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In After Effects CS5 Essential Training, author Chad Perkins discusses the basic tools, effects, and need-to-know techniques in Adobe After Effects CS5, the professional standard for motion graphics, compositing, and visual effects for video. The course provides an overview of the entire workflow, from import to export, as well as detailed coverage of each stage, including animating text and artwork, adding effects to compositions, working in 3D, and rendering and compressing footage. Exercise files are included with the course.
In this movie and throughout this chapter we are going to be examining one of the key features of After Effects, and that is working with masks. Masks do quite a bit, but mainly they remove pieces of the layer. Let's look at this simple example here. I have these two video clips and if I take off the visibility of the top one, we have this guy talking about olives and then we also have a shot of some olives with some olive sorting. What we are going to do is create an effect, kind of like a screen split effect like they have on the TV show '24', where we have the hand over here doing some sorting of the olives and then we also will isolate this guy so it will just be him talking.
So, we are going to get rid of this other stuff around the background and we are going to focus on only this little piece over here on the right-hand side. So, first let's select the olive sorting O2 layer and then we will go open the toolbar here and we are going to select the Rectangle tool at the top. What we are going to do is, again, making sure that this layer is selected, we are going to click and drag in the upper right-hand corner of the screen and that looks about right there. So, instantly you will see what we have done here.
We have isolated just this one little piece of the layer. Now, this is not like keying. This is not like the Roto Brush tool, where we were isolating just the hand itself. We are just creating a section of that layer and now you can see the rest of the layer is transparent, showing through to the layer beneath. Now, we are going to come back to this layer here. I am going to turn off its visibility temporarily, close it up, and then select the TourRon_Intro_B_02 layer and what we are going to do is move to a section where both of his hands are in frame. Unfortunately, for the design of this particular project, we are going to have to chop off a little bit of his hand. Sorry Mr. Ron.
But we are going to select that layer and with the Rectangle tool selected, we're going to click and drag again on this layer. And we are getting a black background now because now there's nothing else behind this layer, so we are just seeing the transparency. So, what I am going to do is now turn on both layers and we see that we have some issues here, some overlap, so we need to do some designing. So, I am going to select the Selection tool in the toolbar. I am going to click and drag these layers to now move these around.
And I am also going to come down here to the Timeline panel,and with the layer selected, press S to reveal their Scale properties, so we can adjust them. So, I will take the olive sorting, scale this down to, maybe put this up in the corner, somewhere around there. And we will select Ron and we will Scale him down just a little bit. Let me take this olive sorting one down a little bit more and then spread them out, like so. I don't trust my eyes to be a good judge of distance.
So, what I am going to do is open up the Align panel. If it's not showing, go to Window > Align. And then what we are going to do is click on one of the layers and then Shift+Click the other layers so they are both selected, and then in the Align panel on the right-hand side we want to align the top. Vertical top alignment button, go ahead and click that. Now they are both aligned and we could maybe move this over just a little bit. And then we have this kind of '24' like scenario, where we have two different clips playing at the same time.
And while he is talking about olive sorting, you are actually seeing it go on at the same time. Now, we could have just scaled the layer down rather than cropping it with the mask. But the point of the mask is that we can focus on the part of the layer that really matters. So, we don't have to worry about all the extra trees in the scene. We don't have to worry about the extra pair of hands in the scene. We just see like just the olives and just the hand, that makes the action seem a little bit more intense when we are really focused in on it like this. Now, let's look at another example of what masks are good for.
I am going to go to the picture frame composition and in this composition we have just the little graphic of a picture frame. Kind of cheesy a little bit, but it will illustrate our point perfectly. So, here's our picture frame. And underneath this picture frame, we have a layer of this beautiful photo here, this couple longingly looking at each other on the beach. So, what we are going to do is we are going to actually use a mask, not to isolate a certain subject here or part of the frame, but actually to cut a hole through this center section so we can see the layers beneath it.
So, with the picture frame layer selected, I am going to select the Rectangle tool once more. In the upper left-hand corner, I am going to click and drag down. I realize this is kind of weird looking. I will explain that in just a second. But click and drag down to the bottom corner of the frame. If you go too far outside, you are actually going to see some of the frames. So, actually we are going to come down here and make sure that our mask here is about the exact same size, as close as we can get it, to the black area inside the frame. Now, there are different mask modes.
In the olive oil composition we just looked at, the masks revealed part of the layer. But what we want do here is not to reveal part of the layer but to conceal this part of the layer. So, what I can do is come down here to the picture frame comp and this layer, and we can open up Masks and across for Mask 1 will have this dropdown that says Add. That's the default mask mode, meaning that whatever is in the mask we'll add to the layer. But we actually wanted the opposite. Whatever is in the mask, we want to subtract from the layer.
So, in this dropdown change it from Add to Subtract, and we will remove that part of the layer, allowing the layers beneath to show through, thereby creating a true picture frame. Now, these are vector masks. If you are familiar with Illustrator, it's pretty much the same thing. What we can do is go back and get our Selection tool and we could click on the mask and we could actually move components of the layer. I am actually going to undo that. We could click individual points. I shall click away to deselect and then click back to select one of these points.
And we can move these points around. They are again vector and fully controllable and adjustable. We could even click a line segment and move that. So, we have total control over what this mask is like. Again, I am not going to go too far into it in this training series. But if you are familiar with Illustrator, again we can add additional points to create some curvature, have Bezier curves that we adjust and scale and all of that as well. So, that's kind of like the introduction to masks.
Now let's go on into the next movie. We are going to look at a few more of the options that we have with masks in the Timeline panel here.
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