Scar Blemish and Birthmark Removal in Mocha and After Effects CC


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


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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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.


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



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


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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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!


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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What is HitFilm?


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

What is HitFilm Pro?

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

What is the general workflow when using it?

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

What effects can I create in it?

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

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

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

Why should I buy it?

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

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

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BASIC Screen Replacement with Mocha & After Effects CC


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


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.


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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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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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


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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Video Editing Time Lapses

A Team NLE

The job of a video editor is a very challenging and intense position that sometimes is overlooked by the audience. It is their job to weave hours of footage into a coherent and comprehensive piece of art that is enjoyed by the masses. Most people wouldn’t understand the work that goes into making a 30 second commercial, 30 minute television show, or two hour movie unless they see a behind the scenes package on a DVD or an online featurette. However, there are some editors who have shared the process from start to finish via time lapses. I will share some video editor time lapses from a wide spectrum of works to showcase the amount of time and effort it takes to complete a project.

Television Editor Time Lapse

TV editor Matt Barber shows us the process of cutting an episode of the NBC series, Chuck. Working on Avid Media Composer, Matt spends the first nine days going through the dailies he received from the set, and picking out takes based on set notes building a selects sequence. From there, he creates a director’s cut of the episode to be shown to the director before it goes out to the producers for approval. After he receives notes from the director’s cut, he begins constructing a producer’s cut which will be reviewed by the studio executives. After he has gone through the director, producer, and network for approval, his episode enters picture lock so it can be sent in for audio, color, and VFX finishing. In a span of almost 30 days, it took Matt that much time to get an episode of Chuck to air. If you think that is intense, nothing is more intense and stress inducing than getting an SNL digital short done.

SNL ‘Beygency’ Time Lapse

Film editor Adam Epstein has to work under the tightest of deadlines to get content on air for Saturday Night Live. In most cases, Adam is usually getting content within an hour of the show airing live on Saturday. In this time lapse, Adam shows us his edit of a SNL short called Beygency, which parodies the Adjustment Bureau and singer Beyonce Knowles. Starting Friday afternoon at 4 PM until Saturday morning at 1:37 AM, Adam uses a full Adobe workflow. This consists of tools such as Premiere Pro, After Effects, Mocha Pro, Illustrator, and Photoshop. He uses these to edit, composite, lay audio, and finish the short. Working with footage coming off RED cameras and more, Adam is able to take this short from start to finish for our viewing pleasure. The first time I saw this, I was in complete awe of what was happening in front of me. It’s like watching someone complete a 48-hour film race right before your eyes. Some projects may not have as tight of deadline as an SNL short, but watching them come together is still a joy to watch.

KIPP Post Production Time-lapse

Post production professional Aaron Williams shows us in this time lapse a project he did for the KIPP Academy in Nashville. Within two minutes, you see Aaron start in Premiere Pro pulling soundbites from various interviews to construct the skeleton of the video. Next, he utilizes the Pancake Timeline technique to pull secondary soundbites, as well as b-roll selects to add flesh to the story. In the midst of the edit, he’s doing music searches, syncing audio, as well as using temp placeholder graphics so he can visualize how the edit will look when finished. From there, he moves into DaVinci Resolve to add a color grade to footage followed by After Effects to create motion graphics and visual effects. Once he gets what he needs from these programs, he brings everything back into Premiere to finish the project. I’ve watched this time lapse numerous times and have picked a few techniques for my own workflow that I have implemented to make my life easier. Aaron’s time lapse is a true demonstration of what it takes to construct a video with the highest professional quality. Now that we’ve seen how much time and effort it takes to edit a project from start to finish, we can begin to appreciate how important the role of an editor is. It takes a lot of time to make a commercial, TV show, or movie look the way it does. It also takes talented and wise professionals to make it look so effortless.

Sound Effects

Tracking Text To An Object in After Effects CC


Shows today like the Netflix’s Original Series House of Cards and BBC’s Sherlock are using a rather eye catching effects to show text messages on a phone without doing a close up on the phone’s display. Instead, they have the text float over the phone and is motion tracked in such a way that if the character moves, the text will smoothly follow along.

In order to achieve this effect, I will show you how to do it in three simple steps: – Tracking the Footage – Creating the Text – Linking the Text to the Tracking Data


Once you first have your video footage imported into After Effects, create a new composition, and then right click on the source footage and choose TRACK MOTION.

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From here you will have a single tracking point to position on your footage.

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Since this effect will be linking text to a phone – the phone itself becomes the focus for tracking. As such, reposition the tracking point over a significant marking on the phone. I use the term ‘significant’ which simply means “stands out.” In the case of the footage I am using, the pink lock button located on top of the phone stands out well contrasted against the white case, giving me a significant point to track. Other examples of significant points you may want to look for include logos, buttons, or switches.

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Once the tracking point is positioned, go over to your tracking controls in the lower right corner and choose ANALYZE FORWARD.

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At this point, the tracking point will create an anchor point for each frame of the video footage. Once finished, you will be able to see the overall path of motion of that significant point.

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In order to capture this data and make it useful for our effect, you will need to go to LAYER >> NEW >> NULL OBJECT. From there, go back to your tracker controls and choose EDIT TARGET. Set the target  you just created to the NULL OBJECT. To finish hit APPLY.


Now that we have the tracked data, the next thing we need is to create the text itself. To do that, go to LAYER >> NEW >> TEXT. This creates a new layer in your layers panel. In order to edit it, you need to go over to your CHARACTER controls and choose the settings to which your text will display.

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In essence this is where you choose items such as font, color, size, and scale. Once your settings fit the desired effect, you can choose your text tool from the tool bar or simply hit CMD+T for the hot key reference. Click into your source footage, and type in the text you want displayed.

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You have got your tracking data, and you have got your text. Now, all that is left is to marry the two together. Without linking the text to the tracking the data, when the footage begins to play, the text will stay immobile and the footage moves dynamically away from the text. To pair the two is very simple. In your layers panel, you should have three layers thus far: your source footage, your null object (with the tracking data), and your text layer. Looking at your text layer, you will notice there is a section labeled PARENT, and below it looks like a SWIRL ICON. Click and drag on the SWIRL ICON, and you will notice you are dragging a black line along with you – This action is called PICK WHIPPING.

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So you will want to PICK WHIP the TEXT LAYER to the NULL OBJECT. By doing so, you are telling your text layer to follow the null object’s tracked data, thus making it so that the text follows the phone throughout the source footage.