Render with Alpha

When you create a title or graphic in After effects, you may want to composite the render over footage in your editing application instead of AE. To do this you need to simply export your video with the alpha/transparency information.

To render it this way, add your comp tot the render queue (be sure to have no background layer) and use QuickTime as the output format. Select a codec like Animation or PNG and be sure to change the depth to RGB + Alpha. This option is not available for all codecs.

Some editing applications like Vegas video require you to set the properties of the footage to premultiplied so that it will interpret the transparency correctly.

Stabilizing Footage

It’s no secret that After Effect can stabilize footage based on a single point for position and another for rotation with the “stabilize motion” feature. If you have a somewhat static shot and need to “lock” it off, this method can be helpful for holding this shot in place. However, what about if your footage has a dolly movement or the camera man is walking around? How can you stabilize footage that doesn’t stay in one place?

Well there is a way. Using some of the powerful techniques (with permission) from Mark Christianson and his expert book on After Effects, I plan on showing you a few ways to “smooth” out footage but without changing the shape or movement of the shot. Imagine being able to simply remove fast bumps or jerks in a shot without affecting the natural feel of the cinematography.

I plan to demonstrate several examples and solution but I’m curious if people have come across this subject while working in After Effects…

We’re not blowing up buses or traveling through time with this tutorial but I can tell you this technique by Marc just impresses me thoroughly and I look forward to presenting it.

The T-1000 Model B

To address some questions about this image from The Healer Tutorial, I’ve made the Project File available to download. You just need to replace the footage with the video file inside the actual tutorial project.

The texture has also been changed to a static mask for distribution using the Auto-Trace Tool, although the actually texture can be acquired as part of our Evolution DVD along with many other great design elements. You can see a Comparison Here.

The only difference between this composite and the tutorial is the “cut map” used was modified for a larger “hole-in-the-face” and then the PreComp was used to matte the terminator skull into the shot. There is also a shadow layer used to make the cut appear deeper. Of course this was simply for entertainment and to show other possibilities.

New Tutorial: The Healer

Happy 60th Tutorial!

In this new tutorial we’ll take a look at creating a healing wound effect in After Effects. We’ll also cover some advanced motion tracking techniques and we will also uncover a shocking secret about Sam…

Watch Tutorial

As always, be sure to keep us rocking by purchasing one of our powerful DVDs from the Online Store. We also have several bundles that are worth checking out.

Sam after Shaving

We finally made it out to film some great new footage. Unfortunately Sam had some trouble with his Razor earlier in the day. I told him nobody would notice. If only he had regenerative abilities…

Valentine’s Day Leftovers

This is more of a family video but I just had to share my daughter, Katie (5 months now) enjoying a balloon left over from the holiday.

No punch line here, just too sweet for words. These are the moments…

Rained in

We have a great new tutorial in the hopper for this week but the rain kept us from filming for today. Tomorrow looks better so hopefully I’ll have time to get the shots we need. We want Tutorial number 60 to be a good one, as I’m sure you do

Video Gear

Here is a shot of me shooting Sam before he shoots me.

To answer a few questions about what video gear we use…

As I said we are using a JVC-HD200 with a Brevis Adapter and Reckrock hardwars and follow focus. Between the Video Copilot team, we have the 2 adapters but the Brevis is about 1 stop brighter and we planned on a shooting a dark alley so we needed the extra stop.

The JVC shoots HDV on tape and we capture with Premiere using a special HD codec. After Effects just isn’t great when working with native HDV even though premiere handles it pretty well.

The Brevis has a reversed image which is a problem for some camera but the JVC HD200 and HD 250 both have the flip function built-in to the camera, which automatically inverses the picture before recording the tape. There are also a lot of DOF adapters that flip the image internally as well.

I’d like to get one of those fancy recorders that record to disc uncompressed from HD component output but they’re a little expensive at the moment. Here is a new product that may show up at NAB and hopefully bring the prices down:
Convergent Design

Camera Lenses:

We have a few lenses but here are some of my favorites. A 100m Canon PL @ F2, a 50mm Canon PL @ F1.5 and the glorious 20mm PL @ 2.8. Now these aren’t at fancy as those Cooke lenses or some of those other nice ones but I got a great deal on these and they are pretty sweet.

We are using a Marshal external HD video monitor which is essential to seeing things in focus with these DOF adapters. The tripod is a Miller Arrow 25, a little expensive but definitely smooth as butter and great head adjustments. I really like the Bogen/Manfrotto tripods as well.

This is not the perfect workflow or setup, but I’m not sure there are any ‘perfect’ ones at the moment. HDV could be better quality and hard drive recorders could have better input options. There are many great cameras out there, some are more affordable then others each with different contrasting features. Just DON’T think you need everything at once buy and learn as you go. Concentrate on a GOOD setup and focus on a GREAT story or concept. We all love gear and specifications but don’t get too hung up, or you’ll never get anything done.

We’ll spend more time explaining other production details on the Advanced Training DVD with the additional on-set video.

Sam Finally Talks!

