Published by Rob Garrott | Wednesday, December 14th, 2011
Motion tracking (the ability to follow the location of an object in a piece of footage, and use this information to stabilize that shot or animate other layers) and color keying (the ability to make a green- or blue-screen background transparent so that you can replace it with a new image) are two essential visual-effects tasks you need to learn if you want to take your After Effects skills to the next level.
In After Effects Apprentice 12: Tracking and Keying, Chris Meyer covers tracking and keying basic and essential skills including a quick tour of mocha, the third-party tracking software that is bundled with After Effects, and an introduction to The Foundry’s KEYLIGHT, an Academy Award-winning keying effect that is also built into After Effects.
Throughout the course, Chris shows you how to use the motion tracker and stabilizer built into After Effects, and offers advice on how to handle a variety of shot scenarios. He also discusses how to use tracking and keying to track a greenscreen shot with a handheld camera and replace its background.
While practice is the secret to mastering your tracking and keying skills, getting to look over someone else’s shoulder as they perform these tasks is a great way to jump-start your learning curve.
Many of you know me as an author for lynda.com, but I’d like to introduce myself as the new Content Manager for the video segment of the lynda.com Online Training Library®. In this new role, I’ll be responsible for our overall video curriculum strategy. I will also be actively working to find and recruit the very best authors for video and motion graphics. It’s a very exciting time for me, and I’m particularly excited that we’re finally able to bring you a brand new course, Design In Motion, by… me!
Weekly for members, and bi-weekly for the blog, I’ll be bringing you tips, techniques, and inspiration from the world of motion graphics using After Effects and CINEMA 4D. In this first episode, I explore the very important idea of using color to communicate a sense of emotion in a video clip.
Storytelling is much more than having a script and shooting a bunch of footage or creating animation. While those are important, there is one thing that does more than anything else to communicate a sense of mood for a viewer, and that’s color. Color has always been an important component of the psychology of art, but when color film photography techniques made color movies possible, directors were quick to incorporate the language of color into the language of film. Creating color in After Effects is a simple and non-destructive process that should have you speaking the language of color in no time at all.
I hope you enjoy this very first edition of Design In Motion! Let us know what you think in the comments section, below.
The three most recent installments of Chris and Trish Meyer’s After Effects Apprentice series have covered three different approaches to grouping layers in After Effects. Each approach has its own strengths and weaknesses; mastering all three means you can choose the right approach for a particular task—or combine them for the ultimate in power and flexibility. Here’s an overview from the third in the series, After Effects Apprentice 09: Expressions.
Expressions allow you tie an individual parameter of one layer either to the identical parameter of another layer, or to a different parameter of the same or different layers—even across compositions. This makes it the most targeted and most flexible approach to grouping in that you can target specific properties, and leave others untouched.
One of the biggest advantages of expressions includes the ability to keyframe just one property or layer and have others follow (and update) automatically. However, this is just one use of expressions; many other functions are possible, including the ability to automatically loop or randomize the animation of a layer.
The three most recent installments of Chris and Trish Meyer’s After Effects Apprentice series have covered three different approaches to grouping layers in After Effects. Each approach has its own strengths and weaknesses; mastering all three means you can choose the right approach for a particular task—or combine them for the ultimate in power and flexibility. Here’s an overview from the first in the series, After Effects Apprentice 07: Parenting.
Parenting allows you to attach an entire layer to another. The child layer keeps its own animation, which is then also affected by the position, rotation, and scale of the parent layer (note that effects and opacity are not passed from the parent to its children). For example, you can attach several layers to one parent, reposition just the parent, and all of the children will move as well. The same goes for scaling the parent: All of the children will be scaled by the same amount, keeping their same relative sizes and positional offsets. A parent can have multiple children, and you can set up parent/child chains where a layer in the middle is both a parent and a child. All of the layers stay in the current composition.
As you may have heard by now, Adobe recently released Creative Suite 5.5. Some programs in the suite, like Photoshop and Bridge, received minor upgrades, and are labeled as version CS5.1; others, such as Adobe After Effects, received more significant upgrades, and are known as version CS5.5. After Effects expert Chris Meyer recorded a training series, After Effects CS5.5 New Creative Techniques—available on lynda.com the day Creative Suite 5.5 shipped—that demonstrates how he takes advantage of his favorite new and upgraded features. Now that he’s been using the release version for a while, we thought we’d catch up with him and see what continues to stand out for him in his motion graphics work.
Q: The most buzz surrounding After Effects CS5.5 was for its new Warp Stabilizer effect. Is it just a flashy technology demonstration, or is it actually proving useful in the real world?
A: I think it’s turning out to be the main reason many are upgrading to AE CS5.5. For those in a real-world production environment, its ease of use has been a huge time saver—just apply it to a clip, do other work while it processes in the background, and now the bumps in the camera movement have been smoothed out without any user intervention required. A single parameter allows you to adjust the amount of smoothness; a simple popup allows you to completely lock down the shot. It was the first thing I demonstrated at an advanced training session I recently led at a cable network. At the end of the first morning, they were ready to upgrade and start using it on jobs they already had in production. You no longer have to think, This is a visual effects shot; I have to stabilize it; this is going to be work. Now it’s just an effect you apply to any piece of footage with undesired camera movement in order to improve it.
Aside from the Warp Stabilizer’s automated capabilities, there is a lot of additional power under the hood that users are just starting to play with, such as the ability to synthesize new edges for stabilized frames based on frames that happened earlier or later in time. And, like any semi-automated tool, there are times when it’s going to guess wrong. That’s why I spent some time in New Creative Techniques showing you how to put it back on the right path in the event it starts stabilizing the wrong object in a video, or warps the background in unanticipated ways.
