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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®.
Track mattes require two layers stacked in a specific order, the one with the transparency on top, the one with the fill colors underneath, and this pair needs to be kept together as you start to add in other layers in your composition. You can go ahead and keep them as pair as you move things around, or it can be easier to nest this pair into another comp and treat it like a singular footage item. To demonstrate this I'll go back to my project and I'll open up another comp, 08b-Night Vision*starter. This comp is a mixture of things you've already seen earlier in this lesson to make an interesting background movie.
To go ahead and add this title on top, I'll select the composition, Alpha Matte*starter, and drag it into this comp. As a result I have one layer that's acting as a very complex movie, this filled text. If I want to go back and modify that particular text, I tap the Shift key to bring up the composition mini flowchart and I can see that my Alpha Matte is flowing into night vision. I can click on Alpha Matte, go back to this combination, change the track matte to whatever I want to and tap Shift again, switch back to the other comp, there is my full composite, and here it's a single layer as if it was a footage item.
Another advantage of having this as one layer inside another comp is I can go ahead and transform it as a group. I'll type S to reveal its Scale. I can scale it down, scale it up, R to Rotate, P for Position, move it around and reposition it as a group. Otherwise I'd have two layers I'd have to worry about scaling together, rotating together, repositioning together. It's much easier to just go ahead and move one layer around and treat it like a singular footage item. Go back to where we started.
Additionally it's much easier and more straightforward to apply effects. So let's go ahead and treat it like footage and make it look better in this composite. It kind of goes to black there, which is no fun at all. If I inverted it, it would be wide at that moment, so let's type Invert, drag it on top of my matte. Now it's white. Check the color, not thrilled with that, so let's do a Effect > Color Correction > Hue/Saturation and rotate it so it's a more appropriate color. Yeah there we go. It's kind of matching the purples of the background.
Problem with that is that it's not exactly lifting off that background. So let's go Effect > Perspective > Drop Shadow, give a little Distance, give a little Softness. As an alternative to effects you can also use layer styles. Pick Layer > Layer Style. Something like Inner Shadow, which would be a cutout on to that text. That's another interesting effect or interesting look. And again I do like the layer styles. I prefer them quite often over the corresponding effects.
Another one is Layer > Layer Style > Bevel and Emboss. Let's go ahead and reveal that down here in the Timeline panel, increase the Size, maybe harden it up with a Chisel Hard and really have a different look there. So that's another trick to keep in mind. Treat your track matte pair as a complex piece of footage by putting it in its own composition then dragging it as an element into any other comp you so desire.
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