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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®.
If you have access to the exercise files that came with this lesson, open up the project AEA_Creating Transparency.aep. After you do that, double-click to open the comp 00-Masking*practice. If you don't have access to the exercise files, just create any comp with any piece of footage, because in this first movie we are just going to be playing around. There are two tools to go ahead and create mask shapes. One is the Pen tool, it has several different options, and the other is the Shape tool and it too has several different options or different shapes that you can draw.
We are going to start with a Rectangle, Rounded Rectangle, and Ellipse tools, since these are the ones we are going to be using most often. However, even these have a lot of really handy keyboard shortcuts you can use while drawing these shapes. I am going to pick the simple Rectangle tool first. Now, the first thing about drawing masks is make sure that your target layer is selected, highlighted down here in the Timeline panel. If no layer is selected and you selected either the Pen or Shape tool, clicking and dragging in the Comp panel will create what's called a shape layer, a brand new layer with the synthetic shape, not a mask on your intended layer.
Just go ahead and type Command+Z on Mac, Ctrl+Z on Windows to get rid of that and select your intended layer. Once, you click in the Composition panel, your source will disappear and be revealed as you drag out your mask shape. Once you release the mouse, your mask will be created. If you don't like a mask that you have drawn, there is a few ways of deleting it. You can go ahead and select Mask in the Timeline panel and hit the Delete key. If you cannot see Mask, just type M and it will be revealed in the Timeline panel.
Other ways of deleting it include using the command Layer > Mask > Remove Mask or Remove All Masks, and of course you can always just type Undo, Command+Z or Ctrl+Z. That's what I will be doing throughout this lesson. Now, the interesting thing about drawing mask shapes in After Effects is you have a lot of options in that time after you first click but before you release the mouse. For example, while dragging, if I add the Shift key, my mask shape, rectangle, or ellipse will be constrained to a 1:1 aspect ratio, in this case, a perfect square.
I'll release the Shift key, I am back to free drawing. If I press the Spacebar and continue to drag, I can actually pick up and move the mask before it's been created. If I want it to be over here, release the Spacebar and continue to drag and there is my shape. I will undo. Now, normally masks such as the rectangle and ellipse have one corner placed where you first click and then you drag out to where you want the opposite corner to be. However, if you want that first click to define the center of your mask, say I want to center on this bush right here.
Start dragging, then add the Command key on Mac or Ctrl key on Windows, and your dragging will be centered on your initial click. And again, if you add the Shift key, you will also constrain the proportions to be a perfect 1:1 ratio. There is that bush right there and I will undo. If you want a mask shape to be exactly the same size as your entire layer, there is no need to try to mimic the size of the layer. Instead, make sure your layer is selected and just double-click the mask shape and you will get a mask that's automatically the same size or at least has the same outer limits as your selected layer. I will undo again.
All of these shortcuts apply to the Ellipse tool as well. Just like with rectangles, after you initially click, but before you release the mouse, you can hold the Shift key to constrain your proportions to be a perfect circle. Add the Spacebar to pick and move your mask shape, add the Command or Ctrl key to go ahead and drag out from the center, rather than from where you initially clicked or use these in combination. For example, I will add Command key on Mac, then my Shift key to get a perfect circle, release the mouse and there is my mask.
And again, I can undo or just select my mask shape, hit Delete, and it's gone. These other mask shapes have a lot of additional keyboard shortcuts you can use while you are drawing a mask. For example, with this Rounded Rectangle tool, I'll start to draw my shape but I won't release the mouse yet. If I have an extended keyboard, I can use the Up and Down cursor keys to change how rounded those corners are. For example, they are more rounded there. If I want it to be an ellipse instead of a rounded rectangle, I will just go back and forth between the Right and Left cursor keys to get a nice pill shape or get a perfect rectangle.
Again, if I want it to more round, I will start using the Up key to introduce some more roundness back to that shape. Undo.
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