties

If you have ever been in the situation where all the parameters are showing on your layer, it can be hard to read. What if you just want to focus on a few properties at once? Command click the properties you want and press SS on your keyboard to solo those properties. These selected properties will be visible until you click off of them. If you want to hide properties, all you have to do is hit Alt+Shift+click on the property to hide them. Knowing these shortcuts will clean up having to see multiple properties of layer when you don’t want to.

Save Frame as Photoshop Layer/Still

To save a frame of your composition as a Photoshop document or still image, park your playhead over the frame, go to Composition>Save Frame As>Photoshop Layers. This will bring the frame into the render queue and it will export as Photoshop document which you can modify to your liking. If you want something other than a Photoshop file, change the output module to a still codec and it will save it as a png or jpeg. In the past, when I needed to export a still image from After Effects, I would set my work area to one frame and export it like a normal comp. I’ve been using this method recently as it does not save a timecode to the title of the image.

Scroll Selected Layer To Top Of Timeline Panel

If you are ever in the situation where you are 50-100 layers deep into a composition, navigating the composition can be hard to deal with. If you want a particular layer to be at the top of the hirearchy, select it and press the X key. This will shift the layer to the top of the order until you navigate away from it.

Select and Deselect All Visible Keyframes

To select all the keyframes across multiple layers without using the mouse to select them, select the layers and hit Control+Alt+A (Command+Option+A on the Mac) to select all the keyframes. To deselect all your keyframes, select your layers and hit Control+Alt+Shift+A (Command+Option+Shift+A on the Mac). These shortcuts are very useful for when you need to select all your keyframes and a mouse select isn’t enough.

Sergei’s tips and tricks have reinvigorated how I look at After Effects and have also allowed me to dive in further into what it can do in a much broader viewpoint. I highly recommend you subscribe to his channel so that you can learn a few tips and tricks yourself.

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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

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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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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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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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

Using Adobe Hue CC

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

– Understanding Adobe Hue

– Capturing an image with Adobe Hue

– Applying the look to your footage

UNDERSTANDING ADOBE HUE

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

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Here is a quick overview of how the app performs.

CAPTURING AN IMAGE WITH ADOBE HUE

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

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

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

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APPLYING THE LOOK TO YOUR FOOTAGE

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

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

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

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

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New Features in FCPX 10.2

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

FCPX: 3D Text

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

FCPX: Save Effects Preset

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

FCPX: Improved Masks & Color Correction Effect

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

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

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

Royalty Free Music

Lower Third Tutorial Round-Up

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Lower thirds, supers or CGs as they are also called, are those graphics you see on the screen when someone is being identified. You see them on reality television, the news, sports games, and documentaries. They usually have one to three tiers which can have the person’s first and last name at the top, and at the bottom, an occupation, residency, or position they occupy. Another characteristic of lower thirds is that they are placed in the title safe area of the screen so they don’t get cut off (these are usually network specifications). One thing about lower thirds is that they are by far the most sold item on motion graphics marketplaces. You could go to a variety of sites and look at galleries of lower thirds which you can purchase for your own videos. However, you may not always have the luxury of purchasing lower thirds, so it helps to know how to create these from scratch to keep costs down. In the three videos below, I highlight tutorials for how to create lower thirds from scratch for programs such as After Effects, Premiere Pro, and Motion. After you take a look at these videos, you can apply some of the knowledge you’ve learned and get to creating your lower third graphics.

Lower Third (After Effects) Tutorial

In this After Effects tutorial, Phil Ebiner shows us how he creates simple and clean lower thirds. As he states in the tutorial, he looks to other sites for inspiration before he starts creating. Utilizing a combination of solids, masks, and shape layers, he is able to create a lower third that would work in just about any occasion. When creating lower thirds, it takes a lot of layers to achieve the ideal look so be prepared for using precompositions, parenting, and lots of keyframes to maintain a clean and organized timeline.  What I like about this tutorial is that it has nice pacing, and within less than 20 minutes, you can have a lower third that can be used and modified to your needs. If you are using After Effects CC, you can turn this lower third into a LiveText template for use in Premiere Pro. If you aren’t as skilled in After Effects and prefer Motion instead, you can learn to create lower thirds there as well.

Lower Third (Motion 5) Tutorial

In this Motion 5 tutorial, author HalfGlassFull shows us how to create a complex lower third for broadcast. He first sets up his placeholder text layers in the position he wants. From there, he begins creating different shapes as a background for the text layers. Once he sets up the design of the lower third, he begins to implement behaviors to animate elements of the lower third to his liking. To finish it off, he shows you how to publish the lower third for use in Final Cut Pro X. Overall, this is an easy to follow tutorial and really helps reduce the learning curve that some people may have when using Motion for the first time. Also, the ease at which Motion projects can be integrated into Final Cut Pro X for multiple uses. As great as it is to create lower thirds in graphics programs like After Effects and Motion, sometimes you want the ability to do it without leaving your NLE. Let’s see how to do this in Premiere Pro.

