Warp Stabilizer VFX and 3D Camera Tracker enhancements
Next in my review of significant new features that Adobe has revealed for an upcoming version of After Effects, let’s look at enhancements to the Warp Stabilizer and 3D Camera Tracker tools already available in After Effects.
Warp Stabilizer VFX
Many treat Warp Stabilizer as an apply-it-and-done stabilization effect. Now it looks poised to become a serious visual effects tool in its own right with the ability to take on many of the tasks you might have previously reserved for a motion tracker.
For example, in addition to stabilizing footage, you will now be able to reverse a stabilization. That means you can stabilize a shot for the sake of applying effects to it (including the After Effects Paint tool, which is rendered as an effect), and then reverse the stabilization to restore the original camera movement to the affected painted shot. The camera motion calculated in the original, unstabilized shot can also be applied to another layer to composite it onto the original.
As you no doubt know by now, Adobe has started to reveal some plans for its next generation of pro video tools. I’ve had the privilege of working with a pre-release version of Adobe After Effects, and recorded two hours of lynda.com training about it. In this blog, I’ll give you an overview of the Refine Edge tool, an important addition to the Roto Brush technology that will make rotoscoping hair and other soft, detailed areas much easier than ever before.
Roto Brush and Refine Edge
The Roto Brush tool in After Effects has been significantly upgraded with the addition of a companion Refine Edge tool. To review, Roto Brush allows you to make a series of general paint strokes defining the foreground and background areas of an image (such as an actor over a complex background—in other words, not green screen). With this information, as well as judicious tweaking of its propagation parameters, Roto Brush then detects the edge between the foreground and background, and creates a matte. When used properly (as demonstrated in my course After Effects Apprentice 13: Paint, Roto, and Puppet), it can greatly reduce the labor involved in cutting elements out of video.
Adobe has started to reveal some plans for its next generation of pro video tools. Using a prerelease version of After Effects, I’ve recorded two hours of videos for lynda.com to keep you ahead of the curve. Over the course of a few blogs, I’ll fill you in on some of the interesting features that are on tap. First up, the new integration between After Effects and CINEMA 4D.
Live 3D pipeline between After Effects and CINEMA 4D
A couple of weeks ago, Adobe and MAXON issued a press release announcing a “strategic alliance … to bring creative professionals new levels of digital media content creation.” Buried inside that release was the intriguing statement that “As part of the alliance, both companies are expected to collaborate and engineer a pipeline between Adobe After Effects software and CINEMA 4D to give users a seamless 2D/3D foundation.” Now we can finally see what they were hinting at.
Floors create a sense of visual depth and give your designs a sense of space by giving your graphic elements something to ‘sit on.’ Making a reflective floor can be a great way to add an elegant look to your motion graphics layout. When you first see a reflection on a graphic element, trying to recreate it can seem like a daunting task. Really though, there are some techniques that have been carried over from the world of Photoshop that are simple to do, look great, and render fast.
On this edition of Design in Motion, we’ll see two different techniques for creating a reflective floor, one that explores transformation of a duplicate layer, and one that creates your reflective floor with a mirror. Both techniques yield final products that look very similar. The real difference in the two will be the amount of control you need. Using the reflective mirror route allows you to finalize this technique using only one layer, but this route gives you less control. Using the transformation of a duplicate later route you will end up with more layers, but also more control.
Workflow, speed, and efficiency make for a strong CS6 update to veteran production applications Adobe Premiere Pro and After Effects. Next week, Adobe will be revealing the updated Premiere and After Effects apps at the NAB convention in Las Vegas, and lynda.com authors Chris Meyer and Rich Harrington have created two lynda.com tutorials that walk you through the important new CS6 features.
In After Effects CS6 New Features, Chris Meyer explores the brand-new 3D camera tracker, which analyzes a piece of video footage and reconstructs a virtual digital camera that matches the scene perfectly. With that camera and tracking data, motion graphics and visual effects artists can seamlessly place digital elements into moving video. In addition, there is also a completely redesigned Global Performance Cache that dramatically speeds up interactions by saving crucial information about layers and how they’re put together into a locally stored data file. This locally-stored data allows After Effects to quickly undo changes, and present ram previews much faster. It can even reload cache after quitting and relaunching the application.
In this clip from After Effects CS6 New Features, Chris Meyer shows you the process of exporting 3D tracking data to CINEMA 4D:
Looking at our second featured course, Rich Harrington sums up the big changes to Adobe’s flagship editing application in Premiere Pro CS6 New Features. The elegant new Premiere Pro editing interface is exciting, but it’s the introduction of adjustment layers that will make heads turn. Adjustment layers have long been a part of After Effects, but the accelerated effects of the Mercury Playback Engine in Premiere Pro mean that editors can now use adjustment layers to apply effects like color correction to an entire timeline, and make changes in real time without stopping playback.
