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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Exporting/Compression Applications

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Exporting your edit out of your NLE is one of the many important processes of post production. In the tape-based days of exporting, it could be a very tedious and time consuming process that required a lot of quality assurance. With the digital era of video and web based content taking charge, exporting your videos isn’t as hard as it use to be. As a video producer, it is my job to know what specifications are necessary to deliver to my broadcast and web vendors to ensure that my commercials get aired properly. That is why I need to know all the available media compression applications on the market. I’m going to highlight three applications that I’ve used for the last five years to get the job done.

Adobe Media Encoder

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My go to compression/exporting application for the last four years has been Adobe Media Encoder. In times of fast turnarounds and very specific video types, Media Encoder has been clutch more times than I can count. Since I’ve been using the Creative Suite/Creative Cloud, Media Encoder has been apart of the bundle. Long before Premiere Pro had the ability to export media from the application itself, you had to queue in Media Encoder to get the final render you needed. The latest iteration of Media Encoder is a stable and reliable application that is able to meet vendor specifications much easier than anything I’ve used previously. Whether I need Quicktime files or mp4 files, it gets the job done. Below are a few abilities of Media Encoder:

  • Match Source presets
  • Exporting Closed Caption data
  • Import and export of Avid DNxHD assets
  • Support for new formats such as Sony 4K AVC-Intra (XAVC), Panasonic AVCI-200, DNxHD in an MXF container, XDCAMHD in a QuickTime (.mov) container, and more

Apple Compressor

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The next compression/exporting application I used quite often is Apple’s Compressor. Compressor has been apart of the Final Cut suite for the last decade, and the latest installment is much stronger and efficient than before. I’ll be honest about my use of Compressor. I used it mostly when I needed to make DVDs or seldom used file types. It got the job done until I shifted to an Adobe workflow. It could be that the computer I had previously wasn’t strong enough to harness its true power. Overall, I found Compressor to be a backup in case Media Encoder failed to deliver what I needed. I have found that the latest version of Compressor works great when I edit with Final Cut Pro X. It creates great master files and web ready H.264 files very efficiently and clean. It even creates video files for iTunes app display. In my opinion, it is one of the best compression/exporting applications on the market and shouldn’t be overlooked. Below are a few features of Apple Compressor:

  • Intuitive interface
  • Streamlined workflow
  • Share Final Cut Pro settings
  • Encoding available for Apple devices
  • Broad format support and more

MPEG Streamclip

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MPEG Streamclip is a free application available for Mac and Windows which can open a variety of file types, as well as transcode to a variety of formats. In my opinion, this application was at its peak when most NLEs couldn’t take raw formats like H.264 from DSLRs. With most NLEs now supporting raw format editing in real time, this application has become more of a last resort compression application when you have no other choice. When I edited with Final Cut Pro 7 and Premiere Pro CS5, using this application to transcode footage was a common part of my workflow. These days, I help new  filmmakers learn to use it when they don’t have access to the aforementioned applications above. Overall, MPEG Streamclip is still a versatile application and I believe you should have it in your arsenal just in case. Below are a few features of MPEG Streamclip:

  • Lets you play and edit QuickTime, DV, AVI, MPEG-4, MPEG-1, MPEG-2 or VOB files. Transport streams with MPEG, PCM, or AC3 audio (MPEG-2 playback component required), DivX (with DivX 6) and WMV (with Flip4Mac WMV Player).
  • Saves edited movies as MOV files, and (when possible) as AVI or MP4 files.
  • Handles files and streams larger than 4 GB, split in any number of segments, or with multiple audio tracks, and can also optionally handle timecode breaks. It is compatible with MPEG-1 and MPEG-2 video, MPEG layer 1/2 (MP1/MP2) audio, AC3/A52 audio, and PCM audio.
  • Supports batch processing: just drag some files in the batch list, choose a conversion and a folder, click the Go button, and MPEG Streamclip will automatically convert all your files.

As you can see, these three applications are very capable of creating deliverables necessary to get your project out. While there are other applications like Sorenson Squeeze, Red Giant Offload, and camera based conversion programs, these programs have shown that they can perform at the top level. Feel free to try them out and find out what works best for you.

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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

Using Mattes in Your Edits

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Using matte clips in my edits is something I’ve been doing for a very long time. With mattes, I can isolate a piece of footage and insert other assets. What would be an otherwise boring set of clips looks like a masterful composition. Now, there are many ways to create mattes as well as use them in your edit. However, I want to highlight creative ways using mattes can add flair to your edits. The use of mattes can be done in all popular NLEs such Adobe Premiere, Final Cut Pro, and Avid Media Composer as well as in After Effects and Motion. Let’s take a look.

Enhancing Interviews with Travel Mattes

In this tutorial, post production guru Walter Biscardi shows us how to use mattes to enhance talking head interviews with b-roll. In Final Cut Pro 7, he places his interview clip on track 3n. From there, he places his matte image on track 2 with a scale and position adjustment. He inserts his main background on track 1 so that the composite will have an overall theme. With his interview clip selected, he control + clicks on it and selects Travel Matte Alpha. This puts his interview clip into the matte he placed in track 2. To clean things up, he nests his interview clip and matte into their own sequence. With his clips in a nest, it allows him to add a drop shadow which adds a bit of depth to the matte.

Next, he adds his b-roll on track 3 and another matte on track 2. Using the same process as above, he is able to place his b-roll into the matte and adjust it to taste. With his clips matted out, he adds the final touches with a faded title and he now has a much more visually appealing interview than he had before. No need to cut back and forth between talking head and interview when you can see everything at once.

