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In After Effects CS5 Essential Training, author Chad Perkins discusses the basic tools, effects, and need-to-know techniques in Adobe After Effects CS5, the professional standard for motion graphics, compositing, and visual effects for video. The course provides an overview of the entire workflow, from import to export, as well as detailed coverage of each stage, including animating text and artwork, adding effects to compositions, working in 3D, and rendering and compressing footage. Exercise files are included with the course.
Whether your workflow is more motion graphics-based or whether it's more visual effects and compositing-based, After Effects has some really cool paint tools that work well in both arenas. First, we're going to look at how the basic Brush tool works and how that applies to motion graphics. Then we'll move on to see how it can help you to do visual effects and compositing. I have here this motion graphics background that I've created and I have this solid layer, which just says Paint On Me. So, we can't miss that. What we're going to do is select the Brush tool. But in order to paint on this layer, we actually have to open this layer up in what's called the Layer panel, which we looked at earlier in this training series.
So, I'm going to double-click this layer to open up the layer panel. Back in the old school days of After Effects you just had to do everything in the Layer panel. Now pretty much only painting. What I'm going to do is I'm just going to ignore for right now the Brushes and Paint panels. These are kind of like the equivalent to the Character and Paragraph panels for text, but this is the two panels that we used when we were painting. If you're not seeing them, you could click this little icon right here as long as the Brush tool is selected. You can click this to close the Brushes and Paint panel or open them. What I'm going to do is ignore this for right now, because we can change these later.
I'm just going to click and drag a cool little paint squiggle here. Now this is the cool part about painting in After Effects. If I go down to the Layer panel and open up Effects and then Paint and then I open up Brush 1, and you could see I have Stroke Options here. You see most of the parameters and control that we have in the Brushes and Paint panel show up here in the Stroke Options area in the Timeline panel now, including Start and End, which we can animate. So, if I went to the End value, change this to zero, if you start and enter now at zero, and then increase the End value, it's like the paint stroke is drawing itself on.
So, if we want to create and animate stroke of some type of line or something, let's say for example like Indiana Jones or what have you and we were wanting to trace the path of an airplane flying or something, this would be a great, easy way to do that. We could change the diameter after the fact. Click and make this paint size bigger or smaller. Right now, if we zoom in there, we could see that this paint edge is a little bit hard. So, we could take down the hardness and actually make this a soft edged paint stroke. Make it fuzzy if we wanted to. We'll leave it at 100%. One of the first things I want to do is change the color here.
I'm going to click the Eyedropper and I'm actually going to sample the color of the solid. So, now we have kind of like this golden paint stroke on a golden background. What I want to do is actually remove the background, so that when we go over here to our main composition, I want to be able to see the paint stroke on our composition. So, what I'm going to do is I could actually go into the Effect Controls panel and check Paint on Transparent or come down here to the Timeline panel and where it says Paint on Transparent Off, click it once to turn this to On. In the Layer panel, we just now see no background.
But if we go to the Composition panel, we could see paint on the background. Actually, now that we have painted our stroke here, we actually don't even need to use the Layer panel too much anymore. So, I'm going to scroll down. We've already talked about Diameter and we've already talked about Hardness, and I want to talk about Roundness a little bit. If we take this down, we can create an interesting kind of calligraphy effect as this kind of gets flattened a little bit. Now we could use the Angle to kind of move the angle of the paint stroke around. I'm going to take Angle back to zero and I'm going to take Roundness back up to 100%.
One of the interesting things about painting in After Effects, and it's the same way it is in Photoshop actually, is that you have these brushes that you can use and they kind of basically look like little circles or maybe little flat shapes or something. Really what paint strokes are is a series of those shapes. So, if we increase the spacing, we'll see the little paint dots that make up our paint stroke, really just a series of circles. So, as we decrease spacing, we're actually just bringing those closer together. So, what seems like a solid paint stroke is really just a series of consecutive circles.
The cool thing about this is we could use this to create some interesting patterns. So, I might want to take down Diameter a little bit so we have these cool little dots here. If we adjust the End value, we can have these cool animated dotted line patterns that were created with really not much effort on our part at all, really cool for motion graphics and you could imagine if you have these little dots how long it would take you to animate them one by one. But with this effect, it kind of makes it quick and simple. One other thing that I want to point out is that I intentionally started painting on this frame that was not the home frame and you can see where our paint started.
