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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®.
In addition to selectively revealing portions of a clip or animating and wiping on a layer, another common thing you do with mask is create vignettes. Maybe areas of the frame which are say slightly darkened in the corners. To do that I'm going to create a Layer > New > Solid. It says we have a solid block of color, which I will then selectively mask to create my vignette. I am going to make sure that my solid covers the entire composition, so I'll click the Make Comp Size button and I'll pick a color for the vignette. Typically I go black, but since I have some really nice blues and purples going on with this footage I think I'm going to use the eyedropper and pick a really dark color along this freeway here to be my vignette color, just to tie the vignette in with the rest of my footage. Click OK, name this layer more intelligently like vignettes and click OK.
Now I have a solid filling in my screen. I want to mask out that solid to reveal my stack of layers, my title, my additional footage underneath. I am going to go to my tools, select the Ellipse tool, and I can either start dragging out of vignettes, which is fussy, or I can just use the shortcut of double-clicking the Ellipse tool. With my layer selected, that will create a nice ellipse that's the full size my layer. Well I do have a bit of a problem right now.
I've got a big oval obscuring my footage, which is kind of the opposite of what I wanted. That's not a problem. I'll click the Invert to invert the effect of my mask and now I've got an oval reveal with darkened corners that are the color of my solid shape. I want to soften up that transition, so I'm going to go ahead and press F to reveal Feather, start scrubbing the Feather to go ahead and get that a bit of softening that I wanted. This yellow mask outline is kind of blocking what I'm doing, so I am going to go ahead and turn that off for now.
So I see suggest the vignette. If I want to expand or contract the amount of the area that vignette is taking up, I'll make sure the layer is selected, twirl up my layer, and then press MM to reveal all of the mask parameters. Again you can just twirl the mask as well. And I can use my Mask Expansion to either make the vignette just hit the corners of my layer or to go ahead and take up a lot more the layer, just maybe create a small hole in my world like that. But I'll go ahead and make it just take up the corners and to soften effects in the corners I could either increase the Feather even more, Undo, or press Shift and T to reveal the opacity of the entire layer and fade out the whole vignetted layer to just add a little bit darkening in those corners.
Before, after. I like vignettes quite a bit. They do add just a bit of class to a video project. It's worth spending a little bit of time adding them. Now in fact I did a whole course on creating vignettes. That might be worth watching if you like this technique and there we go. We've created an interesting little composite here, by by going ahead and taking this footage, masking it out selectively to reveal just portions of it, and by doing so revealing a background layer behind, animated on a title, and created a vignette just to add a little bit of classy darkening to the corners, and all this was done with a very simple mask shape tool.
However, there are many occasions where just these simple rectangles, ellipses or even polygons and stars aren't quite enough. You need more detail in your mask. And for that you use the Pen tool, and that's going to be the subject of the next chapter inside this lesson.
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