Q: Stereoscopic video is also a hot topic these days. I’ve heard that After Effects CS5.5 has some new tools to make that easier as well?
A: Yes, it does. There’s a new 3D Stereo Rig tool that creates a chain of compositions to create stereoscopic output from a 3D scene set up in After Effects, as well as an enhanced 3D Glasses effect to help resolve alignment and convergence issues in already-shot stereo footage.
I admit to originally being a stereo skeptic. And I think it’s still too early to know whether or not it’s really going to catch on this time. But it’s undeniable that more people are demanding stereo content, including for broadcast, not just major films. As a result, I’ve been putting more of a focus on how to create stereo imagery that produces less strain when viewed through 3D glasses, and that also is more watchable by those without glasses. The secret is a combination of managing the convergence parameters in AE CS5.5′s Stereo 3D Rig to lock onto the most important layer in your composition, plus adding depth-of-field blur to put objects in front of or behind the convergence point out of focus. By doing this, the ‘hero’ in your frame will be in the stereo sweet spot for those with glasses, and not have colorized halos for those without glasses. Plus, those halos will be blurred rather than sharp for those without glasses, making them far less distracting. This is also demonstrated in New Creative Techniques.
Q: Speaking of depth-of-field blur, that feature also received an update in After Effects CS5.5, correct?
A: Yes! The 3D camera in After Effects has long supported depth-of-field blur, but it was slow to render, and frankly didn’t look that great when it was done. As a result, few used it; many didn’t even realize it was in there because so few of their peers were using it. But in AE CS5.5, they’ve greatly improved the quality of blur. It’s a true camera simulation now, with control over iris settings and more. Plus, it renders a lot faster. As a result, I think the default will become to use it, rather than avoid it.
In addition to the improved depth-of-field blur for the 3D camera, 3D lights also received a much-requested upgrade in AE CS5.5: lighting falloff, where a light’s strength weakens over distance. In typical After Effects fashion, they’ve implemented this feature in two ways: one that is realistic, for visual effects artists; and one that has unrealistic controls, for motion graphics artists. In general, it’s nice how the After Effects team keeps their focus on easing real-world production tasks, rather than sticking to a theoretical or engineering-based ideal.
In addition to the topics discussed above, Chris also demonstrates numerous other new and improved features in his After Effects CS5.5 New Creative Techniques course. This includes taking advantage of Adobe’s advanced audio program, Audition CS5.5, which has now been ported to the Mac and is available in both the Production Premium and Master Collection suites. Whether you’ve recently upgraded, or are still deciding whether or not to upgrade, take a look at Chris’ After Effects CS5.5 New Creative Techniques to quickly get up to speed with After Effects CS5.5.
Also, be sure to check out Chris and Trish Meyer’s After Effects Apprentice series, an indepth project-based series of courses designed to help you get the most out of this powerful motion graphics software. Seven of the nineteen total installments are available now in the Online Training Library®. The series is appropriate for the CS4, CS5, and CS5.5 versions of After Effects.
Authors Chris and Trish Meyer introduce us to their new series at lynda.com:
Many After Effects users know us for our books Creating Motion Graphics (CMG) and After Effects Apprentice (AEA). CMG is intended as a deep reference for After Effects, while AEA is structured as a series of lessons to help a beginner or part-time user get up to speed more quickly with the key features of the program in a real-world environment.
We’re very excited to be taking the lessons and projects in After Effects Apprentice and recording them as a video training series for lynda.com. Video allows us to better explain what we’re thinking when we choose a particular tool, effect, or parameter value—it’s like being able to look over our shoulder and listen in on our brain as we work, which better conveys both the technical and creative process we go through. Not being restricted to the page count of a printed book also allows us to expand more into related features and techniques, and actually work through the Idea Corner and Quizzler challenges sprinkled throughout the book. We feel this additional background will make these videos useful both for people learning on their own, and for instructors who use AEA in their classes as curriculum.
Rather than release the entire video series as one exhaustive course, we’re recording each lesson as a self-contained video set. We hope this approach avoids the potential of a beginner feeling overwhelmed by the breadth of After Effects, and allows you to more easily focus on the areas of the program you’re most interested in or need to learn for a particular job. To this end, we’re also taking some of the lessons in the book that covered two disparate features—such as Painting and the Puppet Tool—and breaking them out into separate video courses. This video series will be relevant for both CS4 and CS5 versions of After Effects.
Today, the first three of 19 total installments in the series are now available in the Online Training Library®:
I was introduced to Eric Whitacre’s Virtual Choir through a music-loving lynda.com author who had seen the video Lux Arumque on YouTube, and had written to find out more about the project.
It turns out that Scott Haines, the producer and editor of Lux Arumque, had relied heavily upon his lynda.com membership and our After Effects training tutorials to complete his truly massive project.
I was able to reach Scott via a Skype video call this past weekend to talk to him directly about his story. I hope you enjoy.
And by the way, please forgive the choppy edits of this interview. I was so excited to share Scott’s story with you that I conducted the interview in Skype, and used iMovie ’09 Essential Training to learn how to edit this together. It was my first editing attempt.
And now, for really impressive editing and production, here’s Lux Arumque, edited and produced by lynda.com member Scott Haines. Turn up your speakers and watch full-screen for the best effect.
On Monday, Adobe officially announced its Creative Suite 5 line of products, and lynda.com released 10 Adobe CS5 New Features training courses, one Essential Training course, and a Creative Techniques course. Click on any one of the following images to view the trailer for that course: