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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 some new planar tracking inside mocha. Before we can use that tracking data, however, we need something to track in After Effects. What we're going to do is create a heads-up display that will appear right in front of her eyes as if it were a pair of high-tech virtual glasses of some type. Now, let's take a look at the footage first. I have turned off all the layers except for the Footage layer, so you can see what her action is, and we'll play it back, because we need to create a heads-up display that looks like it's her view, what she sees through her eyes, but perhaps enhanced with computer graphics or technology where she can actually zoom her view in closer or further back.
Let's see what she does in the action. There it is. So, we're looking for any kind of head movement or eye movement that would indicate that she sees something different. The basic idea is she's some high-tech spy who has this fancy equipment that allows her to see into a crowd in the room and look her for particular equipment that's important for her mission. In any case, let's see what she's doing again in terms of her eyes and head.
I have some numbers. You might want to write this down or watch this yourself and make your own notes. At frame 140, she's about to blink and move her eyes, and at 144 she's finished moving her eyes. So, 140 to 144, a blink in the eye movement. She winds up looking further to her left, or screen right. At 144 to 203, she's pretty much looking in the same direction. Then 203 to about 209, she looks the opposite direction.
So, quick eye movements, followed by a slow head movement as she looks at something further to screen left, or her right. So, those are important movements and frames where we need to replicate that in the heads-up display. I'll make a brand new composition. New Composition, and I'll call this Headsup. And this time, I'm going to make the resolution half the previous.
So, the previous is 1280x720, like this. I want half size, 640x360. So, I'll center that, same frame rate though, and same duration. I am going to click OK. Next, we need something for her to look at. We're assuming she's in a warehouse. There's a big crowd. We actually have footage from a different course we can use to present or to replicate what she sees. We'll bring that in.
It's actually in two image sequences, File > Import > File. The first one is called View. This is her main view of this crowded room. Let's take a look at that. It's a crowded warehouse where somebody is speaking. There is also some high-tech solar panels, which this particular spy is interested in. There's another piece of footage that matches this, File > Import > File, called Panels. These are a pair of solar panels that are actually in the other view or separated out with transparency.
The reason we made these separate is so we can treat them differently and make them pop out as if she has some type of x-ray vision or something special like that. Okay. So there's the footage. Let's go ahead and pull that into this composition. First the View, and I'll put the panels on top. Now, the first thing we can see is this is too short. It's only 200 frames each. That's okay. I want to Shift+select both of these and move the bars to the end like this, so it starts in frame 100.
That's going to work for us because, really, the heads-up display is turned on by that tattoo switch between frame 90 and 100. So, it mostly fills what we need for the heads-up display. Let's go ahead and go to frame 100 so we could see what's going on. Here we go. Now, it matches up with 100. Another thing we can see if I zoom out is that the resolution of this footage is much larger -- in fact, twice as large as the composition.
This is intentional. What I want to do is move this view around to simulate her eyes and head moving. As long as the footage is larger than the composition, I can slide it around. So, let's get started with that. Now, I want the panels to follow the view, so I'm going to go ahead and parent the panels to the view and just for now, hide the panels. We'll get back to those later. So, now I need to use my notes about what she's doing in the footage. I'm going to animate the position and scale of the view to replicate that point of view.
So, I'm going to start on frame 140, which is right before she moves her eyes for the first time. I'm going to click the position scale keyframe, or time icon, to get the keyframes. We'll start there. So, at this point, I want the view to center on that person at the podium. So, I'm just going to move it around, slide it around so he's in the center. I'm also going to change the scale. I'm going to pull back virtually a little bit by making it 75% scale.
So, roughly right there for the start. Now, I'm going to go to 144, when she moves her eyes and looks further to one side. Then I'll move this view over and also change its scale as if her heads- up display is able to allow her to zoom in on what she's looking at. The goal in this case is this solar panel right here. It's what she's looking at. That's the piece of technology she's trying to find. Now, the view doesn't really change for her between 203 and 209. So I'm going to go to 209.
I should say it doesn't really change between 144 and 203. I'm on 144 now, so I'm going to go to 203 next. And then to make the position roughly the same, I'm going to copy these previous key frames on 144, use the keyboard shortcut,Ctrl+C or Command+C, and then paste right where I am on the timeline. That just copies those keyframes over. So, basically, the view doesn't change or changes very little between 144 and 203. All right, now on to 209.
This is where she moves her eyes once again. Here, she looks the opposite direction so I can pull the view over more towards this side, and that automatically sets in our key. Now, she turns her head continuously to the very end so what I can do is go to the end and then slowly pull this over to the right. So, it's like drifting over at the very end. And our new subjects of our attention is this other larger solar panel over here.
So, I'm just roughing this in, we'll have to probably adjust this once we go on to later steps and eventually when we track this to the front of the face. But this approximates her view through this heads-up display. One thing that we have to address at this point is the fact that there is nothing between 90 and 100. Between 90 and 100 is where we turn on the tattoos, so we assume that's a switch for this heads-up display. So we need to fill in this gap somehow. What we're going to do is just create a solid color, New > Solid, we'll make it green, make it the Comp size, and we'll assume this is the color of the view when it's just warming up.
I want to put that at the bottom here and slide this over, so it starts at frame 90. So now it goes green to the view. So it looks like it's actually warming up and flickering on, and what I'll do is then go to the View, key the opacity, I'll have it start at zero, then fluctuate that opacity from the first few frame as if it's flickering on, just randomly up and down the opacity for a few frames. Until it powers up to 100%. So now, there's some flicker.
If I need to, I can zoom the Comp in so I can see better, and maybe make these closer together. I may make some of the keys a little bit higher and some lower, so like that. We've begun a heads-up display by importing footage that represents her point of view and placed it into a smaller resolution composition. Having a smaller composition in a larger image sequence allows us to slide that view around as if it's her point of view, or even a camera.
This is one trick for making an artificial camera. You can now add additional effects to this to jazz it up and make it even more high-tech.
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