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Animating text


VFX Techniques: Tracking Objects onto a Face

with Lee Lanier

Video: Animating text

We've started to construct a heads-up display. We then made another shot to recreate a view. I'll show you what we have so far. There you go. I spent a little more time working with the scale and position animation so it mimics what she's doing with her eye movements and head turns. We can now move on and add some more effects to make it more high-tech.
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Watch the Online Video Course VFX Techniques: Tracking Objects onto a Face
2h 42m Intermediate Jan 28, 2013

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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.

Topics include:
  • Disguising tracking marks with rotoscoping and effects
  • Preparing footage for motion tracking
  • Planar motion tracking a face in mocha
  • Applying tracking data to artwork in After Effects
  • Fine-tuning motion tracking curves in After Effects
  • Animating text and graphic elements
  • Applying color and light effects
  • Batch rendering the final comp
After Effects
Lee Lanier

Animating text

We've started to construct a heads-up display. We then made another shot to recreate a view. I'll show you what we have so far. There you go. I spent a little more time working with the scale and position animation so it mimics what she's doing with her eye movements and head turns. We can now move on and add some more effects to make it more high-tech.

I'm going start by turning on the Panels layer. Now this layer follows, because it's parented to the View layer. This is a special view of these solar panels as if she has some type of computer-assisted display. Let's make this more interesting. One way to do that is to experiment with blending modes and also apply different effects. With Panels selected I'm going to select the Hue/Saturation effect. I want to colorize it this time.

Click that on and then increase the saturation to a really high value of 75. That makes the panels intensely red. I can get an even more unusual result if I change the Blending Mode from Normal to something else, for example, Classic Color Burn. It gives that an unusual look, as if you can see through the people. Now to go one step further I can apply one more effect and that's Effect > Channel > Invert. That returns it to blue, but still maintains the unusual mixture of colors. Okay, now that the panels have an unusual look to them, now let's add some font or some text as if the computer is typing out messages to the spy.

I'm going to go to the part of the timeline where it zoomed in on this first panel. I'll start on frame 140 though, or maybe 150, where it zoomed in. Now I want to use the text tool to type some text. Before I do that though, I'm going to create two solid layers so the text has something to sit against so it's easier to read. So, Layer > New > Solid. I'm going to make this one a cyan color. I want to start small, 100 by 100, and then adjust it.

Here's the first one. I'm going to scale up by the corners until it fits this gap on the left. Then I want to copy this, Edit > Duplicate, and make one more of the same size and move that over to the right. Now we can type some text. The Text Tool is up here. When you click that, you can click-drag a box in the viewer that represents where the text is going to appear. When you let go it turns red on the edges and you have a special text mouse pointer. You can click on that area and start to type.

I want to give this the name of this device she's looking at. Maybe something kind of random like XJ36 Prototype, something along that line. Once you have text typed out you can click-drag from the end of it to the beginning to highlight it and then alter it. Once you add text you'll see the Character tab over here to the right. Also, below that will be the Paragraph tab. The Paragraph tab takes care of alignments, whereas Character tab has things like size and color.

I'm going to increase the size on this first font to 39. Now if the text isn't wrapping properly you can expand the box size by grabbing these sidebars. Now that might stretch the text out. That will give you more room to spread the text out. You can also move that text layer as a layer, and it comes in as layer. I'll turn off of the Caps Lock. And if it's selected as a layer I can just interactively move it around with the Selection Tool.

In terms of the color, if I highlight it one more time, I can change the color and the font. Right now I'm using Microsoft Tai Le. You might have a different list of fonts in your program but anything that's similar to Arial should be fine, or anything that looks high-tech. Again, in terms of the color, there are two places to change the color. One is the solid core, which is this box right here. If you click on that, you can choose a different color and you'll see it change. I'm going to stick with white for now.

You also have the option of an outline, which I have here in red. This little hollow box is the outline box or what they call the stroke. Now it can be turned off. This little off button right here, No Stroke Color. If I click that it turns off, and there's a little line through it that says off. If I click it again in that hollow box I can then choose a color and that activates it. So here's a stroke, and here's the solid core color. The size of the outline is controlled by this section right here, Set the stroke width.

