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3D tracking the hero shot

From: After Effects Apprentice 16: Creating a Medical Opening Title

Video: 3D tracking the hero shot

Next, let's work at our Hero Shot. The final video we're going to be looking at at the conclusion of our opening, as well as the composition where we may also put our opening title. To do this I'm going to go ahead and create a new composition. I'm going to select my Comps folder ahead of time to make sure my Comp works into that folder. And you can either use Composition>New Composition, or click on the Create a New Composition button at the bottom of the Project panel. I'm going to name this Comp, Hero + Title, our budget allowed for high definition video for our final hero shots.

3D tracking the hero shot

Next, let's work at our Hero Shot. The final video we're going to be looking at at the conclusion of our opening, as well as the composition where we may also put our opening title. To do this I'm going to go ahead and create a new composition. I'm going to select my Comps folder ahead of time to make sure my Comp works into that folder. And you can either use Composition>New Composition, or click on the Create a New Composition button at the bottom of the Project panel. I'm going to name this Comp, Hero + Title, our budget allowed for high definition video for our final hero shots.

I'm going to keep the same dimensions as my final Comp here, Frame Rate at 23976, same as my final, a Duration of 25, same as my Final. And I'll click OK. And I am going to change this composition back to a View of 1 View. Doing so does not alter my view from my Final Comp, they do remember their View Settings independent of each other. For my hero video, I've selected this piece of footage from a surgery. As I drag my current time indicator through it, there are several people inside an operating room with a monitor in the background and other interesting tools.

It's a very wobbly move, so it looks almost like it was a hand-held Camera Move, or at least the camera is hand-held and then the operator zoomed into this move. Since we do have camera movement in this scene, what maybe neat is to place the title in a way that it seems like it's part of the room. So the camera movement is reflected in the title as well. You can try to animate a camera's movement by hand to more or less match what's happening with the camera in this scene. Or if you have access to After Effects CS6, you can take advantage of a brand new tool called the 3D Camera Tracker.

What the 3D Camera Tracker does is analyze different points in a scene and then tries to reverse engineer or reconstruct where the camera was that shot this scene. Now frankly, this is not an ideal scene to use 3D Camera Tracker on. It's best to use it if you have a bunch of stationary objects that After Effects knows it can pull a reliable position from. Here, our actors are moving which are creating a kind of some unstable references for this camera to look at. But for quick and dirty motion graphic shot like this, it's still a useful tool.

And I'll show you how to use it. If you don't have After Effects CS6, don't worry, at the start of the next movie, I'll show you how to Copy and Paste keyframes we've already created for you. I'm going to select my clip and go to Animation>Track Camera. This will cause After Effects to automatically analyze every frame of this scene for a series of tracking points, areas of high contrast that it can follow for some segment of time to try to reconstruct the multi-planing and motion happening in this scene. You'll see it's progress is being updated here in the Effects Control panel.

And after it's done calculating a bunch of points in the scene, then it tries to take that data and reverse engineer where the camera was. This Solving Camera Step can take a little bit of time. The nice thing about the 3D Camera Tracker in After Effects is you don't have to wait on it. You can go to another composition, continue your work there. You can go ahead and create a new composition if you want to and when you're done return to the composition the After Effects was working in to see whether or not the tracker is finished, and now it is. I'm going to go ahead and open up my Effects Control panel, since the 3D Camera Tracker Effect needs to be selected for me to see its user interface, these tracking points.

You might notice a series of very small little dots on the scene. Those are the dots that After Effects followed or tracked throughout this scene. Their relative size indicates how far away from the camera After Effects thought those points were. And they're all very tiny, smaller than you would expect from After Effects. And I am noticing here early in the shot, there's one large tracking point on the side of this woman's head, which is much larger than the other points, and it shouldn't be. She's further away. I suspect this is a rogue data point. Something that's incorrect.

So I'm going to select it and delete it causing After Effects to re-solve the camera. Getting rid of bad data points, tracking points that you can tell are wandering around on a surface that should otherwise be stationary will help improve the accuracy of After Effect's track. Let's see what happens just by deleting that one bad point after it is done re-solving the camera. Now this looks much more like what I would expect, a nice assortment of track points of different sizes, being larger where an object is closer and being smaller where an object is further away.

Some of these still look inaccurate like this track points should not be this much larger than the track points already on the monitor. And you can spend some time deleting additional rogue points if you want to. But frankly, for this quick and dirty Motion Graphics application, this track is already good enough. I would like to have my title floating out in front of these actors. So maybe using a point on this nearest actor would be a good starting point. Now this target you see is After Effects trying to pick three points and triangulate them to create a planar surface saying, "Here is a nice flat surface you can place an object on." Well, I'm not interested in really mapping something on to this actor.

I just want to pick a point, like this one on his shoulder and say, "This will be a starting point for where I'm going to place my text." When I've chosen such a point, I can right-click on it and say, "Create Text and Camera, Solid and Camera or Null and Camera." I'm actually going to create a Null and Camera because having a nice, null object is something I can anchor other objects on to later. This will give me the freedom to go ahead and develop my text independently in 2D and then once I'm happy with it attach it to the Null so we'll pick up this 3D Camera Movement.

I'll select this Option, and in my timeline panel, you will now see I have a track null and a 3D camera. It's important to understand that with the 3D Camera Tracker, the null itself does not move. I press "U" and there's no keyframes. What moves is the camera. I'll select it and press "U" and you'll see that its position, orientation, etcetera, is being animated throughout this shot to follow the camera's original movement. And you see this little red square from my null.

You'll see how it moves further away or closer to you during the course of the shot. Perfect! That's what I need to go ahead and add my text into this world.

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