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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 created additional makeup to cover up those tracking marks. Now we're ready to start Motion Tracking, and we're not going to track in After Effects, although we could. I am going to use something that's more appropriate for this style of tracking, which is mocha. mocha is a separate program which you can get to by going through an After Effects menu. Before we go there though, I want to prepare the footage. I don't want to use what we have here, in fact, let me play this back. Using the version where the tracking marks are covered will defeat the purpose, so I'm going to create a new image sequence that's been adjusted to maximize the potential quality.
I'm going to make a new composition for this and call this PrepFootage. This needs to be the same Resolution, Frame Rate, and Duration, so 300 Frame Duration. I'm going to pull the original footage, the Spy image sequence, down into this new composition. I could try to track this as is, but I'd rather try to increase the contrast to make the dots more visible and to allow the tracker to be more successful.
The other thing I can do is get rid of some of the noise. It's fairly noisy here from the video. If I reduce the noise, the tracker will be less confused by what it finds in the footage. Let's start with that. I'm going to apply Effect > Noise & Grain > Remove Grain. This effect has a preview box just like Match Grain. I'm going to move this over, so I can see it better on the face. Now you can adjust the degree to which it removes the grain and some other fine tuning.
It's actually good as is, though, so the only thing I'm going to do here is change the viewing mode from Preview to Final Output. Now it will remove the grain everywhere, or at least reduce it. Next, I'll address the overall Contrast and Brightness. I'm also going to adjust the Saturation, make it much more saturated than normal. In fact, that's where I'll start, Effect > Color Correction > Hue Saturation. I'm going to make the Master Saturation extra high, 40. It's going to turn very red, but that will help distinguish the tracking marks from her skin tone.
Now this actually helps as contrast too, because increasing the saturation increases the contrast between different color channels. And ultimately, it will have more contrast than, say, the blue channel. I can also go ahead and brighten everything. I want to make sure these are very easily seen. So I'm going to grab a Curves Tool > Color Correction > Curves, and just bow up the center a bit. Now that it's adjusted and I have more contrast overall, I can render this out. I want to render an image sequence.
So with this composition selected, I want to go to Composition > Add to Render Queue. I need to change the Output Module and the Output To. On the Output Module, I'm going to click the word Lossless and pick a new format. I don't want to render a movie in this case. I don't want to render an AVI or a QuickTime. That may lead to compression, which will interfere with the tracking. I'd rather do an image sequence. I'm going to pick PNG Sequence. Then click OK. Next, I'll pick a place to write this out to.
Now, I have a folder that has this already rendered out. I'm just going to write over the top of it. 'm going to change the name to PrepTrack, and leave the brackets and the pound signs. Again, the pound signs determine the number of numeric placeholders, for instance, .000. or .299. This is ready to go, now I'll click Save. Once these two things are set, Output Module and Output To, I can click the Render button and let it render.
Depending on the speed of your machine, this may take several minutes. But when the render is done, that yellow bar will disappear and you'll hear a chime. So this render is now finished. I'm going to bring it back in. I'm going to back to the Project tab, go to File > Import > File, and bring this back in. There we go. There is a new rendered-out image sequence.
I'm going to go back to PrepFootage and pull this new sequence down on top. I'm going to turn off Spy. I don't really need it now. At this point, I can switch over to mocha. If you're using CS6, there is a menu item to take your current layer and to bring it into mocha automatically. So with this PrepTrack layer selected, I'm going to go to Animation > Track in mocha AE. When it opens, it's going to set up anew project with that layer that you had selected.
So my PrepTrack pre-render is listed right here in Import Clip. That also lists the Duration and the Frame Rate. I'm going to click OK now. Now if there's any kind of pre- existing mocha data, it's going to ask if you want to overwrite it. Now since we're starting out, that's perfectly fine. I'm going to maximize the window. So now we're now in mocha. So we're ready to apply the tracking data. In preparation for motion tracking, we adjusted the color and the contrast of our original footage, and then you used the built-in menu to bring it over to the mocha side.
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