After Effects Apprentice 05: Creating Transparency
Illustration by John Hersey

Exploring variable-mask feathering options


From:

After Effects Apprentice 05: Creating Transparency

with Chris Meyer and Trish Meyer

Video: Exploring variable-mask feathering options

In the previous movie, I showed you the basics of creating a variable mask feather where I have my mask path and then I have a separate feather path I created using the Mask Feather tool. And just to make my mask path a little bit more visible against this orange and yellow piece of footage, I'm going to go ahead and click on the color swatch for my mask and give it a more obvious color such as something in the magenta range there. Now it stands out more against my blue background as well. The first option is very useful to know as you have some control over how the feather falls off between the start of the feather and the end of the feather, and that's set underneath Layer > Mask > Feather Falloff.
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  1. 3m 17s
    1. Overview
      1m 17s
    2. Using the exercise files
      2m 0s
  2. 28m 53s
    1. Creating basic mask shapes
      5m 7s
    2. Using advanced parametric shapes
      3m 35s
    3. Basic mask shape editing
      4m 35s
    4. Masking in the Layer panel
      1m 55s
    5. Working with mask parameters
      4m 0s
    6. Animating masks
      5m 52s
    7. Creating vignettes
      3m 49s
  3. 25m 56s
    1. Masking with the Pen tool
      6m 44s
    2. Editing a mask path
      6m 19s
    3. Using RotoBezier masks
      4m 32s
    4. Targeting masks for animation
      3m 13s
    5. Setting the first vertex point
      5m 8s
  4. 19m 7s
    1. The basics of variable-mask feathering
      7m 33s
    2. Exploring variable-mask feathering options
      5m 56s
    3. Exploring visual effects applications
      5m 38s
  5. 7m 55s
    1. Exploring mask modes
      3m 58s
    2. Fading mask opacity
      3m 57s
  6. 11m 48s
    1. Using targeted treatments
      2m 35s
    2. Filling mask shapes
      3m 8s
    3. Following mask paths
      6m 5s
  7. 13m 31s
    1. Using alpha mattes
      3m 48s
    2. Grouping track matte pairs
      3m 40s
    3. Working with luma mattes
      3m 52s
    4. Animating mattes
      2m 11s
  8. 10m 0s
    1. Using Stencil Luma
      3m 5s
    2. Using Stencil Alpha
      2m 5s
    3. Using effects with stencils
      2m 20s
    4. Stacking stencils
      2m 30s
  9. 8m 23s
    1. Quizzler challenges
      1m 18s
    2. Quizzler solution one: One word at a time
      3m 53s
    3. Quizzler solution two: Stroke drawing direction
      3m 12s
  10. 11m 18s
    1. Idea corner one: More masks and effects
      2m 50s
    2. Idea corner two: Transition effects
      3m 44s
    3. Idea corner three: Sequenced layers as mattes
      4m 44s
  11. 16m 29s
    1. Understanding track matte rendering order
      5m 48s
    2. Exploring mask interpolation
      10m 41s

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Watch the Online Video Course After Effects Apprentice 05: Creating Transparency
2h 36m Beginner Mar 23, 2011 Updated Nov 15, 2012

Viewers: in countries Watching now:

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®.

Topics include:
  • Creating masks using parametric shapes or freeform with the Pen tool
  • Editing and animating masks
  • Combining multiple masks
  • Using one layer to define the transparency of others
  • Explaining the interaction between effects, masks, and mattes
  • Mastering mask animation
Subject:
Video
Software:
After Effects
Authors:
Chris Meyer Trish Meyer

Exploring variable-mask feathering options

In the previous movie, I showed you the basics of creating a variable mask feather where I have my mask path and then I have a separate feather path I created using the Mask Feather tool. And just to make my mask path a little bit more visible against this orange and yellow piece of footage, I'm going to go ahead and click on the color swatch for my mask and give it a more obvious color such as something in the magenta range there. Now it stands out more against my blue background as well. The first option is very useful to know as you have some control over how the feather falls off between the start of the feather and the end of the feather, and that's set underneath Layer > Mask > Feather Falloff.

