Join Chris Meyer for an in-depth discussion in this video Modes explained, part of Premiere Pro and After Effects: Enhancing Production Value.
I'm going to undo to go back to my original footage here inside Premiere Pro. Turn on this other example clip, some smoke rising against a black background. Reset the opacity layer back to 100%. And discuss how to make sense out of the different groupings of modes and help give you an idea of which mode to go for in a certain situation. I'll move my time indicator back earlier, where I have my smoke clear on top of the woman drinking coffee.
I will twirl open its Opacity section and access the Blending modes pop-up. These little gray lines actually do break Blend modes into very logical units. The first unit contains either Normal, which means don't use Blending modes, use a normal opacity mix. Or Dissolve mode which simulates something that was done in old multimedia programs, you never need to choose this mode. The next two groups are very logical. This group will make the overall image darker. The second group will make the overall image lighter.
In the first group, the mode you will use most often is Multiply. It treats the color values of the layer on top, the one you have currently selected, as ranging between zero and 100%. It then takes that value, say 50% gray would be 50% or 0.5, and multiplies the color values of the layer underneath by that value. If this layer on top was 50% gray, using Multiply mode would reduce the brightness of that layer underneath by 50%. In this case, we have a far more interesting layer.
You'll see that the women just barely peeks though the white parts of the smoke. White is equivalent of 100%, or multiplying by one, that's why you get to see the original image. Black is the equivalent of zero, and any color value times zero will give you zero, resulting in black. So you can think of Multiply mode as a sort of matte, where black blocks the image underneath and white allows the image underneath to pass through. Any grayscales in between or any color values in between, will then allow differing amounts of the image underneath it to pass through that layer.
If Multiply is too boring for you, Color Burn is a more colorful version of the multiply effect. Some footage, it looks great on. Some footage, particularly JPEG compressed black backgrounds, it doesn't look so good on. And then your Burn is another variation on that. In this case, Linear Burn looks much better than Color Burn. And both of those are more colorful than Multiply. Darken and Darker Color are simple math operations. Darken says take whichever pixels are darker and display those.
When one layer's black, only black will be displayed. But when one layer is white and the other has some color in it, then those colors will be displayed because colors are darker than white. White is color blown out all the way to 100%. Darker Color looks at the individual color channels, RG and B; red, green, and blue, and individually chooses which color channel to show. Resulting in even more posterized and psychedelic effects. Frankly, you won't be using it that often. The second group is kind of like the opposite of the first group, it makes everything brighter.
And the two you'll be using most often in this group are Screen and Linear Dodge, also known as Add. Add takes the color values of the layer on top, the one you have selected, and adds them to the color values of the layer underneath. Now, try to guess ahead of time before I choose this, what's going to happen. Black is the equivalent of zero. So what does adding zero to a layer do? Well nothing. On the other hand, anything brighter than black is going to add or brighten the color values underneath and here's the result.
You'll see that the black is now passing through the layer underneath unobstructed, while the light and semi-transparent smoke is indeed brightening, or adding to the color values of that layer underneath. If Add mode is too intense for you, a less severe version of it is Screen. Screen is supposed to be the equivalent of taking two different projectors and aiming them both at the same screen at the same time, so you get a more subtle mix. Again, if either Add or Screen are too boring for you, choose Color Dodge.
It's equivalent to the Burn modes in that it creates a more colorful version of adding the top layer to those underneath. Finally, Lighten and Lighter Color are the opposites of Darken and Darker Color. Choose the Lightest pixels and display those. When one layer's black, the other is probably lighter and will be shown through. Or, show the white smoke, which is probably lighter than the layer underneath. And, Lighter Color does that on a per-color channel basis, again resulting in more posterized looks.
It's rare that you'll be using those, these are kind of advanced compositing functions but not that useful in making interesting looking footage. I'm going to move down my timeline to the second piece of footage. Again, make sure its opacity is up to 100% and explore this next group. I call this group my intensifying modes. They make the resulting composite, quite often richer, more saturated and higher in contrast than the individual pieces of footage were on their own. My go-to mode, most of the time, is Overlay.
Overlay is often described as a combination of Screen and Multiply. If something is brighter than 50% gray, it will then brighten the resulting composite. If it's darker than 50% gray, it will then darken the resulting composite that tends to increase contrast. And also by mixing the colors of the layer on top, into the colors on the layer underneath, it can quite often yield a very interesting colorful composite. And there will be a whole chapter in this course devoted on using this very trick to make more interesting composites.