Lower Third (Premiere Pro) Tutorial

In this Premiere Pro tutorial, VideoSchoolOnline shows us how to create modern and sleek lower thirds in Premiere Pro. Now, most people wouldn’t look to see if Premiere was capable of this, but a seasoned user would know better. Using layers in the Title Tool, they are able to create a simple two-tier lower third which identifies the talent on the screen. To give it movement, they use position keyframes with a manipulated interpolation. To keep the timeline clean, he nests the lower third into its own sequence. I can tell you from experience that creating simple lower thirds in Premiere is easy. The one caveat is when you need multiple version, it can be a real hassle to deal with, so plan ahead. Overall, it is rather easy to create a quick lower third from scratch, even if you only have your NLE to rely on.

As you can see, creating lower thirds from scratch is a fun exercise and a useful skill to have as an editor. There will be situations where purchasing one seems more viable than creating one from scratch. Depending on the project and client, it benefits you to know how to create one, but also know where to purchase one. Feel free to seek out other tutorials which show you how to create even more complex lower thirds so you can impress your clients.

Sound Effects

Third Party Green Screen Keyers

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Green screen, or chroma key compositing, has been around since the 1930s. Developed by filmmakers at RKO Radio Pictures, it was used as a method to create complex visual effects that were before its time. Over the years, the process went from a painstakingly analog method to a digital method that can now be done on computers. Programs such as Final Cut Pro, Premiere Pro, Avid Media Composer, and the like all have the ability to do basic greenscreen/bluescreen keying if your footage is in the optimal conditions. For complex and intricate situations, post professionals turn to programs like After Effects, Motion, Autodesk Smoke, or Nuke. Despite the programs that have greenscreen keying capabilities, there are many third party companies who have developed plugins to handle even the toughest keying processes. Let’s take a look at a few and see what each have to offer.

Primatte Keyer/KeyCorrect

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Primatte Keyer is Red Giant’s premiere keyer solution for post professionals. Within its array of features are some of the following: auto compute algorithm for pulling a perfect key, key correction tools for refining mattes and backgrounds, and color matcher feature for matching the subject to their background. This plugin is one of the most trusted keying plugin on the market amongst professionals in film (Lord of the Rings, The Matrix, Harry Potter, and Spider-Man) and television (Sesame Street, Nickelodeon, and Disney). This plugin is compatible on Mac and PC with programs ranging from Final Cut Pro, After Effects, Premiere Pro, and Motion. I can personally attest to its strengths and abilities as I’ve used it in my work quite often. I find it great to use when Keylight may not be enough to get the job done. For the price of $499, it is definitely a keyer solution to consider if you do a lot of it. Just take a look at its capabilities below.

If you are fine with keying with Keylight, you can get the tools of Key Correct to assist you. Key Correct lets you create perfect keys from an image shot against a colored background. These tools include a Rig/Wire Remover, Light Wrap, Color Matcher, Alpha Cleaner, and many other tools. I’ve personally used Key Correct’s tools on many projects and found it to perfectly complement Keylight when I may have challenging keys. Having both Key Correct and Primatte Keyer are definitely tools you should consider in your post production pipeline.

Boris Chroma Key Studio

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Within the Boris Continuum Complete set is the Key and Blend unit. This unit automates the creation of precise keys with a minimal amount of adjustment. These filters strip away the complexity of chroma keying by automating matting, edge softening and refinement, and light wrapping and reflections to produce seamless composites each and every time. One plugin that stands out is the Chroma Key Studio. The Chroma Key Studio is an all-in-one keying suite similar to Primatte Keyer. It can do everything from screen enhancement, auto-garbage matte and masking, chroma key, matte cleanup, matte choker, foreground color correction, and light wrap into a single filter. In the tutorial below, Kevin P. McAuliffe demonstrates how versatile this plugin is and why it is a suitable solution for keying within your NLE. I’ve used it myself a few times and it is definitely a time-saver if I’m working in Premiere Pro or Media Composer as opposed to shipping it out to After Effects for chroma keying.

PHYX Keyer

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The final keyer plugin on the list is the one from the Phyxware folks. Phyx Keyer 5 is a set of 10 plugins designed to give you even faster and more accurate keys than ever before. These plugins include the FastKeyer, ScreenCorrector, Lightwrap, and SkinTools. These tools have been used by companies such as AT&T, Autodesk, and Fox Sports. These plugins were also used on the feature film Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues. In the tutorial above, you get to witness how versatile and fast these set of plugins are, whether you are in an NLE or compositing program. One thing to note about these plugins is that they function on Mac only and are installed through the FxFactory software engine. I’ve personally used the Keyer and other tools in this set, and I have to say that it is top notch. They really have tools to handle even the most difficult keying scenarios.

You’ve seen these industry leading third party keyers and what they can do. Feel free to download a trial and see what the hype is all about. I can assure you that you won’t be disappointed.

Sound Effects

Quick Blemish Removal in After Effects CC

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

–       Creating the Matte

–       Tracking the Matte

–       Removing the Blemish

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CREATING THE MATTE

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

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

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

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TRACKING THE MATTE

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

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

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

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

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

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

REMOVING THE BLEMISH

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

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

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

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

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

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