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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Mocha Tracking in Silhouette FX

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Silhouette FX is a dedicated rotoscoping program. Rotoscoping is the process of tracing a video image frame by frame creating a matte for later compositing. Essentially, think of of a father and son throwing a football back and forth in the front yard. What if you wanted them playing catch in a more obvious atmosphere – like a warring alien planet! You will need to rotoscope, or trace, around the father, the son, and that darn football in every single frame of that video clip. Once you are done tracing, you will have a series of black and white images called an alpha matte. Other software can then interrupt the image’s black as transparent and white as opaque. Therefore, the background will be removed, leaving you with just a go-lucky father and son playing catch. Now you can add in a new background, like that warring alien planet, underwater Atlantis, or in front of the great Pyramids of Egypt.

In the past I have shown you how to create an alpha using Silhouette FX, and also rotoscoping with Silhouette FX. This time, I am going to break down how to motion track. This is an advanced technique that is required for reducing the workload of rotoscoping by hand each frame of movement. The idea is that if you can mocha track an entire limb, for instance, throughout a shot, you will be able to apply your shapes using that tracked data and greatly reduce, if not fully eliminate, the need for manual frame by frame adjustments. I will now show you how to mocha track in three basic steps:

  • Setting Up Your Track
  • Tracking
  • Filing and Functionality

SETTING UP YOUR TRACK

Mocha Tracking is a partnership in the newest version of Silhouette from the planar tracking program, Mocha. I use this tracking program the most while working, and I find it to be the most accurate in diverse situations. Mocha is a planar tracker, which means that you create a shape (plane) that, when isolated, you can use Mocha to track from similarities in pattern, color, contrast, etc. The tracking shape will then follow along the path of tracking while storing the information in a layer (known as the tracking matrix). By storing the tracking information in a layer, you are able to add limitless shapes under that layer and the tracking data will apply to each of those shapes. Extremely helpful!

In the scene I am using I have a pair of hands with tracking markers on them. Tracking markers are not necessary, but are helpful in certain circumstances and encouraged if you have a savvy VFX supervisor on set to make those calls.

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To Mocha track, I first need to create a layer in the Object list panel.

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From there, using the B spline tool (it doesn’t matter if you use x, b, or bezier. I just prefer using B spline with human anatomy) draw a shape around the “area” you want to track. Now, I say “area” because you might want to track just the thumb, the index finger, wrist, or something that has a consistent movement throughout the clip. Think of a man walking from the profile view – you wouldn’t track his head and expect your shapes to adhere to the legs properly. You will need to track the head separate from shapes on the head (nose, chin, forehead), the thigh separate from the calf, the forearm separate from the shoulder, and so on. Since each section usually takes 5 – 10 shapes to complete, having a track all of those shapes can follow is a huge time saver. So again, I am going to draw a shape around the “area” I want to track.

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Keep the tracking shape tight around the area you want to track without it being a pixel perfect shape to what you need to roto. It needs some data from the surrounding area to differentiate pattern and movement. At this point, let’s go into our tracker controls.

TRACKING

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Looking at the controls (unless I have a scene where the cameraman is moving around a scene while filming) I generally only want to track the TRANSLATION, SCALE, and ROTATION.

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In Pre-Processing, you can check on PREVIEW and play with the Blur, Sharpen, contrast, etc., until you get a high contrasted image that gives nice shapes and patterns for your tracking shape to follow.

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Now go ahead and Track forward.

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FILING AND FUNCTIONALITY 

Back in the Timeline you will notice the LAYER you created now has multiple keyframes under whats called the TRANSFORM MATRIX.

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This is your tracking storage, and now you can create any number of shapes you need under that layer, and that tracking data will now apply to each of those shapes.

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Notice towards the bottom of the list, I labeled that initial b spline I used for tracking as my “tracking shape” and just locked it and turned it off. That way, if I need to adjust the track down the line, I still have it for reference.

For your reference, here is the video that particular sample clip came from. In this example, you can see how rotoscoping became important for us (me and the other artist working on this clip) in order to strategically animate on new skin tones and iron man hand blasters.

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BASIC Screen Replacement with Mocha & After Effects CC

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One very common visual effect is the screen replacement. You see this in movies, TV shows, commercials, corporate videos, music videos, documentaries – you name it. The screen is replaced with an alternative image or video, most commonly on televisions, computer screens, etc. Now, phone and tablet screens are becoming more common.

I will show you how to create this effect in three simple steps:

  • Set up your new comp in After Effects CC
  • Import and track screen in Mocha AE
  • Export data and finish comp in After Effects

SET UP YOUR NEW COMP IN AFTER EFFECTS

First you will need two different pieces of footage – one is the source video clip of the screen that is going to be tracked and replaced.

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And the other is the image or video that you plan to comp on top of the screen.

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Go to COMPOSITION > NEW COMP (Hotkey is COMMAND+N) – create the parameters needed for your source clip (time, fps, size, etc.). Drag your footage into the comps timeline, making sure to keep your screen replacement footage layered on top. For now, you can keep the visibility turned off (click the EYE icon next to the later to toggle visibility).