Animated Mattes to Stylize Wedding Videos

In this cool tutorial, Sean Mullen of Rampant Design shows us how to use his popular product, Style Mattes. Style Mattes are a collection of pre-animated mattes which work with all major and popular post production software. Here, he shows us how easy it is to use these mattes in Premiere Pro. With your clip on Track 1 and the Style Matte on Track 2 or above, apply the Track Matte Key to your clip. In the effect controls panel, change the Matte option to Track 2 and choose between Matte Luma or Alpha so that you’ll see your video inside the matte. In a matter of seconds, it is really easy to add these mattes to wedding montages, music videos, documentaries, or any video project you have.

Light Streak Freeze Frame Effect

In this tutorial for Avid Media Composer, Jon Lynn of GeniusDV shows us how to create a light streak freeze frame holdout effect using the Marquee Tool. First, he isolates a frame in the timeline. From there, he creates a freeze frame in the source monitor. With the freeze frame created, he inserts it into the timeline at the point where he wants the action to stop. Next, he creates a new title which opens up the Marquee Tool. Using the shape tool, he draws a matte around the talent. Once the matte is created, he saves it into his bins for later use. With the matte placed inside of his bin, he inserts it into the timeline and does the necessary compositing to isolate the talent in the freeze frame. Using a filter from Boris FX, he is able to add the light streak effect and complete the graphic. One of the things I’ve always found hard to grasp in Media Composer is the amount of steps it takes to do what can be simple compositing. I know some folks like it, where others tend to leave that work to a program like After Effects or Motion. Overall, it is a cool effect when you want to add something special to your projects.

These are just a small collection of ways to utilize mattes in your video projects, and I encourage you to find ways to use them in a way that enhances yours. It’s easy to use them as a crutch for creativity, but when utilized properly, they can be a force to be reckoned with.

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After Effects Keying Tips & Tricks

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Green/blue screen keying is one of the most used post production techniques for putting actors in environments that would otherwise be quite expensive to make happen. A technique that has been around since the 1930s, green/blue screen keying, or chroma keying, is a fundamental compositing technique used on many of the visual effects you see on television and feature films. With all the advances that have been made in post production technology, what would have taken visual effects and editors months to complete can now be accomplished rather quickly. However, as editors or visual effects artists, there are situations involving chroma key that may require more work than just applying Keylight and extracting your actor. I’m going to showcase some products and techniques you can use in After Effects to help for those special situations you may encounter with chroma keying.

Fixing Screen Color

As a post production professional, you may not always be on set to guide the production crew how to properly light their green/blue screen so that it can create an optimal key. When you get the footage, you may have to spend time fixing the green color on the footage so that you don’t run into issues pulling a strong key. The folks from PHYX have a plugin known as Screen Corrector that can help fix the screen color of your green screen footage. You can purchase it from their PHYX Keyer bundle for $139. One caveat about this plugin is that it is for Mac only. If you are looking for a non-third party solution, take a look at this tutorial below for changing the screen color.

The author shows us a technique of using the Selective Color filter to boost the green in the footage to pull a better key. He then goes on to change the white and black values of his alpha matte so it can be used later as a track matte for the green screen footage. I’ve utilized these techniques on projects and found it really helpful. It’s not fool proof, but it’s better than having to settle for a terribly lit screen.

Creating a Lightwrap

A light wrap is a compositing method used to give your actor the illusion that background light is reflecting into the foreground, and helps sell the key as being more realistic. This method is used after you’ve pulled the best key you can to sell the composite better. If you are looking for plugins that can do this easily, look to Key Correct Pro from Red Giant. Their light wrap plugin allows you to take your background of choice and seamlessly blend it with your keyed footage. I’ve used this plugin numerous times, and it has done wonders on my keyed footage. However, you may be working at a site that doesn’t want to spend money on a light wrap plugin, so it would good to know the method for generating one within After Effects.

Media production instructor Andrew Smith shows us how to create a light wrap in After Effects using only native tools. His method includes duplicating the keyed footage twice, using the invert and channel blur filters, and precomping along with track mattes. Looking at the result he was able to generate, I believe this is a great method to know when you need to create a light wrap with no third party plugins. A light wrap is just one method in the process of completing a green screen composite. The color of your subject and the background are just as important.

Color Matching to the Background

One of the many things that sells a green screen composite is how the subject is lit and colored in comparison to the foreground. Not taking the step to color your subject to the background will make your composite look amateur. It’s not as hard as it looks. You can go down the third party route, or use the color correction filters to achieve this. If you chose a third party option, I would recommend PHYX’s Composite Matcher or Red Giant’s Composite Wizard plugin Composite Color Matcher. Both plugins are good at easily matching your foreground with your background. If you want to stay native to After Effects, you can follow this tutorial below.

Motion graphics artist Dries Lambrecht shows us how to achieve this using the Levels filter. It involves manipulating the red, green, and blue channels individually by using the Channel drop down menu in After Effects. This is a preferred technique among visual effects and motion graphics artists, as looking at an image across different channels can give you a much better representation of your highlights, midtones, and shadows. Overall, I found this technique handy when you need to do it quickly, while still paying attention to each RGB channel. These are some tips and tricks you can use for when you are keying your footage and need to make it believable and professional. You can use third party plugins and cut some time off from completing your work, or you can master time tested techniques using what’s available in After Effects. At the end of the day, choose the best method for the task at hand.

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