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VFX Techniques introduces common yet critical visual effects techniques that are used in film and television shows on a regular basis. This installment shows how to build complex composites with Adobe After Effects and mocha, where motion graphics are mapped to live-action footage of an actor. Author Lee Lanier starts by combining rotoscoping and effects to digitally apply makeup to an actor to disguise motion tracking marks. Then discover how to transfer footage into mocha and generate planar tracking data that you can use to motion track graphics to the moving face of the actor. Plus, learn how to build and adjust motion graphics to create the look of a virtual tattoo and a pair of holographic heads-up glasses.
We've successfully motion-tracked the heads-up display to the front of the actress' face, and now it follows along. I'll play back a little portion of that. There we go. Now, I did spend some time altering the masks to make sure that the eyeglass shape fit well over her face. That required going back to HeadsUpMask, and altering this mask. So, there's a place for the nose, and then, the two sides taper off, and that works well in this case.
I also made sure that any kind of text that appears in the heads-up display was easy to see, that it fit in each lens of this virtual pair of glasses. To do that, I had to go back to HeadsUp, and just move around the type layers. Okay, so now we're ready for the next element. It would be great to get some type of armature that pops out to serve as a little projector to project this heads-up display in midair. Now, we don't have any kind of pre- rendered element for this, but we can fabricate an armature by using Solids, Solid Layers, and Masking.
Let me turn off the heads-up display to save time, and then I'll go back to frame 0. Let's get started by making a new solid. Layer > New > Solid. I'm going to make this one white just initially so I can see it, and then make it say 1200x720. I will click OK. Initially, it covers up everything, but what I'll do is open it up in a Layer View, so it's by itself, and draw a rectangular mask over the top. I can use this Rectangle button up here, just like this.
Now back to the Composition View. Again, it's just on the top. What I can do though is borrow some tracking information from a different layer. If I zoom in, I can choose where I want it to be. I'd like it to appear over her ear as if it's a Bluetooth device. Now, this is actually close to where the tattoo is motion-tracked, right here. So, what I can do is borrow the corner pin, and the transforms from the tattoo layer. I'll start with the corner pin. I'll select that Effect, Ctrl or Command+C on the keyboard to copy.
Go back up to the Solid, and paste, Ctrl or Command+V. That distorts it through the corner pin, so now it's small down here. The mask is in the same place though. Next thing I'll do is grab the transforms. I'll Shift+select Position, Scale, and Rotation, again on the first frame, copy those, go back up and paste again to the solid layer. There we go.
So, there is a solid. Now, it's close to the motion path, it's not really where we want it, and that's because I didn't bother to change the anchor point in advance. I can do that now though. If I go up to the Solid, look at the anchor point, I can just slide it over to where I'd like it to be. I'm going to go to a different frame, though, where I can see the side of the face better, frame 200. There's a better side view, and I'll slide it over, somewhere around here, so maybe 375 in the Y, and somewhere around 660 or so for the X. Now, it seems a bit short.
There's some perspective shift on it. But, I'd like it to be longer. I have to go back further and go out further. So, I can go back to the Solid Settings and increase the Width. Let's try 1800. That makes that solid longer. Now, the anchor point, and the X has changed because we did make it longer, but we can change that again to get it back where we want it; somewhere around 980 or so might be good, 970. The rotation now is a little funny, I'd rather have a point downwards as opposed to across like it is now.
What we can do there is go to the Rotation, go to the Graph Editor, frame it all, select all the keyframes and offset the entire curve. I'll just pull this curve up or down until it feels like a good rotation. So, I think, when I'm on frame 200, a rotation of around 20 is going to work, something like that. That's looking good. Now, there are still a few issues to deal with. One is the fact that it overlaps the hair. I'd rather make it look like it's coming out from beneath the hair.
What I can do there is add another mask to cut out part of this solid. I can't do it right here, I have to zoom backwards, or zoom out, and find the mask, which is still up here. What I can do though is draw a second mask and subtract that mask. So, I'm going to draw one like this with a bit of a rough edge right here, and close it up. Then, I'll change its second mask to subtract. Now, because it's so far away, I have to zoom in to see how that worked, I might have to go back and forth a few times, but that's the general idea. I've cut off this end and now it fits underneath, that part of the hair.
Another problem is, because it's a solid that's been shrunk to such a high degree of its corner pin, there's some kind of bad stair-stepping on the end, it looks kind of rough. What I can do there though is just add a blur. Effect > Blur & Sharpen > Fast Blur, in a small number like 0.5. That's going to help. Now, it's very bright right now, and it's extra harsh because it's white, but I can go back and change this to black, like plastic. So, Layer > Solid Settings, and make it black. Let's check the tracking to see how that works.
I'm going to play back a short section. All right. That looks pretty good. There we go. So now we have great rotational shifts in that solid, thanks to the motion-tracking and the corner pin. So, it looks like it's turning with the face. All right. It would be great to have some kind of shadow.
There's a definite shadow right here. So, we'd expect a shadow from the armature. I can do that by copying the current solid. I'm going to rename the solid first so I know what it is, Armature, and then duplicate this layer, pull it down underneath, rename that, call it Armature Shadow. It comes in right where the original one is, but I can offset that by changing the anchor point. I'm going to push it over to the right a little bit, and down a little bit.
Now, I don't really need the very start of this to be cut off, or least not from that double mask. What I could do though is pull out to see the mask, and either alter this subtractive mask or simply delete it. I want to delete that second mask. Mask 2, delete, and that puts it back to its original length. Now, as a shadow, it's very dark, very opaque. So, first thing I'll do here is reduce the Opacity to 50%, and then blur it even more.
There's a fast blur here that I got from the copy. So, I'll set that to 2. That looks better. Now, the color is not quite right, it looks a little bit blue. It doesn't look red like the other shadow in the footage, so I'm going to add a Hue/Saturation. Color Correction > Hue Saturation, I'm going to use Colorize this time. And the Hue is already set to Red, which is 0 degrees, but I'm going to crank up the Saturation to 70 and more importantly, the Lightness, so I can see some of that red, to 7.
And there, a reddish tone comes in, it starts to look like a shadow that might be on the face. That will also track along, because it's using the same animation that was originally on the Armature layer. We've created a virtual piece of geometry by using a solid layer, masking, and then applying tracking information to that by borrowing it from another layer. We've also created a shadow by copying the original solid downwards and adjusting it with color tools like Hue and Saturation, Blur, and then the Opacity.
There are a few more things that would be great to add to this armature. One would be some type of highlight that looks like it's plastic, like it's glinting in the light. The other is some type of light source to make it look like a projector.
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