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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Favorites New Features of Premiere Pro CC 2014

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NAB (National Association of Broadcasters) just took place in Las Vegas, and that means new releases are coming from a variety of vendors in production and post production. One I’ve been anticipating is the update to the Creative Cloud suite of applications. In particular, I am excited for the new features in Premiere Pro CC 8. Within the next update of Premiere Pro, editors will have access to tools, functions, and more that will allow them to be more effective and efficient. In the video below, my good friend and fellow post production professional, Josh Weiss of Retooled.Net, highlights some of the best features coming to Premiere Pro in 2014. I’m going to highlight the features I’m most excited about.

Masking and Tracking

Premiere Pro has come a long way in terms of tools meant for masking. With the release of CS6, plugin developer Creative Impatience created Feathered Crop, Vignette, and Simple Mask plugins that will help editors take care of simple compositing tasks that normally would have required many steps to achieve. With the new built in masking tools of Premiere Pro CC 8, it has finally reached the level that Final Cut Pro 7 had. You can create a rectangle or circular mask which can crop or isolate a portion of your footage. Best part is, that it comes standard with many of the native effects Premiere Pro has, like the Mosaic and color correction effects as seen below. This functionality will definitely speed up simple compositing tasks that most people would farm out to After Effects.

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The added bonus of built in compositing tools is the tracking function that comes with them. As long as I’ve used Premiere Pro, motion tracking either came in the form of After Effects or a third party plugin solution like Boris FX. With this new addition, Adobe developers understand that editors sometimes want to keep certain tasks within the NLE.

Transparency Grid

This has been something that I’ve been asking for since CS5. I’ve even asked product manager Al Mooney to add this on Twitter during a #postchat conversation. Premiere’s partners in crime, After Effects and Photoshop, have had a transparency grid since the Creative Suite days, and this has aided in detecting if a clip or image had embedded transparency. For the longest time, editors did not have this option in Premiere Pro. The only way you were able to detect transparency is if you switched the source monitor to Alpha, and this would show you black for transparency and white for opaqueness. Now, we have more options with a transparency grid which will definitely make life easier.

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Preserve bin structure

This is a feature I discovered via Scott Simmons in his Premiere Pro article. How many times have you ever organized your footage and assets in a structure at the finder level, only to have it broken by importing into Premiere Pro? Well, that is no more. Now, Premiere Pro will maintain your file structure upon import, which will give you more time to spend on editing and creative tasks.

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Track Backward Selection

No NLE I’ve used since Final Cut Pro 7 has had this tool. Not Avid, not FCPX, and not Premiere… until this reveal. Now users can select clips forward or backward in the timeline. This will come in handy for editors with big timelines.

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Live Text Templates with After Effects

This is a feature that Premiere users have been waiting for. For the longest time, we could import After Effects compositions into Premiere Pro via a dynamic link, but making changes was a tedious process. Live text templates is a step forward in the evolution of Adobe video products that will inch it closer to competing with the FCP X/Motion combination that exists now. This feature allows you to edit the text of an After Effects composition within Premiere without all the back and forth. While not completely perfect in execution, this feature will definitely open the door for what we can expect in the future between these two programs.

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Overall, I’m extremely excited to try this next version of Premiere Pro CC. As my top NLE of choice, I’m always amazed at the features each update brings along with it. In my opinion, I believe this version can do everything the FCP 7 can do but better. And with the stronger integration with After Effects, it will put it on par with what FCP X can do.

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Professional Color Correction in After Effects

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A camera can only go so far in terms of changing the colors of the raw footage you take; sometimes your typical white balance and contrast adjustments just don’t cut it. Colors seem flat and just don’t come at you enough, so to spice things up, we turn to post-production CC (color correction). Here is a video showing before and after (left and right) comparisons, giving you an idea of the practical capabilities of cc:

We’ll be using Adobe after effects today but pretty much all editing platforms have CC, some more advanced than others. The focus will be on 3 different main effects, each making a slight difference. *remember, CC can be used to not only spruce things up, but create more emphasis on various emotions.

The 3 main effects we’ll use are: Curves, Tritone and Exposure. Each effect will be broken down into small steps so you get a bigger understanding on how each of them work, and how they can be manipulated. So let’s get started.

Some of the footage used in the video will be part of a short movie teaser that I’m making, so of course, we’re going to be aiming for quite a gloomy feel. The shot types and cinematography also play a big part in how we create that atmosphere. The first shot is a handheld shot of a tree. Here is what I’ve done:

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This was quite simple to get my desired colors. I added a brightness/contrast effect, to up the contrast and lower the brightness as a starting point. I then added a tritone at 70% blend and went with navy blue midtones and pale yellow highlights. These colors helps make the tree come out and made the branches look more eery.

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In the next shot we have a handheld shot of a rocking toy and another one of the shadow that it casts. We used the same effects as last, but also added exposure adjustments, as well as change the color used for the tritone. We took the exposure and offset down for this shot. The exposure controls the amount of light which is let in, where as the offset controls its luminance. I kept the color correction for both the shot of the toy as well as its shadow exactly the same as they were of the same subject.

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This shot here is where I decided that a curves adjustment would be useful. The original footage looked very flat and bland, so I needed to correct it quite a lot without it looking too unnatural. The tritone and brightness/contrast was changed a little like the rest, but what helped more with the color grading was the RGB curves.

I took the blacks and midtones lower so the highlights would come out a little more – this helped bring out the texture of the bricks and the colors on the leaves.

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The last shot in the example footage is the macro shot of some leaves. The original footage was quite simply dreadful – it was lacking color rendition, and vibrancy and so the color correction needed to boost it up ten fold. I went ahead and turned the brightness down abit and upped the contrast so there would be a little more difference in the background and the leaves. After this is I added the tritone and used bright highlights as well as midtones, and went for a midnight blue for the background shadows. There really was a noticeable difference here.

So color correction isn’t as hard as you thought – just a little experimenting and some decent tools will work wonders here. I hope you’ve all learned something!

Stay tuned for the short movie teaser which I am working on, where I’ll write about some short movie cinematic techniques.

Until next time, Peace, Love and After effects.

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