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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®.
I went ahead and quickly finished drawing a quick mask shape around this flower. Now I'd like to go back and clean it up and make it look a little bit better. However, since the mask is cutting out this layer, I can't tell if I've got more flower petal beyond my mask shape or not. Therefore, I prefer to edit masks in the Layer panel, not the Comp panel. To open up the Layer panel, you double-click a layer and you'll get its own special viewer. Make sure the View popup is set to Masks, which it should, and you can turn off the Render switch to go ahead and see your entire layer.
Now you see the mask outline but it won't actually cut out your layer. I also prefer to zoom in on my subject while I am working with masks. You can manually set this to say 200% or even 400%, press the Spacebar to temporarily get the Hand tool, and move to the desired detail inside your layer. If your mouse has a scroll wheel, you can also use the scroll wheel to zoom in and zoom out. Let me go ahead and move tight on some of the details of this flower. I also prefer to edit masks with the Selection tool as opposed to the Pen tool.
With the Pen tool, you have to keep changing context. It's a little more difficult I find to edit. You might also start accidentally drawing a new mask shape. With the Selection tool, I personally find it easier to manage what I'm doing. V is the shortcut to get back to it. Okay, let's clean up some of these mask points. For example, I've got a couple areas here, which really should be sharper edges. However, when I select the points, I see that I have drawn them with Bezier handles and I have got handles sticking out. There is a couple of ways of curing this.
One is to break the handles going through this point and drag them into a more appropriate angle. To do that I hover the cursor over one of the handles and press Command+Option on Mac or Ctrl+Alt on windows to get the Convert Vertex tool, that inverted V. Once I have that, I click on a point and drag and now I can go ahead and move these into position. I only need to break them once. I don't need to keep holding down the keys. Once the handles are broken, they are broken. By the way, if I want to rejoin those handles, if I figure out I made a mistake, I can start dragging a handle and while clicking and dragging add the Option or Alt key and now it will rejoin the handles.
That same trick will work while you are dragging out a shape as well. But for now, I am going to hold Command +Option or Ctrl+Alt, break the handles, and get the desired angle, and drag that V back in shape. Once you do that, you will start finding other problems. You just go ahead and drag your handles the way that you need them to be to get a good shape. Another way to create sharp corners is to just go ahead and convert the vertex itself rather than the handles. Again I'll hover may cursor, hold down Command+Option or Ctrl+Alt to get the Change Direction tool, click, and now I've got a sharp edge right there where that vertex is and I can really position it to be a bit better.
Note, while I am cutting out objects, I really don't want to be outside of the object because I'll pick up a black fringe or some other color from background. If I go in too far, I cut out detail. I prefer to straddle or just be slightly on the inside of my edges. Okay, now that I've done this I am finding some other details. For example, this point might even be superfluous right here. So to get rid of a point I'll hold down the G key, which temporarily toggles the Pen tool. The cursor will switch to a Pen with a minus sign. Click and that point is gone.
Now that I've done that maybe I do need handles here after all. I'll hold down Command+Option or Ctrl+ Alt to get my Change Direction tool. Click, drag a handle, and get the curve that I want. You can keep switching back and forth. If I decide I need to add a point to the line, I don't have enough detail going through the curve, again, I just hold the G key to convert back to the Pen tool and I'll get a pen with a plus, click, and I've got a new point right there. So that's just examples of how you can switch context from your tools and go around and just kind of clean up your mask outline.
Again, I won't make you watch me do the entire thing. If you want to get back down to an overall view of your layer, hold down the Shift key and type the Forward Slash. It will now center image and zoom it to fit your available display. By the way, if you want to select all of the points in your mask very quickly, hold down Option or Alt, click on any single point, and now the entire mask shape will be selected. You can release Option or Alt and drag around the entire mask shape. Maybe you just need to nudge it into place, and you can indeed nudge it using the arrow keys, pressing down and arrow up, a little bit of arrow right there.
You may remember from the previous chapter that it was also the ability to transform the entire shape. Again, double-click along the mask path and now you get a bounding box around your entire mask shape. Hover your cursor over edges like this to go ahead and stretch out your mask or compress it, Command+Z or Ctrl+Z to undo, or rounded corner to rotate your mask around this mask anchor point, there we go. So it makes it very easy for you to take an existing shape, move it to a new location, and otherwise transform it.
I'll undo to get back where I was. Double-click the layer and now I am back to editing a mask. I'll go ahead and drag a marquee around some of the points and edit just those points as a group. I'll undo and go back. Masking is not something you're going to be good at immediately. You will need practice. The more that you do it, the better you'll get out it and the faster you'll be at it. The main thing is go ahead and use curves. Don't draw a mask just by clicking hundreds of individual straight line segments.
That's a real beginner mask and kind of doesn't look so good. Let's go ahead and try to mask the contours of your shape and you'll end up with a good mask. And speaking of matching the contours of your shape, there is a mask tool called RotoBezier which is particularly good at that, and I'll demonstrate that in the next movie.
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