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In this course, Chris Meyer demonstrates the most common techniques for adding selective transparency to layers in After Effects through the use of masks, track mattes, and stencils. In addition to explaining the tools and basic theory behind transparency, the course covers several practical applications for these techniques, including isolating objects, creating vignettes, and filling text with visual texture. Tutorials on crafting custom transitions and other treatments are also included. Exercise files accompany the course.
The After Effects Apprentice videos on lynda.com were created by Trish and Chris Meyer and are designed to be used on their own and as a companion to their book After Effects Apprentice. We are honored to host these tutorials in the lynda.com Online Training Library®.
Now that we have some experience in creating mask shapes let's put what we know to work, masking a different piece of footage and editing that mask shape. Again, if you have the Exercise Files in this lesson, open up comp 01-Masking*starter. If you don't have the Exercise Files, I just have two pieces of footage in this composition. One is the foreground, it has some interesting objects that I want to mask out, And the other is an interesting background that I want to reveal behind this layer I'm about to mask. Turn the visibility back on. Make sure my target layer is selected, so that I am masking the correct layer and not creating a shape layer.
And I am going to pick the Rounded Rectangle tool. I want to start by isolating some of these buildings. So what I'm going to do is going to click and start dragging until I can see the buildings and a bit of this freeway. It's kind of a nice arrangement. If I am not happy I can add Spacebar before I release the mouse and reposition my mask, but I'm going to put it right around there. Release my mouse and there is my mask. Normally your mask will appear in the Timeline panel.
If you cannot see it, M is a shortcut key to reveal it. Now when you're done drawing a mask is a really good idea to immediately revert back to the Selection tool. The Selection tool is your main tool in After Effects to do most of your editing. If you forget to, you might accidentally start drawing a second mask, but right now I want to edit my first mask. So I'm going to select my Selection tool. V is the shortcut. And you notice that I can see a Yellow mask outline around the shape that I drew. If you do not see this outline, a couple things maybe going on.
One is your mask may not be selected. So make sure it is selected in the Timeline panel. Two, there is a display option along the bottom of the Comp panel called Toggle Mask and Shape Path Visibility. If it's off, you won't see the mask shape and it's good to clean up displays just to see how things look. But if you want to edit that mask in the Comp panel you definitely want to turn on this option. And by the way this outline does not have to be yellow. You can control the mask color. Click on that color swatch. It brings up Color Picker and you can choose whatever color you want, but I'll stick with the default Yellow for now.
To move a mask shape, use a Selection tool, click on the yellow line, and drag. You can move it around your Comp panel. If you want to edit the shape of this mask, double-click that outline and After Effects will switch to what's called Free Transform mode. This allows you to transform the outline of the mask. Now as you hover your cursor over sides the mask, you get, for example, a double-headed arrow. You can go ahead and drag and resize that edge of your mask shape. Maybe I want just these two buildings or maybe I do when I am grouping three or even four buildings here to this side.
If you hover your cursor over a corner, you'll see a curved arrow, which means you can now rotate your mask shape. I'll undo. If you want to change the center of that rotation, you have a little anchor point icon while in Free Transform mode. You can drag that anchor point wherever you want. For example in this bright spot here and now when you rotate the mask will be around that Free Transform anchor point. I'll undo again. Double-click my layer. If I see just an outline and I'm not getting the special cursor, I am not in Free Transform mode.
You need to double-click a mask shape, get these additional mask nubbins to drag, and that how you can actually transform your mask. I'll double-click my layer again and get back to my normal mask outline. You can also edit individual vertices of a mask by selecting them and dragging them around. I'll undo. Normally, if you double-click a mask in Free Transform mode, all of the mask vertices are selected, so it may be hard to select just one. You drag the whole shape. If you're having trouble selecting just a couple points of your mask, one trick is to hold down the Shift key, click on a vertex to deselect that point, release the Shift key, click again, and now only that vertex will be selected for dragging around and editing.
By the way these corners or vertices are indeed Bezier paths. You have handles. We can go ahead and play around with them. We can do with that much more in the next chapter when we talk about using the Pen tool to draw mask shapes. Now I'll undo to get back to where it was.
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