Join Eran Stern for an in-depth discussion in this video Creating a morph effect using Timewarp, part of After Effects Guru: Time-Based Effects.
- We can use the pixel motion interpolation method of the Time Warp effects in order to create simple morph between still frames and even video footage. Now in case you don't know, there is a built-in effect that was designed to do just that. It's called CC WarpoMatic. However, the method that I'm going to share with you is much simpler and faster, at least to my opinion. So we'll start by preparing the frames we want to morph between inside Photoshop, and then we hand them over to After Effects to create the morph animation using, of course, the Time Warp effect.
So I have this composition here with the simple text, which says The Benefits of Smiling. This is an important thing to remember. We have a Photoshop document over here. So first I just want to take a peek on this Photoshop document because this will be a critical step in order to prepare the frames that we are going to morph between. I'm going to highlight it here in the timeline and press Command e on the Mac, Control e on the PC, and this will launch the editor, in this case, that will be Photoshop.
I'm just going to show you that I've already set up 10 people who are smiling at the camera. I just want to show you what I've already did. So I'm going to hold down Option or Alt and click on the eye switch in order to just solo the first guy. Then let's just turn on the eye for each of the other layers. Now note that I've already took the time and placed those people one on top of the other, keeping more or less the important ingredients of the face, meaning the eyes, the nose, and the mouth as closely as possible one on top of the other.
I did it by selecting one of the layers and pressing 5, which will reduce the opacity to 50%, so I can match it more or less to the same area. Now it doesn't need to be pixel perfect, but this is an important step in order for the effect to look as convincing as possible. So I'm just going to turn on the eye for the rest of the layers. Also note that I've named the layers with the JPEG suffix. This means that if you have access to the newest version of Photoshop, then you can use the Extract Assets command from the File menu.
It will look on your Layer structure and it will actually create files from you using the suffix that you've chosen. So, for example, if you are going to say .png, it will create obviously a PNG file with transparency. In this case, we just need JPEG files so this is going to do it automatically. All you have to do from this point is press on the Extract button, and then point Photoshop to wherever you want to save it. I highly recommend to also create a folder for it.
Now I've already done this for you, so if you access to the Exercise Files, you can return to After Effects, and I've switched using Command Tab, or Alt Tab on the PC. Then you can double click in this gray area in the Project in order to invoke the Import Dialog file. So under the Source Files under Faces-assets, you can see that we have access to all the separated layers. Each one is saved using the JPEG format.
So I'm going to select one of them. It doesn't really matter which one. You can say 6, for example. The important stuff is that the JPEG Sequence command is highlighted. This will tell After Effects that this actually a movie. So the movie will be 10 frames. It will start from number 1 until number 10. Let's do Open. We can check it by double clicking on this, and you just can see that we are getting one frame of each. Now I'm going to hold down Alt or Option, depending on your operating system, and then while this layer is selected, I'm just going to drag and drop, once again keeping the Option or Alt key pressed, and it will replace the original Photoshop file with the new version, which is animated, the one that I just imported.
Now I want to add the Time Warp effect in order to create morph between those still frames. So remember, each time that you want to use the Time Warp effect, you need to actually enable Time Remapping. I'm going to do it using a keyboard shortcut command, which is Command Option t or Control Alt t on the PC. What we can immediately see is that we are getting two keyframes and the last frame, in this case this nice smiling lady, is just going to be stretched until the end of the composition.
But nothing is being changed yet. The change will occur using the Time Warp effect. So I'm going to double click on the Time Warp effect. I have it open since I've used it in the previous movie. It's under the Time category. This time, I'm going to use the Source Frame Method. I'm going to leave it in this Pixel Motion options. Once again, let's just collapse those just so they won't be in our way. The next step is a little bit tedious so I'll try to do it as fast as I can.
You need to actually create keyframes for each one of the frames. So let's click on the words Source Frame to make sure that After Effects knows that this is the first keyframe. Then I'm going to "u", and you may need to press it couple of times in order to see the keyframes. Just in order for us to get a sense of what we're working, these are the keyframes that we are working with. I'm going to zoom into the timeline, and then move one frame forward by pressing Command and the right arrow, and then I'm going to change it either from the Effects Control Panel or here from the timeline to the next frame.
So once again, let's move one frame forward, and we're going to tell it to use number 2. Then one frame forward, number 3. One frame forward, number 4. Now I'm just using, of course, 10 frames, but you can use more frames and create an additional morph between more people or even other stuff. You can do the same for video as well. So this is what we have. Each one of the frames are represented by its own keyframe, and we are just moving one frame forward.
Now I'm going to select all the keyframes by marquee around them. Once again I'm going to hold down Option on the Mac, and Alt on the PC, and this will help me to stretch them from this point until the end of the timeline. Now I can't see the end of the timeline, so let's just zoom back. Once again, hold down Option or Alt, drag on the last keyframe, and it will spread them apart. Something like this. If you want you can try to scrub the mouse, and already you can see where I'm going to take it.
It's not final, but you're going to get a sense of what the effect is going to do. It will use the pixel motion method in order to blend between those frames. Now we do want to see them from time to time, right? While they are still selected, I'm going to press Command c, Control c on the PC, of course, to copy everything to memory, and then let's move forward, say, 12 frames. I'm going to paste the same information. This means that between this frame and this one we will have a freeze frame because we copied and paste everything sequentially.
The morph itself will take action between the second and the third keyframe, and then the third keyframe and the fourth keyframe will have the same data, so we'll have a freeze frame, and so on. Now in order to improve the morph effect between those people, you can just let's say park over here, and then you can open up the Tuning options of the Time Warp effect. I'm going to start and play with the Vector Details. There are not magic numbers over here, so you will get different result when you are working with different footage.
I'm going to try to reduce it to maybe 5. You can see that we are getting less distortion from previous results. You can also play with the Global Smoothness and the Local Smoothness. Usually I am going to keep the Global Smoothness as is, but I can really exaggerate with the Local Smoothness, which will once again help you to create better blending between those frames. Now what will help to really sell the effect is if we're going to exaggerate the Motion Blur.
I'm going to enable Motion Blur, and this is another unique feature of the Time Warp effect. Instead of automatic, let's switch it to Manual, and give it a higher value of 360 degrees for the Shutter Angle. I'm also going to raise the Shutter Samples to 16, which is, by the way, the default of After Effects. And that's it. So let's create a RAM preview and check the result. So, I know it's not perfect, but I think it works fine. If we make sure that the transition time is short, you can get away with it.
Also remember to fiddle with the Tuning options, such as the Vector Details, and add some Motion Blur to hide the artifacts that can happen. The most important step, however, is to prepare the frames ahead of time using Photoshop as I showed you.
- Basic time remapping
- Creating synthetic motion blur
- Creating a matter with Time Difference
- Duplicating with Echo
- Using CC Time Blend
- Working with Time Displacement