If Overlay is a little too intense for you, Soft Light is a milder version of Overlay. You'll see it's much less intense. There's the original footage. There's the Soft Light composite. And, if Overlay was not enough for you, Hard Light is a more intense version of Overlay. In this case, the layer on top is dominating the final mix. And note that opacity is animating, which is causing it to fade in and out. So, start with Overlay, then try these variations. The remaining ones, Vivid Light, and Linear Light, Pin Light and Hard Mix are increasingly intense versions of combining these two layers.
Pin Lights turning a little posterized, and then Hard Mix is a very posterized result. Might be good for special effects, or for VJ's and raves. Not so useful in most video editing projects. This next set of modes are very specific to certain composing functions. They perform math operations such as subtracting the color values of one layer from the other, dividing one by the other, et cetera. Difference and Exclusion are the ones I use the least. They provide some kind of psychedelic effects which might be useful for, you know, acid flashbacks, but again not that useful in most video editing jobs.
While the Difference mode is useful sometimes when you have two different shots on the same lock-down camera position. One has a clean background plate and one has a new feature in it, such as an actor, et cetera. The difference between those two pieces of footage, should reveal just what's changed, like the actor being in the scene. Although, quite often, things like video noise get in the way of that working perfectly. Subtract, subtracts the colors of the layer on top from the layer underneath. Again, often resulting in a darker composite. But a very useful mode here is Divide.
Dividing the color values to the layer underneath by those on the one on top. And that has a very specific use that I will demonstrate in the next chapter. But we're getting ahead of ourselves. There's one more very useful section to explore. Now select that top layer again and go back to Normal, to remind you that it was indeed very colorful. And I'll turn off keyframing for now. It might be interesting if we could add those colors and have them blend in a nice way with the layer underneath. Well, the way to do that is to use these channel replacement modes at the very bottom.
For example, Hue says, take just the hue value of the layer on top, but keep the Saturation and Luminosity of the layer underneath. Most of the details in the Luminosity channel and Saturation gives you some additional clues whether or not something's bright or dull, but Hue is the color. By choosing that mode, you'll see now, that we've given more subtle color tint to that layer underneath. It's a nice dynamic tint and we will indeed be taking advantage of that in a chapter later in this course.
But, it's not over the top. It's just a nice color replacement. Now, beyond Hue, you could also replace the Saturation. Although that's often less successful, keeping just the intensity of the layer on top, with the Hue and Luminosity of the layer underneath, can be a bit posterized and doesn't always work. Far more useful, maybe, choosing Color. Color says use both the Hue and Saturation of the layer on top, but still keep the Luminosity of that grayscale detail of the layer underneath. And now you get a much more intense replacement and composite compared to using just Hue replacement.
Here is replacing Color, here is replacing Hue. Nice ways to tint footage, and we will take advantage of that later in this course. Finally in that list is Luminosity, the grayscale values. It's not so successful in this arrangement, where I have the color on top, and the footage I want to enhance underneath, because what I end up with is just the grayscale values of the layer on top, and the colors of that layer underneath. Now, if I had reversed these layers, it would work fine. But in situations where you have the color on top and the detail underneath, you will want to use Color or Hue to create a pleasing composite of those two layers.
Okay. Now you have an understanding of what these different groups of Blend modes do. You no longer have to randomly pick from the entire list of modes and go through them one at at a time. You should just get an idea of, I want to Darken the composite. I want to Lighten the composite. I want to make the composite more intense and more colorful. I want to replace Color or Luminance channels in the composite. Now you can go straight to that section and have fewer choices to aim for, such as Multiply, Add, Overlay, Hue.
Those are my first choices in each of those sections. Armed with this knowledge, let's go forward and take advantage of this to improve some footage.
This course was created and produced by Chris and Trish Meyer. We are honored to host this content in our library.
- Compositing footage shot on black
- Tinting and color-balancing footage to change its mood and unify multiple clips
- Adding a filmic glow
- Introducing artificial lighting to add mystery and interest to a scene
- Relighting existing footage
- Using the Warp Stabilizer and Rolling Shutter Repair to smooth out wobbly shots