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VFX Techniques introduces common yet critical visual effects techniques that are used in film and television shows on a regular basis. This installment shows how to build complex composites with Adobe After Effects and mocha, where motion graphics are mapped to live-action footage of an actor. Author Lee Lanier starts by combining rotoscoping and effects to digitally apply makeup to an actor to disguise motion tracking marks. Then discover how to transfer footage into mocha and generate planar tracking data that you can use to motion track graphics to the moving face of the actor. Plus, learn how to build and adjust motion graphics to create the look of a virtual tattoo and a pair of holographic heads-up glasses.
We've created an armature to serve as a tiny projector to tie into the heads-up display. Let me play that back. It works well as a motion tracking, but there are several problems. One, it appears the entire time, in other words, it doesn't pop out when she presses a switch on the tattoo. I think it'd be nice to do that. Another thing is it's a bit flat. We can address that with additional layers.
Let's start with the fact that it should appear when the switch is thrown. We could animate the transforms but an easier way is to affect the mask that is coming out of that shape. So let's open up the Armature in the layer view. What we can do is animate this rectangular mask growing over the frames where she turns on the switch, so at frame 90, that switch is off so I can key that mask, Mask 1, down to a small shape. So I'll pick the end points here and move those so it's basically not visible.
Then I'll go to frame 100 and extend it back out. So now this will grow over time, just like that. I do need to do the same thing for the shadow. Now, since they are based in the same original layer, I can go ahead and just copy the keyframes here while I'm on frame 90, so Ctrl+C or Command+C down to the other mask, Mask 1 on the shadow, and then Ctrl+V or Command+V to paste.
If I open up the Armature shadow layer, it's not visible there, but I can go back to the composition, it's up here at the top, and there it grows. Okay, that's solves the appearance of this armature. In fact let me play that short section back, and there it pops out. Now let's address the fact that it's very flat and very black, very plain. It's really missing a highlight, if that was plastic, there'd be a highlight.
We can create a highlight by copying the Armature layer and tweaking it. So Edit > Duplicate. I'm going to call this Highlight. and then I'm going to open this in the layer view also. It's black now so I'm going to change the color, Layer > Solid Settings, to white or some type of grey. Let me make sure it's open, here we go. It takes up the entire area of the armature.
What I really want to do is make the highlight small, so I can draw another mask and draw a tiny, skinny, irregular mask right here, kind of where the top would be, like this. It doesn't show up immediately. I need to change the mask's blending mode. Instead of Add I can switch that to intersect, and I'll get this result, which is perfect. Now it's very hard on the edge so I can go ahead and feather that to 20. If I want to erode this and make it even skinnier I can adjust the mask expansion, like that.
Let's take a look in the composition view and see what it looks like. There it is. Now, for additional realism, I can tone it down a bit. For instance, reduce the opacity. We can also animate this over time. Let's say that she moves around, that highlight changes intensity, that would be more realistic. Let me turn off all the other layers for now to save time, and let's see how she moves.
So it's off at the beginning, you don't have to worry about that. She moves right here, so let's say that it's dimmer around here, so I'll go back to the highlight. One way to animate that intensity would be to animate the mask expansion. So I can say reduce the expansion to a greater negative number to make it fade away. And when she turns her head, I can either reduce it or increase it, it maybe goes into a shadow for a second. Still in the shadow over here, and then we she turns her head again, it goes more into the light.
I'll leave that up to you. But varying the highlight intensity it will make it more realistic. So that's care of the armature itself. Now to tie this into the heads-up display, what would be nice is to have sense the light is streaking from the end of this armature over to the glass area. What you can do is use an additional copy of the heads-up display, streak it, and put it in this area right here. Let's give that a try. I'm going to pull down another iteration of HeadsUp, pull it down to the top.
It's too big, so I'll scale and move it so it's roughly in the area where the projection beam would be. I'm going to reduce the opacity just so I can see through. Zoom back in here, and then draw a mask on this layer to just make it that triangular shape, something like this.
That'll also need to be keyed over time so it follows along. So I'll just set a couple of keys now, and I'll let you finish up the keyframing on this. So there's the first frame, move that over for the last frame. And then we're going to continue to bisect that until it follows the entire time. Let's go back to this earlier frame. Now it has a very hard edge also so I'm going to feather that on the mask.
I'm going to borrow the blur from the HeadsUp layer. I want it to glow in the same fashion, so find the Glow, copy that, Ctrl+C or Command+C, paste, Ctrl+V or Command+V. Also need to worry about the opacity. On frame 90 this whole HeadsUp break is off, so I need to go to frame 90 and animate that with zero opacity, and go to frame 100 and animate it at a higher value, let's say 15.
I don't want it too be intense. Now I need to make sure at least on frame 100 this mask is in the correct place. Let me just key that real quick. Then also frame 90. Okay, so now it turns on with everything else. Now one problem at this point is the images within that projected area are very clear, very easy to see what's going on there. What would be better is to have that blurred or streaked somehow.
What we can do in this case is add another effect which will do that, which is Radial Blur. Radial Blur has two modes of operation. One is spin, where it spins everything around for a blurry result. The other is zoom, I can change the type to zoom. The center determines how it's streaking that layer, so if I grab the center tool and place it near the armature, it'll streak from that outwards with increased intensity. Then I can increase the amount to a high number. Let's say 100.
And you'll see the simulation right here. Now, the Center will also have to be animated to follow the armature, so I'm just going to quickly place a few keyframes here and I'll let you do the rest of the keyframing on your own time. Let me pick one more location for a quick keyframe and we'll take a look. We'll move the mask first, then make sure I have the center on that blur in the right place. Here we go, and I'll hide the mask.
So there we have a blurry streaked version of the heads-up display and that will help tie it in better. We've improved the quality of the armature by adding the highlights, using some a similar solid with different masks. We also animated the mask expansion to make that highlight vary over time. We then created a blurry streaked projection by dropping an additional HeadsUp layer, masking it, and applying a radial blur to streak it out. We can now move on to the final step of this armature process by adding an integrated light to make it flicker and make it look like a light source.
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