Quick Blemish Removal in After Effects CC

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

–       Creating the Matte

–       Tracking the Matte

–       Removing the Blemish

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CREATING THE MATTE

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

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

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

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TRACKING THE MATTE

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

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

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

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

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

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

REMOVING THE BLEMISH

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

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

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

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

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

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Creating a 3D Opening Card in After Effects CC

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The image of an opening book or card in a movie, TV show, or commercial is nothing new. With the advancement of visual effects, this can now be created in a variety of dedicated 3D modeling programs or, in this case, advanced compositing programs such as Adobe After Effects CC.

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

–       Source Images and Setup

–       Creating and Rigging the Card

–       Animating the Movement

SOURCE IMAGES AND SETUP

First, you will need to find images that can be combined together to create the final look of your card. Therefore, since a card is paper, you will need an image of paper. You can source your image by doing a quick GOOGLE search, or if you are working on a professionall project and need royalty free images, you can take a photograph of the paper you will be using yourself or join a royalty free stock image site such as thinkstockphotos.com or photobucket.com.

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In After Effects, once you find the images you will be using, create a new composition (I made mine 1080 HD and five seconds long). If you have a background image, you will place that first (scale and position to fit) and possibly add a light vignette to the overall composition.

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CREATING AND RIGGING THE CARD

At this point you can place the first paper image (scale and position as needed) into your composition.

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It looks a little flat so why don’t we first add a black solid (LAYER>NEW>SOLID). Use the rectangle masking tool to create a shape slightly larger than the paper image, feather the edges, and place it underneath the paper to give a subtle shadow effect.

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This first page will be our inside page. We can add now add some text (Use the text tool in the toolbar > color and font at your own preference).

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Now we can create the top cover page that will be animating open in just a moment. Simply duplicate the first page (Command+D on the image layer) and move it to the top in the layer panel.

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Create more text that will go on the cover, and then you will be ready to move towards animating the card.

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ANIMATING THE MOVEMENT

Turn both the cover page and cover text into 3D layers. We will be controlling the cover page for the animation, so go ahead and parent the cover text to the cover page using the pick whip.

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With the cover page selected, you will see the page has an XYZ axis in the middle.

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This is the anchor point of the image and it will act as the hinge where the page will bend. Using the Anchor Point Tool (From Toolbar or shortcut key ‘Y’) move the anchor point to the far left of the page (place the green Y axis arrow right along the edge of the page).

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Open the rotation controls on the cover page (have the layer selected and hit ‘R’), and key frame the Y axis increasing over the time of the composition in order to create the visual effect of the card opening to reveal the inside contents.

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Animating Numbers in After Effects CC

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Sometimes you need to create a motion graphic showing numbers increasing or decreasing for a percentage, calculation, statistic, or whatever the reason may be. There are many programs that can help you achieve this effect. However, in my opinion, I would argue After Effects is your best program to create this animation. As much as After Effects is known for its post production compositing abilities, it was originally created as a motion graphics program. Today, I will show you how to increase numbers in an animation using After Effects CC in three simple steps:

  • Create Placeholder Text
  • Add the Slider Effect
  • Add the Expression

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CREATE PLACEHOLDER TEXT

First, we need to create a placeholder text before we begin. It’s a placeholder because the Slider Effect we will be applying next will eliminate anything we type in. Select your TYPE TOOL from the tool bar. Choose your font and size from the text assets window, and then type in your placeholder text.

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To clarify, this text is broken down into three sections where only one of them is changing. The first sections is ‘CALCULATING.’ The next section is ‘100,’ which is the PLACEHOLDER text – this is the only bit that is important in completing this motion graphic effect. The last section is ‘%,’ and the reason I did not combine this section with the ‘100’ is to reiterate that once we apply the slider effect, it will eliminate anything we type into that section.

ADD THE SLIDER EFFECT

Now that you have your placeholder text, go to the EFFECTS & PRESETS window and type in SLIDER. CLICK AND DRAG your slider effect and add it to your placeholder text.

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At this point, go to your layers window. Open the settings on your placeholder text layer by twirling open the triangle icon next to the sections TEXT and EFFECT > SLIDER CONTROL.

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Go to your SOURCE TEXT and ALT CLICK on it.

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You will immediately notice your canvas preview has disappeared and new icons in the Source Text controls will appear. The WHIRL icon will allow you to CLICK AND DRAG your SOURCE TEXT and PARENT it to the SLIDER CONTROLS.

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You can now go to the Effects window for your slider controls. Notice that your placeholder text will follow whatever you set the slider to.

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Your source text and slider are tied together and can be keyframed and animated to increase and decrease as you see fit. The only issue here is, by default, the slider animation (when tied to the source text) will additionally add in a decimal system.