The default is called Smooth, whether it's kind of an 'S' shaped curve as the feather falls off from the start to the end. The other option is a Linear where it's a very mathematically precise fall off, starting at the one edge and ending at the other. And to see what these look like, I am going to go to Display, just the Alpha channel, and I'm going to solo my layer on top that has the mask so I can see better how this feather is falling off and what the Alpha channel looks like. I'm going to save the snapshot of this display and now I can change Layer > Mask > Feather Falloff.

When I choose Linear you'll notice a couple of things. One, the mask appears to be broader. It seems to reach further and get closer to this ending line. If I turn off the Mask Visibility, you'll also notice it has a rather sharp edge as it starts to fall off from the beginning of the mask feather to the end. Now there is no edge here, it's just a nice linear fall-off but our eyes tend to perceive those changes as almost a white glowing outline around the mask. I am going to go ahead and compare the smoother version of my Alpha channel where that edge is much more rounded, and the linear version of it.

As you can see, Smooth creates some more pleasing fall off, but the one downside of the Smooth shape is that it just not appear to reach all the way to your mask feather boundary. Therefore, if you use Layer > Mask > Feather Falloff > Smooth, you might find yourself pulling this points out further than you expected. You just can't pull them out to a piece of the underlying footage. I'll go back to RGB and expect it, to actually in there.

You're going to have to rely on the other half of your brain and see how that composite really looks. Let's play around with some more tricks. If you have a few feather points that are pretty close to each other to where you have a fairly sharp bend in the feather path, After Effects will interpolate between those points using sort of an Auto Bezier, or RotoBezier type of curve. However, just like the RotoBezier tool has tension on its corners, the same thing is true with the Mask Feather tool. If I hold down Option on Mac or Alt on Windows, I get a little tension icon to where I make the fall-off rounded or sharp.

Particularly, obvious on this top point where I would pinch it or round it out. If you want a mathematical control over what that tension is, right-click on any one of these vertices and you'll get Edit Tension which is a tension value, Edit Radius which is the length of that line, then Edit Corner Angle which frankly I haven't found has much use when playing with the Mask Feather tool. These two are the biggies. Select one, you'll get a Value dialog, if I will sync the feather radius to a larger value such as 70 pixels, and click OK, you'll see that line has jumped to be longer 70 pixels long to be precise.

Now one of the trick inside Mask Feather tool and you might have seen it, when I right-clicked on one of these vertices is Hold feather. You can create sharp staircase fall offs between feather points. You can use this pop-up menu to set Hold or there is a nice interactive way of doing it. Hover your cursor over your mask path, press the Shift key and it will turn to this cursor the two plus symbols, and a line between them. That means you're about to add a Hold segment to your feather. If you drag this out, you'll see a very sharp transition on this new mask feather point which was based on my mask vertex until I get to my next mask feather point. Same if I drag this out too.

When I create my point, there is a hard mask fall off until I reach my next mask feather point. This is particularly useful if you have one side of say a rectangle type of object and you want to feather that entire edge the same. You can just go ahead and hold the Shift key, click on that side of that box that rectangle that part of shape, and drag up the whole edge instead of having to drag out two points to fit the mask feather evenly along the entire edge. And just like with any other mask point, you can select them, Shift+Select to select multiple points or select a point and press Delete to remove a point.

I'm going to remove my hold of mask points which are identified by this special icon which just points in one direction. And I'll delete that one. So that's a quick lesson on how you use Mask Feather in a more graphical application like this fanciful composite I was creating. However, Mask Feather is also very useful if you are trying to create realistic composites of putting an image over brand-new background as if they were shot that way. That's what I'm going to demonstrate in the next movie.

Find answers to the most frequently asked questions about After Effects Apprentice 05: Creating Transparency .


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Q: This course was updated on 11/15/2012. What changed?
A: We added a movie that shows our premium subscribers how to use the exercise files, We have also added new sets of exercise files designed for After Effects CS5.5 and After Effects CS6.
 
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