VFX Techniques: Tracking Objects onto a Face
Illustration by John Hersey

Rotoscoping the foreground


From:

VFX Techniques: Tracking Objects onto a Face

with Lee Lanier

Video: Rotoscoping the foreground

We've disguised the dots on her face fairly well, so now they're pretty much invisible. This leads to one problem, and that's when she lifts her finger up to press her face around frame 100 or so, her finger becomes blurry, because those upper layers are blurring that part of the cheek. We'll have to rotoscope a piece of the footage to bring her finger back. Now, this will serve a dual purpose. We also need to get the tattoo eventually underneath that finger. So, let's do that. I'm going to go down to the Footage layer and duplicate that.

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Watch the Online Video Course VFX Techniques: Tracking Objects onto a Face
2h 42m Intermediate Jan 28, 2013

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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.

Topics include:
  • Disguising tracking marks with rotoscoping and effects
  • Preparing footage for motion tracking
  • Planar motion tracking a face in mocha
  • Applying tracking data to artwork in After Effects
  • Fine-tuning motion tracking curves in After Effects
  • Animating text and graphic elements
  • Applying color and light effects
  • Batch rendering the final comp
Subject:
Video
Software:
After Effects
Author:
Lee Lanier

Rotoscoping the foreground

We've disguised the dots on her face fairly well, so now they're pretty much invisible. This leads to one problem, and that's when she lifts her finger up to press her face around frame 100 or so, her finger becomes blurry, because those upper layers are blurring that part of the cheek. We'll have to rotoscope a piece of the footage to bring her finger back. Now, this will serve a dual purpose. We also need to get the tattoo eventually underneath that finger. So, let's do that. I'm going to go down to the Footage layer and duplicate that.

We'll move that up to the very top and rename that finger. I'll zoom in so I can see and then grab my Pen Tool and draw a mask. Let me go down to the second joints, so good coverage of the finger, up across the nail. I don't want any of the cheek or the shadow. This should be accurate enough to really separate out the finger.

I'll turn off the other layers, you can see the finger by itself. I'm going to turn off the blurry layers for now just so I can see the original footage in this new finger. Now, the segments between the points by default are linear, they're very hard edged. I really want a curvy mask to really follow the shape of the finger. One really good way to do that is to double click one of the lines on the mask, select the entire thing and go to Layer, > Mask and Shape Path > RotoBezier. What that does is it places the entire mask in a special mode that allows you to use another tool, which is called Convert Vertex Tool, looks like a little arrow.

If that point is selected at more than one point, if you click drag over a point, either round it, as you go to the right, or make it hard and linear as you go the left. I can also alter individual points. I can click off, select the points, and with that tool continue to refine it. For instance, curvier, I can go from one to another to another. This will work on individual ones or groups of points. So, I want it nice and round on the tip of the finger there. Here we go.

Now, since we are moving with this video, we definitely need to animate this over time. So, I'm going to ahead and click on the Mask Path time icon. Now, I should be more careful about where I place the keyframes. Instead of just simply bisecting, it's actually better to pick some important moments in the action. For example, if I go to Frame 94, this is the frame where the finger presses in the most deeply on the face. Now, you'll learn this just by looking at the footage and just making notes. So, if this is Frame 94, I would make sure to fit it here.

You can scale the entire mask, rotate it, and Escape to get out of the transform, move individual points, whatever it takes to really fit this. Another point of frame would be Frame 108, and I'm using the time field over here to be more accurate. Another point where there is contact -- this is close to my first keyframe, in fact I'll get rid of my initial one, because that was a little bit haphazard. Some of these other places that it would be important, this is the first frame where the finger starts to cross that field where I want to put the tattoo.

Now, here the shape's significantly different, so I have to spend some time altering the shape of this mask. I just want the finger, Frame 115. This is where the finger finally leaves that area, so this has to be the last keyframe. So, between 70 and 115, that's a critical area. So, now that I've established my most important keyframes, what I could do is then bisect the remaining frames, and I'll have to have a fairly high number of keyframes here, because the way the finger changes shape, and I want to be as tight as possible.

Now, the edge of the mask is very hard. If I turn off the background layer and hide the mask, I can see it's a very hard edge. We probably want a slight feather to blend this better, so what I can do is set the Mask Feather to 2. Now, I can't finish rotoscoping in real- time during this video, but I'll let you continue to work on it. Now, one trick for examining your keyframes is to use these arrows right here beside Mask Path. This will allow you to jump to the next or previous keyframe.

We've duplicated the Footage layer and rotoscoped it to separate out the finger, so it becomes in the foreground. This is a common task in visual effects. Why is that useful? Well, to make sure that that foreground element is not occluded by some other layer, and also so we can place other elements, like the tattoo artwork, behind it.

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