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In this course, Chris Meyer demonstrates the most common techniques for adding selective transparency to layers in After Effects through the use of masks, track mattes, and stencils. In addition to explaining the tools and basic theory behind transparency, the course covers several practical applications for these techniques, including isolating objects, creating vignettes, and filling text with visual texture. Tutorials on crafting custom transitions and other treatments are also included. Exercise files accompany the course.
The After Effects Apprentice videos on lynda.com were created by Trish and Chris Meyer and are designed to be used on their own and as a companion to their book After Effects Apprentice. We are honored to host these tutorials in the lynda.com Online Training Library®.
We are continuing on from the previous movie where we've created a couple of mask shapes around the piece of footage. I'll go ahead and turn on mask outline, so you can see them in context. Turn off my layer so you can see my background. There is my footage. Now there are several things you can do with mask shapes after you've created them. For example you can go ahead and rename them. I'll select Mask 1, press Return to highlight the name and say right rectangle. Return again. Now I'll select Mask 2, Return, and type left circle.
You can invert masks. For example, if I want to see a cutout of that rectangle shape, just invert that particular mask. To turn off masks you don't get a visibility eyeball; instead you need to play around this little popup. None turns off a mask. Add is the normal default where you get to see that mask shape. We'll cover these other mask modes in detail later on in this lesson, but I'm going to put it back to Add for now. You can numerically edit the position of this mask. Next to Mask Path if I click on the word Shape I get a dialog where I can go ahead and precisely enter numbers for where my masked corners may be.
This is particularly handy if you know we need to get inside and say Action or Title Safe or being a particular area of your masked outline. In addition to that basic editing there is a lot more mask parameters. Now I mentioned M is the default to see the normal mask paths. But to see more mask parameters, type MM, two Ms in quick succession, and you'll see that each mask has an additional path, a Feather, an Opacity, and an Expansion parameter. Feather is how you go ahead and soften up your mask shape. Create a soft outline on that one or go back to sharp and independently feather my other mask.
You can go ahead and apply different Feather amounts to each mask applied to a layer. This is a case where I probably want to turn off mask visibility, so I can see the feather without being distracted by that mask Outline. When you go to start feathering your mask, if you are realizing you know that outline probably should have been in the different place, the feather is revealing it in a different way that I intended, that's where Mask Expansion comes in. You can go ahead and expand your original drawn mask or contract it down with a negative expansion to get down to a much smaller area.
I'll fine-tune this to taste, maybe just to show that much of the city. Finally there is a Mask Opacity parameter, where we can actually fade out or fade in mask and we'll play with this a little bit later on in this lesson as well. Okay, I've got a couple masks, but it looks like this layer is really drawn right on top of my background,. What if I want to separate this a little bit from the background layer? Well you can go ahead and apply effects to masked layers and what's really important is that effects are applied after masks in the rendering order.
So anything that a mask shape does to the alpha channel, the transparency of a layer, will be reflected in any effect you apply to that masked layer. I am going to go ahead and select Effect > Perspective > Drop Shadow and now you see I get a nice little drop shadow falling off of my masked shapes. When I increase the Distance you can see a little bit better. Maybe rotate the angle to bring it back in frame, a more distance and little bit more softness to that feather, and here I've softened the drop shadow separately from softening the outline of the mask shape.
So that's how to use masks to isolate portions of a layer. But what if you want to animate the mask shape to have it travel around your layer or to reveal a layer? That's relatively easy as well and we'll deal with that in the next movie.
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