In this next movie from Premiere Pro CS6 New Features, author Rich Harrington shows off the new three-way color corrector in Premiere Pro CS6:
These two New Features courses are great for long-time users of Premiere and After Effects. For a ground-up introduction to each, keep an eye out for our Premiere Pro and After Effects CS6 essential training courses coming soon.
In After Effects Apprentice 15: Final Project (the fifteenth, and final, course in the After EffectsApprentice series based on the second edition of Trish and Chris Meyer’s book After Effects Apprentice) you will pull together skills you’ve learned in the previous After EffectsApprentice lessons to create a real-world video promo. In the first half of the course Trish leads you through building the artwork and components used in the final piece, and then Chris demonstrates how to assemble your precompositions into a 3D world, timed to music. Skills covered include how to use masks, effects, shape layers, text, layered Illustrator files, blending modes, track mattes, collapsed transformations, nested compositions, motion blur, expressions, animation presets, audio, a 3D camera and light, and more.
Throughout the course, Trish and Chris share with you their process and thoughts as they design component elements, work towards assembling a final composition, and deal with handling change requests from clients. Chapters 11 and 12, the final two chapters of the course, are essentially mini-courses in themselves. In chapter 11, Chris breaks down several strategies for efficient rendering, including how to create versions for archiving, non-linear editors, widescreen, center cut, and the web, and chapter 12 dives into the process of recreating a dial Illustrator logo using shape and text layers inside After Effects.
Although After Effects Apprentice 15: Final Project concludes the After Effects Apprentice series, this isn’t the last we’ll be seeing of Trish and Chris as they’ve already promised to update their After Effects Apprentice book based on the next version of After Effects, and afterward will release additional Apprentice videos covering the new features, plus a new final project.
Animation has a way of connecting with a viewer that is very different than a still image. The power of a still image or illustration lies in its composition and content. Animation on the other hand, adds timing and movement into the mix, and these elements are an important tool you can use to communicate with your audience.
The speed and direction that your graphic elements move in tell your viewer information that adds to the overall content and composition of your piece. If your object moves quickly and comes to a sudden stop, then, that could be combined with a dark, intense composition to communicate a sense of drama and action. Smooth, fluid movements could work well for romance, or even a somber mood. Sharp, punchy moves are great for comedy.
This kind of subtle animation is all about control. Both After Effects and CINEMA 4D have excellent graph editors that will allow you to really express emotion through your animation. If you’re interested in learning more about this topic, check out this week’s Design in Motion tutorial titled Styling animation to communicate emotion (embedded up top), then check out my CINEMA 4D R12 Essential Training course, or After Effects Apprentice 03 by Chris and Trish Meyer. Both courses have chapters that go into detail about controlling your animation with curves.
The tracking tools in After Effects allow you to select a spot in a video clip, lock onto it, and then use that movement for effects and compositing. This week on Design in Motion, we’re going to take a look at 2D tracking, a tool that gives you position information for elements moving on X and Y—or left right (X), up down (Y).
Tracking this kind of movement in clips is often the first step in the effects process, and the information it generates can be used to place elements into the footage to match camera movement. 2D tracking information could also be used to drive a particle effect that adds “magic” to the end of a magic wand. Today we are going to specifically work on selecting a spot in a video clip, inserting a piece of type into a piece of video footage, and having the inserted type stick to the motion of the spot we selected to track.
When you’re ready to do a 2D track you need to ask a few questions: What do I want to accomplish with the track? Is the object or spot I’m trying to track moving or is it moving and rotating? Another important question is whether or not your feature is moving in Z space as well. If your feature is moving in Z space, then you’re going to need a different type of tracking and tracking tool that we’ll dive into in a future edition of Design in Motion.
2D tracking is an important part of many visual effects and compositing workflows. If you’re interested in learning more about the tracking tools in After Effects, watch After Effects Apprentice 12: Tracking and Keying, from Chris and Trish Meyer. If you’re specifically interested in learning more about how to stabilize jerky handheld video footage, check out After Effects CS5.5 New Creative Techniques, also from Chris and Trish Meyer, to learn more about a great new tool called the Warp Stabilizer. Chris and Trish Meyer will help you become a tracking master!
Design in Motion is a weekly series of creative techniques featuring short projects using After Effects and CINEMA 4D. Taught by motion graphics expert Rob Garrott, the course covers how color correction, expressions, rendering type, lighting, and animation are used in each program, and the topics are updated weekly. Using these tips and tricks, motion graphics designers will find designing to be a more efficient process. Exercise files are included with the course.