NEW TUTORIAL: Dynamic Machine Gun

In this tutorial we will create a particle system for emitting specific particles based on a surface type. For example, when the emitter is on the ground we see dirt chunks and when it touches the water we see water splashes. This technique is easy to setup and can be used for motion graphics situations that require dynamic particles types that would be difficult to hand-animate.

The project files contains the expressions and some sample footage to start understanding the concept. For high-resolution footage elements, please check out Action Essentials 2 from our products page!

Example Video

Watch Tutorial

Side Note: If you use multiple elements from Action Essentials 2, you can create more random effects, like this.

NEW TUTORIAL: Advanced Soft Keying

In this tutorial we will go beyond basic keying techniques with new tips to help preserve small details like dirt and reflections. This tutorial covers several topics including a brand new method for green spill suppression, compositing with 32bpc, adding reactive lighting, camera shake, color correction and more!

Watch Tutorial (22 minutes)
Watch Behind the Scene Video

Machine Gun Test

Here is a test video that uses pre-keyed elements from our stock footage collection: Action Essentials 2 for machine gun hits. I used 3 random clips with Trapcode Particular’s custom sprite option. Using a particle system allows you do build complex effects without duplicating the clip hundreds of times, while maintaining precise control.

You could potentially duplicate the particle system and make dirt marks or holes underneath the main particles. I’m sure you guys and gals will think of really creative ways of using real footage elements as particles.

Watch Sample Video

NEW TUTORIAL: Animating a Still

In this tutorial inject life into a still image by creating a 3d-looking camera movement and animate the movement of the smoke. We will also add realistic camera jitter and simulate a rack focus with dirt on the lens.

This tutorial was based on this recent test video that everyone seemed interested in so I put together this tutorial with all of my findings. Enjoy!

Watch Tutorial

After Effects CS5 is here

So the news has been out for some time and I’ve been getting emails about my thoughts on the new version so i figured now would be a good time to chime in. Now, I will point out that I do not get paid or asked to say anything but as always, I accept free TVs and Lakers playoff tickets.

Cool New Features:

http://www.adobe.com/products/aftereffects/

AE CS5 is jet-packed with new features and workflow improvements that may seem a bit techy and possibly boring when compared to my feature request which was a 3D jet-pack generator but it seems to have been overlooked. What IS great about many of the new features is that they simplify some of the dirty work in after effects, like rotoscoping so that you CAN be more creative.

The Mocha integration is one of my favorite new features that allows Mocha-tracked masked to be imported to AE with refinement control. Mocha is a great planar tracking tool (included) for tracking moving elements for compositing. This feature may sound “boring” but you can do things like facial de-aging for blemish removals with perfectly tracked masks, and maybe even create an obscuration masks for adding jet-packs to0!

The new Roto Brush tool also looks promising. From someone that just finished 2 weeks of serious FX work, I look forward to trying out the new tool, and if it works half as good as it looks, it should be a real time saver. Many of the shots I worked on involved enhancing explosions or adding elements but before the fun stuff, I had to do wire-removal or remove or mask-out foreground elements, which generally took the majority of the time.

Getting FreeForm for … free, is also a pretty sweet. This plug-in allows you to warp layers in 3D with some intuitive controls. It’s a bit on the slow side for more complex warps but having the ability to warp layers is very useful.

I can also tell you that the interface seems quite snappy compared to previous versions as well, gotta like that.

The 64-Bit Dilemma

Now, to the most powerful and possibly most controversial new feature in AE CS5 is that the software is 64-bit ONLY. What this means is that AE CS5 will only run on a 64-bit machine with a 64-bit Operating system.

The benefits of 64-bit software include the ability to access more that 3 GBs of RAM for rendering and previews as well as allow faster processing of larger images, larger comps and higher color-spaces (32bpc).

When I think about this situation, I wonder, could Adobe have made a 32 bit version as well, so that users with non-64 bit machines wouldn’t have to upgrade there systems? Maybe. But would we have got all the new features found in CS5? Another more IMPORTANT question is this, why didn’t Adobe just NOT make a 64-bit version and just continue the success of AE without interrupting functionality for any users by keeping it 32-bit? When you think about this question, it makes more sense.

