Join Chris Meyer for an in-depth discussion in this video Masks, part of After Effects: Extended Vignette Techniques.
If you have access to the Exercise Files that came along with this training, open up the Exercise Files folder, open up Chapter 1, and then open the project, Vignettes_1.aep. If you don't have access to these files, don't worry. You can try these techniques on your own footage. Let's start with 1.1 Mask starter. Our goal here is to take this woman, focus on her face and to make the rest of the image recede into the background. To do that, I am going to start with using Mask Shapes. Now eventually, the Vignette needs to go on its own layer, but it's much easier to mask the layer that actually has the object you're trying to focus on.
So I am going to select this footage, select the Mask tool. I'm going to switch to the Ellipse tool, most common for this sort of technique. You can try the other tools as well. And I am going to start dragging out my Mask. Now while we are doing this, there are a few shortcut keys you might want to be reminded of. If you hold down Shift while dragging, you will get a perfect circle. You'll notice how my dragging starts from where I first clicked. If I hold the Command key, it centers on where I clicked instead of starting where I clicked. So I could say, start on her nose and drag out from there, holding Command Key on Mac or Ctrl key on Windows.
The last handy keyboard shortcut is before you release the mouse, if you hold down the Spacebar, you can move the mask wherever you want. So, if you start dragging and you don't think you have got your size or position quite right, go ahead and use that Spacebar to take advantage of this. I'll pull it out like that and I can always edit this mask later and I will press V to return to the Selection tool. Now that I have this mask shape, I need to move it to a solid layer. I can either Edit > Cut the mask or if I think I am never going to be coming back, I will just copy the mask for now and turn it from Add to None, so it no longer has effect in that footage.
Next, I want to create Layer > New > Solid. You can also create a Shape layer if you like, but we will start with traditional solids. I am going to make its color black. Vignettes are typically black. You could go a little bit into say the sepia range for an old time-y look, or you can go into something like colder blue look, but we will just start with black for now. Okay, I'm going to make it the Comp Size, everything is good. There is my solid on top. I've previously copied my mask. Now I will just paste it. And there is the mask on the solid.
There is a few things we need to do to prepare this mask. I am going to type MM, two Ms in quick succession, to reveal all of the mask properties. The first thing I am going to do is invert the mask so we are focusing on her and everything else is black. Next thing I am going to do is increase the Feather to kind of soften the range here of how the mask falls off around her face and around her hair. I am actually going to turn off the mask outline right now, so it doesn't distract me and I can focus on her.
Now, a really handy parameter in After Effects that few people know about is Mask Expansion. If I start increasing the Feather to the amount I like, and find it takes up too much of the image or too little, I can shrink the mask, or expand it back out again. So, go ahead and balance off Mask Expansion and Mask Feather to get the look that you like. If you find your mask is not centered, you can just go ahead and select Mask Path and use the cursor keys, just right arrows to start to move the mask over a little bit, maybe move it down a little bit, to get the shape that you want.
Now that I have the general mask shape that I like, I am going to press Shift+T to also reveal the Opacity of this layer and then merely fade the layer to get the amount of darkening that I want. Now that's a nice bit of vignetting right there. We are really focusing on her face and the background recedes back into the black. I can go ahead and animate this parameter, I can do just a very light touch to it, whatever I like. I am going to put it around there. This is before, where all the values were even, and after, where the focus is really drawn on her face. I'll going to go ahead and just expand that mask a little bit, and stick with that.
Now the advantage of the Mask approach is that you can draw any free form shape. I just happened to use the Ellipse tool, but, of course, you can also use the Pen tool and create a free form mask shape and you can go ahead and select any of these points. I'm going to do V for the Selection tool and then alter your mask shape after the fact using these B?zier Handles. The disadvantage of using Masks for Vignette effects is you don't have a lot of control over how that feather falls off. You might find you have a bit of trouble balancing making it nice and soft in the outside, but still not cutting in too much of her face, and here you can even see we've kind of darkened her face a little bit around the edges.
That's before and after. So, if you'd like more control over this fall off from Clear to Vignetted, then Shape layers will be for you and that's next.
Vignetting is a classic photography technique involving darkening areas of an image in order to focus the viewer’s attention on a desired point of interest. In After Effects: Extended Vignette Techniques, Chris Meyer shows how vignettes can also be leveraged in video. Multiple applications are demonstrated, including framing a subject better, fixing a poorly composed shot, giving a vintage feel, creating "quiet areas" to overlay text and other graphics, and blending an image over a new background. Vignettes can be created using masking, shape layers, and gradients. This course also includes advanced techniques unique to After Effects, using the CC Circle effect and 3D lights, and employing motion stabilization to center the desired action within the vignette. Exercise files accompany the course.
- Vignetting with feathered masks, gradients, or paint
- Blending layers with masks and paint
- Lighting in 3D
- Using motion stabilization
- Using blending modes and adjustment layers