Before you watch this, here is what you need to know:

We were in downtown Riverside and needed a rugged place to shoot our sequence. We were kicked out of a parking garage but then we found this cool alley area. Now it was somewhat open to the public and we were a little nervous about pulling a gun out with so many cars passing. Nobody wants to get arrested by the police… So Sam put it in his coat as we were finally ready to shoot.

Now the gag was for him to shoot the lid of a large dumpster and the lid would close shut. Simple enough right? We lifted the lid up and while waiting to shoot the scene some wind came and knocked it down:

Now watch the video


Perhaps you had to be there to appreciate how funny this is. What is more hilarious is that everyone was startled by the sound but only Sam’s face is on camera being spooked! Obviously this is the take I used because there was so much excitement going through his veins.

We filmed with a JVC HD-200 with one of those fancy DOF converter and a 50mm lens.

Advanced Training DVD

Just thought I would let you know that this month we have been working on a new advanced training DVD. We want to focus on large scale visual effects that can not be demonstrated in a short 20-30 minute tutorial. Should be a lot of fun. We are still figuring out the ideas, but here is a quick sneak preview of the content from the first DVD in the new series. It takes place in front of Sam’s new residence

Watch Video:

High Definition

Still Images:

In Other News:
Twitch is almost ready to be released we are finalizing the features and extra content. The Video Copilot Series One Tutorial DVD is also now completed but we want to release it with Twitch. I should have another new tutorial online this week as well. I’ll also blog about it some more ground-breaking techniques used for the video above. (No 3D motion tracking required!)

Shameless Plug:
Remember this website is made possible by our dedicated customers who buy our great DVDs so be sure to check them out today!

PS, this clip was inspired by the trailer for the film Wanted.

Indiana Jones 4 Teaser Trailer

New trailer online in High Definition. Please don’t ruin it with some lame youtube video.

After Effects Cameras

I occasionally get questions about what the various camera settings are for in After Effects. Usually I just ignore them and go about my day playing with my tinker toys. But what the heck, here is a little write-up.

Now I was going to put together a complete technical explanation and try to confuse you with complicated facts and made-up equations but I want to explain it to you the way I wish somebody had with me.

The first thing we’ll talk about are camera presets, such as 50mm and 35mm etc. Simply put, the lower the number, the wider the angle of view (wide-angle) and the higher numbers indicates a telephoto. This number is called the focal length.

Figure A

Figure B

In the above examples, I’ve used 2 cameras a 50mm and 20mm. You’ll notice that I’ve matched the perceptual size of the front text in both examples. To accomplish this I moved the wide-angle, 20mm camera closer to the front text so that it would fill more of the frame.

Now it is easy to see how a wide-angle lens can make a shot more dramatic because the background is smaller and seems further away. It also allows you to get closer to objects and still see most of the image.

On the other hand, although there is no lens distortion like in a real 3D application, this can sometimes be an awkward, exaggerated point of view. So for many things I like to use a 50mm and 35mm preset because it is more natural to what we are used to seeing everyday with our own eyes. But to make things seem bigger and mighty, a wide-angle lens possesses the necessary attributes.

Here are some of our tutorials demonstrating various camera setups and tips:

Advanced Camera Tips

Virtual 3D Photos

3D Room

3D Projection

3D Compositing

Maybe in the next one, we’ll talk about apertures and depth of field; but that’s easy stuff.

Import 3D Camera into After Effects

Some things are easier to control in a 3D application and some things are better suited for compositing in After Effects. While working on this title graphic, I wanted to add some smoke and particles but I didn’t want to keep rendering to see what my particles would like in 3D max.

Instead I rendered the shot plainly but I saved my animation in a special format called RPF and made sure to include the Z Depth information. This is the information needed to recreate my 3Dmax Camera in After Effects.

After importing the sequence into a new AE comp, I can extract the data into a usable 3D camera. By simply right-clicking the layer and choosing “Keyframe Assistant-> RPF Camera Import”, this instantly creates a new camera with the same coordinates and animation as my 3D max camera. So now I can add 3D layers and elements and they will adhere to the same camera movements right inside of After Effects.

Of course the camera data is locked to the rendered 3D animation so I can’t make changes to the camera, but I can easily place layers and particles into the scene with the ease and speed of After Effects.

There are many ways to integrate your 3D program and After Effects but this method is great to know. Cinema 4D has some very nice methods of integration and there is also a helpful plug-in for 3DMax called MAX2AE.

Another concept we’ll cover in the future is rendering multiple passes from your 3D application to give you more control over compositing things like shadows and reflections.

This is obviously a shot for the Twitch promo video that should be online soon.

New QuickTime 7.4.1

A slightly newer version of QuickTime has been release that may fix rendering issues. I’ll wait to see what happens before I upgrade…

Fun with 3D Shadows

I’m planning a new tutorial covering some of the cool functions of 3D shadows in AE. In this example the light follows the flame and make the text cast a shadow down the background.

Now if only they would make a movie called “Death Man” I’d be set.

I’ve also got some new tutorials in the works, so who knows what will actually be released next…