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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're now ready to start adding visual effects to this project. We have our footage with our actress who has tracking marks on her face. Eventually, we'll use those tracking marks to motion-track artwork. One will be a tattoo we'll add to her cheek, and the other will be a heads-up display that will float in front of her eyes. Before we get to that motion-tracking however, we need to remove these dots. Eventually, when we put that artwork on, we don't want to see the dots remaining. So, what we can do in the meantime is create some new layers, and have those serve as a form of digital makeup that disguises those dots. Let's get started.
I'm going to go ahead and rename my first layer here just so I know what it is. Let's right-mouse click to rename, I'm going to rename this footage, and then go ahead and duplicate this up. So Edit > Duplicate. This becomes our first piece of digital makeup. I'll rename this CheekMask. We're going to start on the cheek. So, I want to start by isolating this area that has four dots here and then the one dot here by the nose.
So, I'm going to grab the Pen Tool while I am on the first frame, and draw a mask that encompasses that. So, starting about here, down below the eye, up to the edge of the nose, down to the cheek, over to the very edge here right across her hair, where it comes down beside her ear. This is going to be the first makeup patch. Now, just rotoscoping by itself is not going to change anything. What we're going to do is apply some effects to disguise that. A great way to approach this is to apply a blur. That's often used to remove things like wrinkles and shadows.
They'll even work on something like this that's more extreme. So, let's give that a try. I'm going to go up to Effect > Blur & Sharpen > Gaussian Blur. I can try a pretty high value. I'm going to start with 10 Blurriness. And you can see that the dots go away. They're there vaguely, but not too bad. If I turn on the lower layer, you can see that that area has been cleaned up. Now, because our actress walks through the frame, we definitely have to animate this over time. So let me go ahead and go to Mask 1 and then click on the time icon beside Mask Path.
Now, a good approach for animating this mask is simply to bisect. So, start on the first frame, then go to the very last frame, and then reposition the mask, so it's in the correct location. Now, to move the entire thing as one piece, you can double-click on Align, get the transform handle, scale it by dragging one of the corners, and then just moving it by click+dragging on the center. So, I want to align up to approximately same features as before. I'll hit Esc to get out of the transform, but then I want to click+drag the individual points to get them in about the same location they were previously.
Because the actress walks close to the camera, the previous blur looks a little weak. I can still see some of those circles. What I could do though is animate the blur over time. I'll go back to Frame 1. It looks okay there. Expand the effects, and look at the blur. I'm going to go ahead and animate the blurriness, click the time icon. 10 is okay at the start. Now I will go to the very end, and increase the blur by 20, or 220. There we go. Now, you might have to play around with the mask position because you might start to see some of the circles.
If you let this left hand side just touch her hair, that will work pretty good. Now, there is some leeway on these four dots here, because eventually a tattoo will go right in that spot right over the top. After I have the first and last frame, I just bisect and go to the center frame, 150, repeat the process, scale, the mask, move it. If you have to, you can rotate it by clicking outside like this, hit Esc, get out the transform handle, move individual points.
Like, match up to the edge of her nose. I can go right into the shadow here on her cheek like this. Then, I would have to continue to bisect, around to 225 for example, around 75, until the mask is following the entire time. Now, you don't have to have a keyframe every frame, but I will say that you should have a lot of keyframes towards the beginning, maybe two or three frames apart, because at the start, she is walking, so there's a lot of movement up and down, left and right.
So, the first half will require many more keyframes than the last half. There's no way I can finish this rotoscoping in real-time during this video. It would take far too long. But go ahead and continue to keyframe on your own until the mask follows the entire time. You'll see my final version of the rotoscoping keyframing as we continue the course.
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