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IMPORT AND TRACK SCREEN IN MOCHA AE

We are now ready to send your footage into Mocha AE, to do that simply highlight your source footage in the layers panel and go to ANIMATION > TRACK IN MOCHA AE. If you’ve never opened mocha AE before, it will ask you if you want to register the product (feel free to fill this out or simply hit ‘register later’). You will then see a projects panel where you will notice your source clip is already loaded in for frame rate, duration, and title. Hit OK to confirm these settings.

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Using the X Spline tool you will be creating a shape around the screen you want to replace.

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To use this tool, simply click and you will place an anchor point in your shape. The shape we want will have four anchor points – one around each corner of the screen we want to replace. When you connect back with the first anchor point, your shape will close and be complete.

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Below the viewer you will find the track options.

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Go ahead and choose TRACK FOWARD allowing Mocha to track the screen using the X spline shape you drew.

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Across the top toll bar you will find a square icon with an ‘S’ in the middle (hovering over the shape will reveal ‘show planar surface’), select this, and you will notice a blue box has appeared within our X spline shape.

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This blue box will dictate where the corner pin data will place your image or video in relation to replacing the screen. At this point, grab each corner of the blue box and line it up with the edge of the screen. When you are finished, you can test how the border looks by going to the left INSERT CLIP drop down menu and selecting one of the grid layouts.

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EXPORT DATA AND FINISH COMP IN AFTER EFFECTS

To export this track data and use it back in After Effects, locate EXPORT TRACKING DATA in the lower part of the screen, select it, and use the drop down menu to locate the option AFTER EFFECTS CORNER PIN [SUPPORTS MOTION BLUR]. Finish by choosing COPY TO CLIPBOARD.

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Back in After Effects you can turn the visibility back on for the image or video you will be using to comp on top of the screen. Have the image or video selected in the layer panel and choose EDIT > PASTE. The Mocha AE track data that was copied to the clipboard will be pasted into the image or video and correlate all the corner pin needed for a successful comp.

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You will notice the image or video will not be comped correct over the screen after you paste the corner pin data. To fix this, highlight the image or video in the layer panel and hit ‘A’ to bring up the anchor point. From here you will need to use the axis sliders to move the image or video into place.

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Superhero Effects in After Effects

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I remember when I was first started learning After Effects, I wanted to know how to pull off visual effects that would allow me to have superhuman powers. That included learning how run like the Flash, fly like Superman, swing off a web like Spiderman, and much more. Over the years, I’ve learned these visual effects while also improving my efficiency with After Effects. However, there are many great tutorials out there on the web that show you how to achieve the effects of fantasy characters you grew up watching. I’m going to highlight a few tutorials that showcase pulling off superhero effects within After Effects so that you can add them to any of your projects.

Run Like the Flash

In this tutorial, After Effects whiz Mikey Borup shows you how to create a speed effect similar to the new CW show, The Flash. Utilizing greeen screen compositing, precompositions, and many native AE filters, Mikey is able to recreate the look of a person running super fast. This tutorial is especially great because Mikey covers everything from visual effects on his subject to making the subject’s background look like it’s moving really fast. Aside from this great tutorial, Mikey offers cool and useful After Effects tutorials twice a week which can be a great timesaver.

Power Ranger Morphing

From the folks of Hyperdrive Pictures, learn how to morph into a Power Ranger by following this seven part tutorial. In these series of tutorials, they cover using greenscreen clothing to get the floating look seen in the older version of Power Rangers, how to generate a static lightning background, as well the final part of the morph sequence when you see the Power Ranger helmet. Growing up, I was a fan of the Power Rangers and always wondered how they pulled off these morph sequences. Knowing that all I needed was some greenscreen, props, and Photoshopped images made it even better. Although they are using AE CS3, this effect will work in newer versions of AE, and you can take it a step further.

Heat Vision Effect

In this episode of Film Riot, Ryan Connolly puts his spin on creating the heat vision effect from Man of Steel, as well as making someone disintegrate. In After Effects, Ryan uses masks, a third party plugin known as 3D Stroke, glow, Optical Flares, and displacement effects to composite heat vision lasers onto the subject’s eyes. For the disintegration, Ryan used greenscreen, CC Scatterize, and a few other techniques to accomplish the effect. What I’ve always enjoyed about Ryan’s tutorials is how he can explain complex techniques in a short amount of time, yet make it comprehensive to anyone.

Web Sling Effect

Director and VFX artist Seth Worley demonstrates in this Red Giant tutorial how to do a web sling effect akin to Spiderman. Using greenscreen compositing, motion tracking, and Trapcode Particular, Seth shows us how he was able to make his subject look like he was swinging across the room on a web sling. Seth has always delivered great visual effects tutorials, and watching this makes it seem possible for anyone to swing across the room like Spiderman. Using Red Giant products, like Particular, also open the door to create many objects from particles if you have a good understanding of the plugin’s depth.

With the right amount of planning, video production equipment, and understanding of After Effects’s capabilities, you can live out your childhood fantasies of having superpowers. In my opinion, learning how to create effects like these were the conduit for learning how to use After Effects in the first place.

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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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