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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 added some additional realism to the Armature by creating a highlight from a solid layer, and also creating a streaked projection along the side here. I spent some more time making sure that the keyframes were set for the mask on that streaked area, which is now called Projection, and also adjusting the highlight to make it look like it's changing as she turns her head. We're now ready for the last step on our Armature, which is to give the sense that there's a little light bulb in the very end. We could do this by adding a CC Light Rays Effect.
Before we get that far though, what I'd like to do is cut a hole in the end there, so there's a place for a virtual light bulb to fit in. So let's do that, I'm going to open the Armature layer in the layer view and then draw another mask at the very end to cut out a hole. I am going to you use the Rectangle tool and draw a little rectangular hole right here. Now when I say hole, it will be a hole if I go ahead and set that Mask 3 to Subtract. Now if I return to the Composition, you can see a little a notch cut into that.
Alright, so now we can add the Light Rays Effect. Now, when using this particular effect, it's actually better to go ahead and nest the composition because the effect takes into account all the colors below it, and it's just better to work with a single layer. Let's make a new composition, and in fact, this new composition, we'll be able to use for the final color grading also. So, I'm going to call that ColorGrade. I want to make sure it's the correct size of the original composition, 1280x720, 30 Frame per second, and also 300 Frames in Duration.
I'm going to nest that first composition in this one, that's Spy, I'll drag that down. I'm going to go to a layer frame where we can see all the heads-up display material and zoom way in and add a CC Light Rays. It's under Generate > CC Light Rays. It works with a Center Controller, so I'm going to use a Center button, to place a center, right at the end in that notch.
As soon as its laid down there, you can see a little flare, and the flare is based on the colors underneath that Center. This'll be nice because it will flicker over time. I need to keyframe that Center moving with our Armature. I don't have enough time to set all the key rays, but I'll set a short section just so you can see. I'll do some quick bisect animation here to position that Center. I can just interactively drag that Center handle.
I need to make sure I do have keyframes at the beginning when that armature flips out and it's folded out at Frame 100. And then it first appears at a Frame 90, or starts to slide out. I don't want the intensity to be at 100 right now, because it's hidden, it's not on yet.
So, at Frame 0, I want to animate the intensity, so at Frame 90 I want the intensity to be zero. Then at 100, when it's finally turned on and flipped out, I can increase it to a higher number like say, somewhere between 200 and 400. Now, it extends a very far away, if I zoom out that streak is going all the way past the back of her hair. So, what I can do then is reduce the radius. And also adjust the Warp Softness, too.
In terms of the intensity, I want to go ahead and flicker that overtime, so every few frames I'm going to randomly adjust it between 200 and 400. As I go, of course, I want to make sure the Center is in the correct place. So, there's a short section of some variation in intensity, and also making sure the Center was positioned at the end of that Armature.
Let's play back that short section. There it is. So, there's the flickering light source at the end. Now, I do need to finish all the key framing on the intensity and also the Center. I can't demonstrate that in real time so I will let you finish that on your own. I do want to mention one thing about the Armature, and anything that makes up the armature. If I go back to the Spy composition, you'll notice there's a number of motion blur buttons turned on.
Any artwork that's been tracked is a candidate for having the Motion Blur turned on, that includes the armature shadow, the armature, and the highlight. I'll go ahead click those motion blur buttons on, and therefore I'll have it streaked as it moves across the scene. Now again, you have to have the button turned on for the layer and also the entire composition. Go back to ColorGrade. So, assuming that the key framing is done on the Intensity and Center, we can move on to the final step, which is color grading the entire scene.
When we pull back, we can see that the scene is fairly brightly lit and it's fairly neutral in color. What would be nice is to, say, have the edges go darker and more blue, and have a nice, warmer highlight in the center where the actress is. So let's do that. I'm going to start by just adjusting the overall image to make it warmer, just on this one layer. So, I'm going to add a Curves Effect, Color Correction, Curves, and also a Color Balance.
I'm going to make it slightly brighter by bowing up the curve first and then I'll experiment with the color sliders. I have some values here to help out. Let me go into the Highlights section, increase the Red to 38, the Green to 16, and the Blue to -2, some more Red and Green. Also, in the Midtone Reds, I'm going to increase those to 25.
That warms it up and makes it much redder. Now in order to get the blue edges, I'm going to pull another copy of Spy into this composition, nest that one more time, and draw a mask around the center that's kind of a soft, curvy mask, something like this. Pretty much in the area where we see the actress. Now, I want to invert this so the blue or this part is inverted so it's on the outside. So, I'm going to the mask and invert it, invert it.
Now, I don't want a harsh transition, so I'm want to make a big feather on this. We're going to try 400. And then we can color correct this edge that's left. I'm going to add a Hue Saturation to that top layer. Go to Colorize and spin the color wheel to -125, increase Saturation, and darken down that area by reducing the lightness.
We're going to hide the mask, and now we see have a warmer area in the center. Now, you can continue to play with the feather, and also the size of the mask, to see what might look appropriate. Now, this thicker shot moves over time, there's a camera pan. So it'd be good to animate this mask roughly following. So, if you line up an element of the mask, like this point right here, to a feature in the background, like maybe this pipe in the background, we can animate it over time. I'm going to key that, go to a different frame, say frame 1, and then roughly move it over to about where that pipe was right here, and I'll do the same to the last frame.
That way the actress steps into the light and comes into a warmer light. So, that's the final step. We have added all the visual effect elements like the heads- up display, the Armature, and the Tattoo. We've done some color grading and some light effects to intergrade everything. We can now render out a movie.
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