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ADD THE EXPRESSION

If you only want to display whole rounded numbers, you will need to make one final adjustment. In order to resolve the decimal issue, first ALT CLICK on the SLIDER CONTROL STOPWATCH in order to pull up the effects natural input expression.

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So the natural expression is this:

effect(“Slider Control”)(“Slider”)

In order to round the system of numbers to the nearest whole number, you need to alter the expression to look like this:

Math.round(effect(“Slider Control”)(“Slider”))

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PLEASE NOTE, the ‘M’ in Math MUST be capitalized in order for After Effects to properly interrupt the expression coding.

There you have it! A number system you can keyframe and animate to increase and decrease as you see fit.

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Editing for the Horror Genre

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The horror genre in film is just as old as cinema itself; starting with silent films back in the late 1890s, through the masterpieces of Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho and Stanley Kubrick’s depiction of The Shining (based on Stephen King’s novel), to more recent films such as The Conjuring. Every Halloween you see an increase in horror films being released to the public, that point should be obvious. But have you ever stopped to ask yourself exactly what makes up a horror film? On the surface, you know a horror film is supposed to invoke terror or fear within you. However, there are specific techniques and timeless elements that are seamlessly woven into these films that make you cover your eyes and make the hair on the back of your neck stand on end. To get in the right mindset, take a gander at the finest moments from these horror movies:

As a filmmaker, you should be aware of some of the basic pieces of the horror puzzle. Not everything relies on how good of a scream your actor has, or how well the make up and costume on your monster looks. A good horror film first starts on paper with a solid story as a foundation. From there, it moves into the camera, the acting, and then down through post production – where I feel the real magic occurs.

Outlined below are three foundational elements every editor should have at their disposal for any horror film:

  • Color
  • Sound
  • Perspective

 

COLOR

On the set, gaffers and light technicians are in charge of creating the core atmosphere for each scene; whether it be something with high contrast, or just dark enough for a creature to creep out of the shadows. Sometimes, a filter will be put on the lens to add or enhance a specific color in the scene. Generally, a blue or green filter would be used with horror films. However, in-camera lighting can only go so far. These days, I find there is no filter added on the camera because you can change the color so easily in post production. The director may want to play around with an assortment of colors and hues to achieve their desired effect. In these instances, CURVES is an editor’s best friend.

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Curves can be found in most Non Linear Editing (NLE) programs such as Final Cut Pro, Premier Pro, and Avid. It can also be found in compositing programs such as After Effects and Nuke. Generally, the option will be under some type of IMAGE CONTROL menu or COLOR CORRECTION menu – if you cannot find it, I recommend consulting the Help Menu. Using Curves gives you control of an image’s highlights, shadows, and the RGB (Red, Green, Blue) color spectrum. If you receive editing notes from the director asking you to “push the image further,” generally, they mean to increase the shadows or contrast. A term they use for this in editing is “crush the blacks.” To do this, click and drag your curve to the proper settings of adjustment. By rule of thumb, blacks are located in the lower right and highlights are located in the upper left of the curve.

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If the director wants to increase a color tone, use the drop down menu to select the color of choice – whether they want to add more blue or green into the footage, respectively.

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SOUND

You sometimes cover your eyes during a horror movie, but most of the time you forget to cover your ears. Even if you can’t see the horrific image, you can still hear the bones crack, the blood spray, and the victim let out one last shriek or a dying breath. A lot of the sound effects are created by Foley Artists (the people who create sounds used in movies). For example, a foley artist would record the sound of a machete slashing a watermelon into little bits to be used where the serial killer slashes a victims skull into little bits. In larger budget films, a foley team is generally hired to produce the sound content for the film, supplying the editor with the appropriate sounds to populate the movie. However, in smaller, or micro budget films, the editor needs to turn to online sound libraries for this content. There are websites out there filled with random sounds, music loops, and scores – sometimes free – to populate your horror film. There are literally hundreds of these websites all over the internet. However, some websites I have had good luck with and recommend include:

 

PERSPECTIVE

This one tends to be less obvious to most editors just starting out in the field. Perspective plays a large part in creating a horrific landscape, or an uneasy tension. Often times, the director of photography will partner up with the director to explore the ‘look’ of the film, mapping out the best camera angles and shots to best achieve the directors vision. In some cases, the director will need the editor to adjust a scene or image to help intensify the scene. The easiest way to add tension to a plain scene is by rotating the image on a angle.

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By putting the perspective on an angle you subconsciously tell the viewer that “something isn’t right.” People like to see their world on an even playing field, and when you start to mess with that perspective, you begin making the viewer uncomfortable and on edge.

There you have it! A solid foundation in editing for the horror genre. Do you know of another horror element you would like to share or know of a link that could help out your fellow editor? Leave it in the comment section below!