You can make it really thick or really thin. I'm going to make mine fairly thin. All right, there's some font. Now this font is there the entire time. I'd rather have this font start later. I'd rather have it start once the view changes to this particular solar panel. So I'm going to move all of these bars at the top, just Shift+select them, over to 150. Let's say I want that to start there. Then I can animate the opacity changing over time. I'll start with the font itself. Opacity, keyed on, 0 to start with, maybe go 10 more frames, and then key at a 100.

I can copy that opacity animation to the solid layers, also. The first one, make it fadeout. Let's say I'm going to make it fade out once the view changes at about 198. I want to set one more key at a 100%. I can just right-mouse key over opacity and choose that keyframe. Then go a few more frames and fade it out. Now that I have all these keyframes I can back up to the first keyframe using the Go to previous keyframe arrow right here.

Select all these keyframes using my keyboard shortcut to copy those. While I'm on that same frame go to my solid, paste, and then go to the other solid and paste again. Now all of these things will fade up. I would like some more font over here, more text as if it's a computer readout giving me the stats and qualities of this thing that's being looked at, like technical readouts. What I can do is copy this text layer, Edit > Duplicate, move it over as a layer and then update the text inside.

Just click over the end letter to the beginning to highlight. You can change the size, like down the 14. I can choose to have a stroke or not. I'll definitely have to reduce the stroke, if I keep it that small or even turn off the stroke. Maybe I'll just turn it off. Let's click this red line box and it goes off. Now I can type into it and update it. For now I'm just going to type some gibberish, but imagine that you typed some lines in here and hit the Return key, or Enter key, and that will be the technical readout of this panel.

I want to spend some time filling this in with more interesting text. Now if it's not big enough, your text box, what you can do is go back to your Text Tool, click in it to get the red box, and then change that box size. Then I have more room to type more lines if I want to. Before I move it, go back to the Select Tool. One thing about this, see if I make these fade up and fade out, they're on the screen all at one time.

What would be cool is if they were more like a typewriter or computer readout where one letter appears at a type like a printout. We can do that. There's a special preset inside After Effects. I'm going to go down to my first text box, go to the frame where it first appears or starts to fade in. Then I'm going to go to the Effects & Presets tab right beside Character over here. There is a special preset called Typewriter. So if there's nothing there you can type it in and it will find that preset for you.

You have to spell it correctly though. There we go, and there's the Typewriter preset. If you double-click this, it will add that preset. What happens is if I expand the text section on the layer, this adds what's called an animator, and this is Animator 1. If I expand that, there's a range selector. The thing that makes it type on screen is this start property. If I go through now, it types on the screen. Now how fast it types is determined by these two keyframes it gives me automatically.

If I want it to type faster I'd move this last keyframe up sooner. Let's say I move this keyframe to 160. I'll see where 160 is and move this up. This will make it type really fast, but it still types. I can do the same thing on this text layer on the left too. Same set of steps, I can select it, apply my typewriter preset, which is still visible here, expand that, Text, Animator 1, Range Selector.

Once again I get two keyframes based on where I had my timeline and I can move this one, the last one, up closer, and have it type out. Last thing I want to do on the text is make sure that it's slightly softened. It's very hard-edged now. When I shrink it, it might be problematic. It might buzz. It might have stair-stepped edges. So I'll pick one of the font layers or text layers. Go to Effect and apply a Fast Blur. I can just blur it a little tiny bit, .5 should be sufficient.

I'll copy this effect and paste it onto the other text layer. We've activated the Panels layer and made it an unusual X-ray type look by experimenting with the Hue/Saturation and also Blending Modes. Then we added text to the Text Tool. We spiced it up a bit and made it look like a computer readout with the Typewriter preset. Then we fine-tuned with the Opacity animation. We're now ready to add additional effects to make it even more high-tech.

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