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One of Chris Meyer's favorite tricks is a technique for adding the glowing highlights and richly saturated colors often associated with footage shot on film. This trick originated as a way to compensate for the flatness of unaltered 3D renders, but it can be used to improve any source video, whether shot on DV, HDV, or even film. The effect can be achieved in many video editing and motion graphics applications using the same basic approach: duplicate the source footage, mix it back on top of itself using blend modes, then apply a blur or similar effect to the duplicate footage. In Adding a Filmic Glow to Your Footage Using Motion, Chris explores how to create and fine-tune this effect in Motion.
- Using the heads-up display in Motion
- Applying blend modes
- Puffing out the highlights
- Balancing shadows and highlights
- Using Levels to focus the effect
- Employing other filters, such as Prism and Bloom
Skill Level Intermediate
For our first example we are going to use this 3D render. Now this is a good example of what this technique was originally designed for and should also be representative of what you might expect with architectural type footage, something that has metal and glass and nice spectral highlights. Now the first thing you are going to want to do in Motion to make your life easier is reveal the HUD, the Heads Up Display. The keyboard shortcut is F7. That toggles it off and back on again. The nice thing about the HUD is that in the small floating window you are going to have most of the parameters that you need to play with this technique. You won't need to keep going over to the Inspector to treat parameters.
First step is duplicating your footage, so select it and do Command+D to make another copy of it. Take the copy on top and play around with different Blend Modes for it. For example, Overlay is usually the first one we try. As you can see it immediately increases the contrast and gives a much more saturated look. Playing around with the Opacity on the layer on top, blends in at the overlaid copy. There is the original and here is the overlaid copy. And of course Overlay isn't the only mode. For example, we'll use Soft Light quite a bit.
Soft Light is like a milder version of Overlay mode. If we want to really focus on puffing up the highlights, We'll use one of the brightening modes such as Add. Add really makes a very intense image but of course you can back it down with the Opacity control and sometimes we use Screen mode, which is a less intense version of Add. We'll go ahead and use Screen. Okay the next part of the trick is adding some sort of effect such as Blur that's going to give us our puffy highlights. So with our copy on top still selected, I'm going to Add Filter > Blur and pick Gaussian Blur to start out. You will see how we get this nice puffed out look and as I go ahead and drag up the amount of the Blur, just those spectral highlights expand out.
Now it's every important to know the difference between applying a blur to the layer on top or the original footage. Now if we were to put a blur just on this original footage, all we would get is an indistinguishable hard to see shot and we had to remove that. Since we have applied the Blur to the layer on top, the original on the bottom is what's maintaining the integrity of the image while the copy on top is giving us our special effect, the puffy highlights. There is the original shot and there is with our highlights. Quite often we won't stop at just one layer. We'll go ahead and take that copy on top and duplicate it one more time. We'll take that second copy and put it in opposing mode, say a darkening mode such as Overlay, and now we can balance that off against the brightening mode to restore some of our shadows to some of our contrast in the image. And we'll go and forth between the two to go ahead and tweak out how much we want to weigh in puffy highlights and how much we want in terms of shadows.
Now this technique also works great when you have footage of people, particularly when there's a lot of contrast from light areas to dark areas in the shot. So once again, we'll take our footage, duplicate it, Command+D, take the copy on top and apply something like a Screen mode to work on the highlights. Go ahead and blend it into taste with the Opacity, just take the copy on top now and apply an effect such as Gaussian Blur. Blur > Gaussian Blur. And now we'll start to play around with the Blur amount to decide how much of the puffiness or how much of halo we are going to add around the bright areas. Again, if I want a more intense version, I can go to Add mode and play around with the Opacity to bring it back down on these controls, or Screen mode, which is a little bit more controllable.
Now let s make another copy to bring our shadows back in. I will select the copy on top, duplicate it, change its mode to Overlay and then blend it to taste to decide how much I want to bring back my shadows. Now you do have separate Blur amounts for your Overlay copy and for your Screen copy. The Overlay copy isn't as obvious with Blur amount but still it has a little bit of what's known as a black diffusion effect and a little bit on the brights too. The amount of Blur is really obvious with the white area, how much they are tight or how much they puff out. And again definitely select the layer and play with that Opacity to get the blend that you like.
So let's go ahead and tame this back down a little bit, get a little more subtle of an effect, like around there. There we go. Just a reminder, this is what the original shot looked like. Crtainly doesn't look so exciting, does it? That's with the highlights, that's with the contrast back in. I tell you any client would be happy if you can make their footage look that good every time. That's what I love so much about this technique. Let's run through one more example of the basic technique. Now this boardroom shot is an example of something we may get say from a corporate video or an industrial client. The shot is not inherently all that exciting but again this technique can help make it look more interesting.
We'll take the footage, we'll duplicate it, take that copy on top, put it in say Add mode to really blow out some highlights. Hang on a second, let's get an effect on there. Blur > Gaussian Blur, there we go. Start blurring out little bit and pull the amount back down in the mix and there we go. We got something a little bit nicer, particularly around this glass jug. You see what it is before and after. We got some really nice highlights. It gives you again that filmic look that we are going after.
Now the whole scene got brighter, so if we want to tame that, duplicate it one more time, take the layer on top, put it in say Overlay or Soft Light mode and then go ahead and mix that back in to get our contrast back. And again we can play around with the amount of bBur. If you we want to sharpen it, just go and pull that Blur down, so the dark areas are not diffused, so a little bit better defined. Again here is the original shot with our highlights puffed out and with some contrast added back in. And once again you can really see how this technique enriches a wide variety of shots.