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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Understanding Composition in Post Production

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Composition is absolutely paramount in understanding how to create an image that is not only aesthetically pleasing, but also how to create a focal point that guides the viewers eye throughout the frame. In production, the composition is developed through the director’s vision and executed by the director of photography. In postproduction, visual effect artists have full control on how the composition appears.

Andrew Price tackles composition in this 30 minute tutorial exploring the multiple facets that go into making a complete image.

He breaks composition down into three major pyramid blocks: Focal Element, Structure, and Balance.

FOCAL ELEMENT

A focal element is something that immediately draws your eye in a composition (still or motion pictures included). Price argues that the best way to create a focal element are techniques such as: high contrast, motion, faces or figures, guiding lines, framing, geometry, among others. By adding one of these techniques into your image, say by adding a human face or figure for instance, your eye is instantly drawn to that area, thus creating your focal element.

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STRUCTURE

At its core, structure is organizing your elements around a rule. Sometimes, this is following the rule of thirds to organize your elements, and is one of the more common rules to follow. It doesn’t matter what rule you follow as long as there is some form of structure. Your eye does not know where to look in chaos and needs some form of structure. Some common structures include: Rule of thirds, Golden Ratio, Pyramid, Symmetry, and Full Frame.

Rule of Thirds: breaking your frame into thirds along the horizontal and vertical axis. Every intersection is a prime location to put something of interest.

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Golden Ratio: A spiral structure naturally occurring in nature (sea shells, nature, outer space, etc) utilizing a mathematical breakdown in order to create points of interest.

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Pyramid Composition: Great to be used with characters to create a striking figure.

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Symmetry: mirroring structure over either the horizontal or vertical axis. Used frequently with architecture.

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BALANCE

When talking about balance in a composition, the visual weight of the image is evenly displaced. There are multiple items that can add this visual weight to the image, including: Size, High Contrast, Saturation, Faces, and Figures. One quick little test you can perform on your own compositions is what’s called the ‘squint test’ where you literally squint your eyes at the image, causing it to blur and darken. The bright points will be the most pronounced, and you will be able to see if one side appears to have more light than the other, thus finding the balance.

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Mise en Scène

As an extra bit of knowledge, I will also go over what’s called Mise en Scène. For the most part, this is achieved during production when you look at the composition of your scene before you film it; making sure everything is exactly in its place to fit a compositional structure. One of the masters of Mise en Scène is indie filmmaker Wes Anderson. Based on the structures we reviewed earlier in this post, Anderson tends to create a Mise en Scène structure using the symmetry and thirds rule. Here is a short excerpt with Wes Anderson himself going into better detail as to why and how he makes compositional choices.

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