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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 rotoscoped the finger so that it remains in the foreground. Let me play it back. There we go. So you can see there's quite a few keyframes that I wound up with. If I zoom in here using this bar at the top of the timeline, we can see how far they are spread apart, and these run from 70 to 115 or so. Now that we've fixed this area of the face around the cheek, we can move on to other parts. We can try the forehead next. What we're going to do is start with something that's already working.
I can copy CheekMask up and go from there. So, I'll select this layer and go to Edit > Duplicate. I'm going to move this up to the top and then rename it ForeheadMask. Now, the mask itself was copied up with this. I don't need that, it's around part of the face, so I'll delete the old mask and just temporarily turn off the Effects that were also copied, and then start with a brand new mask.
I'm going to start on Frame 1 again and draw something like this. It goes right over the eyebrows, over to the edge of the forehead, across the top here, and I'll hide the left hand side in this shadow. I'm going to hide the other layers just to save time and then turn on the Effects and see what it looks like. Not too bad, but one problem with this top set of marks is, they are higher contrast, they tend to show up a little bit more.
Also, there's nothing to disguise these marks once we add the additional artwork. What we can do though is add some additional effects to try to reduce the contrast in this area to disguise these. We'll turn off Match Grain for now just to save time. And then I am going to add a Brightness Contrast Effect to this layer, Effect > Color Correction > Brightness & Contrast. I'm going to move this effect up to the center, and then we can try to reduce the intensity of the white splashes there. Let's try -10.
It helps a little bit. Turn Match Grain back on. Since I added the Brightness & Contrast Effect, the grain becomes very heavy. I think it's too heavy for this area. So, I'm going to down to the Tweaking section of this Match Grain and reduce that to 1.5. That's looking better. Okay. Much like the other masks, this will have to be keyframed over time. So while I'm on Frame 1, I'll go ahead and click the time icon for Mask Path and then continue to bisect.
I'm just going to key three times now. It's going to take way too long to demonstrate in real time, so once again, I'll let you finish the keyframing on your own. Let's go ahead and get the last frame here, I'll scale out the mask. Now, the mask is being a little bit slow. You can turn off the Effects temporarily and that'll speed things up. Once again, I wanted to run across right above the eyebrows, across the center of the forehead and down to the right edge here, and disguise the left side in this shadow.
I'll go to Frame 150 and do one more. I'll turn the Effects back on because there is a problem that crops up with this particular area and that's because this dot over here gets extremely close to the edge. What I don't want to do is blur the edge to the edge of the forehead. It looks blurry against the background. If I turn off the mask here in the view, you could see that might be a problem.
One thing I could do though is try to adjust the blurriness of this layer. So, instead of having a 20 blur at this point, I could see it up here. I might reduce that first to 15. Let me go back to 150 again. Not too bad. I'll check a few other frames. Of course, I need to update my mask. There is another solution. You can isolate this area to try to reduce contrast just where that dot is.
Again, I don't want to blur the edge of the forehead, so if I do need to pull my mask back here, that's when it becomes a problem. If I turn the mask off now, I can see the dot's more apparent. So again, what we can do is create another layer and address that little area by itself. So, I can go ahead and Duplicate the forehead mask upwards. I'll have to delete the old mask. Turn off the Effects at least temporarily, and then what I can do is draw a smaller mask up here, and center this mask right where that dot is.
I can turn the blur on, if I want this Feather on the mask to be even softer, so I can take the Mask Feather and change it from 0 to 20. And then apply a separate effect to reduce the contrast even further here. Instead of Brightness & Contrast, what I'll do is add a curve. I'm going to delete this effect, go and get Effect > Color Correction > Curves. I'll make a pretty crazy curve that's going to help us with this.
First, I'm going to pull it upwards to the top, and then I'm going to bow this, pull the right side down first and bow up the center like this. That really starts to wash it out. So, I'll turn off the mask here, and this is afterwards, and this is before, so a big difference. Now again, it's not going to be perfect. There's still some trace of the dots here. If I zoom out, it's not too bad. The dots will start to look like highlights, especially when the video is in motion.
Again, remember to adjust your mask to make sure that the edges are coming to a good place. We go back to the forehead mask and turn that on. I can decide if my points are in good locations. For instance, I can pull these further back and help disguise the dot here even more. I'll turn on the other layers. Now, there's one area left to do. Let's assume that all the keyframing is done in these first two sections.
I still need to deal with this last dot on this cheek. What I can do to save time, though, since it's a fairly small part, is draw a new mask on this CheekMask over here, add a separate mask that will use the same effects. So, with this layer selected, I'm going to back to the first frame and draw a brand new separate mask that covers this cheek area. It will take on the same exact effects, because it's on the same layer as this original mask over here.
Of course, this has to be keyframed over time. So, I'm going to let you work on that at your own speed. So, there we go. Remember to turn on the Layer Effects in case you turned them off, and then we can proceed forward. So, we've been able to copy some layers, apply some additional rotoscoping, applied two new effects, the Curves and also Brightness & Contrast, to help hide all these original tracking points. We can now approach the Action Motion Tracking.
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