It started at the current frame. So, if we played our composition now, it actually wouldn't start having the paint on until the frame we started painting on. We could just trim this, and we could crop this, just as we would with a regular layer, but just be aware of that. The paint does not come on and tell the frame in which we started painting by default. Now, let's look at painting from a visual effects compositing point of view. I'm going to double-click this layer here. This is a cool shot of our flower shop.
See how it's squished a little bit? This is because the pixel aspect ratio of this footage is a little bit off. So, I'm going to click this button right here, which is a little rectangle with a double-sided arrow. This is the Pixel Aspect Ratio Correction, which shows us what the footage will actually look like if played back on the screen. Let's say I'm going to remove this tree. From a composition point of view, I'm not the biggest fan of this palm tree sticking up here. What I can do is use this Eyedropper tool here in the Paint panel to sample the paint color from around the sky and then I'm going to actually hold down the Command key on the Mac or the Ctrl key on the PC and drag up to resize my brush.
Once I let go off the Command key, then my brush will stop resizing and I could go ahead and paint this out. Now, I'm doing this poorly to illustrate a problem. It's a problem no doubt you've already caught on to. If I just paint out objects like this, we're going to start to see a problem once we zoom in. In some little areas in this it looks okay, but what happens is that video actually creates noise. So, as we play this back, we're getting noise in the sky. We're getting noise all over the place, in the building, everywhere, except where we painted, which is an obvious blunder on our part.
It makes it very obvious that this is fake. We don't want that. So, what I can do is select the Paint effect in the Effect Controls panel and delete it to get rid of all of the paint strokes that I have applied to this layer. Now I'm going to actually select the Clone Stamp tool, which is the tool right next to the Brush tool. What the Clone Stamp tool allows us to do is to sample areas around an object and paste it over the object. So, we're actually taking video pixels and pasting them on top of the tree. So, all of the live noise from the areas that we sample, we paste it into where the tree is.
So, I could zoom in here. And again, I'm going to hold the Command key and click and drag upwards to resize this. And I'm going to sample pixels from the sky around the palm tree by holding the Option key on the Mac or the Alt key on the PC and clicking in an area of sky and then I'm going to simply come over here and click to paint over the palm tree. Now you'll want to do some continuous resampling, because believe it or not, the blue on this side is not the same color as the blue on this side. The blue over here is not the same as the blue on the top.
Even though they look very similar, they are not. So, we want to keep resampling, keep repasting and keep working this, working this, over here on this side. So, you see we're getting a really smooth blend, which is exactly what we need here. I'm continuing to resample and actually sometimes you get stuff like that where you get cloning artifacts, where you get extra pieces of things that you didn't intend, like that roof. So, you need to be careful of that.
I'm going to just get rid of this. Now the softness of my brush is becoming a problem here. So, I'm going to increase the hardness a little bit more and that way we don't have such a soft edge, which makes easier for us to create a better clone around where the roof is here. Okay, so that's good enough for our purposes right now and we could back up. And you can see that there are some issues right around here. I made it little bit too dark. So, what we might want to do is sample and paste over those areas until we get a smoother transition.
That looks much better. So, if we hit the Spacebar to preview this, then from faraway it looks pretty good. And from zoomed in close, we could see that there is noise because again we sampled live video data to paste over the tree. So, whether you zoomed in close or from faraway people, chances are, are not going to notice the digital fakery that we just purported on them. Also, what you might want to try to do is to go in here and try this as an extra exercise after this movie is over. Go in and try to remove this flower area by using the bricks and the street texture to try to replace that, so that we have a clean slate here.
And oftentimes, like on "The Fellowship of the Ring", Peter Jackson noticed in theatrical release there was a Volkswagen Bug in one of the scenes. So, you can use this feature to go in and remove objects that you don't want in your scene. Sometimes, as noted here, it's kind of like a compositional thing where you just kind of like don't like the way something looks. But a lot times, it might be like a visual effects thing where you might have wires or cables connected to something that are kind of giving it away, or something like in "The Fellowship of the Ring", where it's kind of like a historical thing, where it throws off the vibe of the movie.
So, just be aware that these tools are here to help you to fiddle with your footage and create cool motion graphics elements as well.
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