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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 motion tracked the tattoo art, so now it follows the face. Let me play back a portion of that. (video playing) Now, we don't have to the stop there, we can work on the tattoo to make it better integrated. First I want to talk about the actual transforms on that tattoo. Where we left off previously was editing the transforms by hand and also updating the Corner Pin keys. I'll show you my solution here.
Once again the scale and the rotation were decimated so the curves are simpler and that was thanks to the Smoother tool. Early on, from frame zero to 70 or so, we spent some time tweaking the rotation values, so going in and setting some new keyframe values, because the tracking marks were so small at that point there was a little bit slippage, so I hand-tuned that area. Now, in terms of the Corner Pin information, the section where the actress presses her finger to her face were no good in terms of mocha.
So that bad section was cut out and then some additional keyframes were hand animated with some simple bisecting. Now it didn't take a lot of keyframes to get the tattoo back on track, you can see it right here, just several. Sometimes, fewer is a little bit better. If you have too many keyframes that you place by hand or you alter by hand, you could wind up with jitter. So this solution works well in this case. Now, the tattoo is left at 50% opacity just to compare it to the tracking marks.
We can affect that though to make it more integrated. So I think a nice goal would be to make it look like it's a real tattoo at the start, and when she presses her finger to it, it hits some kind of futuristic switch and turns it on, I mean it's electronic or something. So let's' go to frame 90. Frame 90 is where she presses her face. So let's say that's when she just first activates this built-in switch. I want to set a key on the opacity. I want the tattoo that starts a little bit more faded, so I'm going to start with a 25% opacity on that.
Then I'm going to go to frame 100, and this is where it's fully on. So I'm going to increase the opacity to 55%, it gets darker. Now, at this point the tattoo has some pretty harsh edges, even though the artwork is a little bit blurry, because of the way its corner pin track, these vertical lines get a little bit harsh, there's some sideways stair stepping here. So one way to help fight that is to put a slight blur on it, so I'm going to grab the tattoo art, put a Fast Blur on it. I don't have to go too high.
If I go too high, it's going to become very, very soft. There's one, that's much too high. So I am just going to put a slight .3 on that. Here's without, here's with. Just to help soften that edge. Now, since this is a switch, it would be great to get it to interact some other way. So I have another piece of art that represents little lights that are built in where these circles are. I'm going to import that, go to the frame zero first, File > Import > File, and this one is called tattooCore, it's in the artwork folder, bring that in.
I want to drop that right above the tattoo. It initially comes in very large in the center. Just like with the tattoo, I want to change the anchor point first to 640 in the X. That will place this art so it touches the upper left-hand corner. Now, if you had your own art and you were tracking it this way, you would possibly need a different value, but the goal would be to get the artwork up here at the top left. All right, now, I don't have to reapply the tracking data the hard way from mocha. What I can do is go to the tattoo layer and steal it.
First, I'll highlight the Corner Pin effect. I'll just use the keyboard shortcuts Ctrl+C or Command+C to copy. Go back up to the tattooCore and paste. So I fixed here the Corner Pin, it's shrunken down. It's not in the right place yet, so then I have to go the transforms, Shift+select each of the transforms while the tattoo layer is selected. Position, scale, and rotation, copy those, go back up to the core, paste those.
Now, it's in the right place. Now, it's very heavy and dark. I really want just the red dots here, so what I can do is go to the blending mode and switch that to Screen. Screen will just allow the bright areas to survive. Now, this is a switch. I really want it to turn on between frame 90 and 100. So on frame 90, I want those lights basically to be off, so I'm going to go to the opacity of tattooCore, key it on and make it zero. Then on frame 100, I want the lights to be on, so I'll give it a higher opacity, maybe 35.
So now it turns on. Now, while we're at it, one nice thing might be to turn on Motion Blur. We have two static artwork layers that are now transformed over time. What I can do is, with the Toggle Switches button activated, so I can see the Motion Blur switch, is just turn on the Motion Blur switch right here. Looks like a bunch of little circles in a row. What that means is that artwork or those pieces of artwork will have Motion Blur streaks added based on how far they move over one frame. So this will better match the actual video footage.
So first you have to turn it on here for the layer, you also have to turn on that switch for the entire composition. That's a global switch to the composition. So you need it both here, and down here turned on. Once it's turned on, it will be blurred based on the motion. You can see it most heavily near the beginning where the tattoo is moving faster. If I turn off the Motion Blur, you see it's a slightly different position and it's a little bit harder edge. If I turn it on, you get more of that blur. Now, towards the end you will see less blur because there's less motion. All right, one last thing we do to the tattoo to jazz it up a bit is maybe put a glow on these little lights. So I'm going to tattooCore, go to Effect > Stylize > Glow.
You then need do adjust the Glow options at the top. I'm going to lower the Threshold, say 35, reduce the Radius, and then most importantly, increase the Intensity to 3. Now, we'll spread the Glow out pass where the circles are. So here's frame 90, where this tattoo is basically at rest, and here's frame 100, when it's switched on.
We've made the tattoo more complex by bringing in a new piece artwork, tattooCore, which is serving as a sets of lights. We still did motion tracking by just copying and pasting newly activated Motion Blur to integrate it better, and also animated the opacity. We now have a complex tattoo. This tattoo is going to serve as a switch that turns on and heads-up display. So that will be the next step, is to start creating that.
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