If you look at the current state of Visual Effects and multimedia, it’s progressing rather INSANELY, with HD, 2K and 4K and even 3D films becoming more common our software is being asked to do quite a bit. By NOT taking that NEXT step towards the inevitable future and the increasing demands of new media Adobe and the users, risk losing their edge.

64-bit computers have been around for quite a while and 3D software makers were one of the first adopters. When using huge texture maps and fancy 3D renderings the results were affected by limited memory access due to 32-bit software so 64-bit support was essential to taking renderings to the next level. 3D max 9 came out with a 64-bit version in 2006, and since then compositing tools, like After Effects have been pushed to new limits with 3D comping and 32-bit color projects.

I wouldn’t want software makers like Adobe to be making big changes like this all-the-time (not that they would, unlike Apple :)) but I also don’t want serious innovation and development to wait for every last person to be on board before implementing it for people who could really benefit right now. If you ever had a failed render or struggled with large images just days before a deadline, you’ll be pleased with the innovation and for those who aren’t yet pushing the limits of HD, you will be soon and you’ll be happy the technology is there.

And yes QuickTime videos will continue to work in AE CS5 as expected.

How do you get to 64-bits?

Before people start running for the hills… or people that live in the hills start running down the river… Here are some considerations:

  • Mac users running OS X v10.5.7 or v10.6 with 2nd Gen. Intel processor, are good-to-go. Your hardware and OS ready now.
  • PC users should know that most hardware purchased in the last 3-4 years is 64-bit ready and most likely there are 64-bit supported drivers available if you wanted to change from a 32-bit OS to a 64-bit OS
  • If you are buying a new computer, just request a native 64-bit OS, I’ve been using Windows 7 x64 with great success for a while.
  • If your current AE version is good enough and you don’t think you will benefit from the new features… just wait until you do need it.

Another consideration when upgrading is to make sure your other favorite programs are supported under a new 64-bit OS. In most cases 32-bit software will run without problems under a 64-bit OS. One thing to keep in mind is that not all software will benefit from 64-bits, so it is quite alright to run a 32 bit version.

3rd Party Plug-in Concerns:

A major part of the After Effects popularity is the sweet plug-ins that give us magical new features like Particular and perhaps Optical Flares :)

Bottom line: 32-bit plug-ins will NOT work in AE CS5 without an update but, most developers have already promised support for 64-bit with free or low cost upgrade. For the record, Video Copilot is offering free upgrades for our plug-ins: Twitch and Optical Flares as well as our free plug-ins Sure Target 2 and VC Reflect.

Don’t forget, 64 bit processing is a feature and having plug-ins that work natively is a real benefit.

Check out the developers that have announced Upgrades

Some older plug-ins and even some Free plug-ins (not ours) may not get upgraded but I can tell you that the 64-bit conversion was not very difficult for our plug-ins and only took a couple days to convert all our tools and less than a week for Optical Flares which features a full use-interface.

So if the need is strong, any developer can offer a 64-bit version and I bet Adobe wouldn’t mind helping out with the conversion as well, Adobe has really reached out to developers including us to make sure we had everything we needed to be ready.

Cold Breath

Here is an example of the soon to be released tutorial on creating cold breathing mist. I suppose car exhaust could also be simulated as well.

This should be a pretty easy tutorial but there are great possibilities too.

This month is pretty busy with product release around the corner and new site features but I’ll try to keep posting new content as we go.

Besides if you can put a dirty cardboard, crawling with bugs on Sam, then you’re on the right track.

Bridge is Ready

So I’ve modeled the bridge and have the particle dynamics ready as well. Figuring out the dust was tricky though… Here is how it works: particles need to be activated along with the animation. In other words when the bridge falls the dirt and dust needs to dissipate into the air.

Particles can be placed on any 3d surface but to get them to turn into dust as the bridge falls, I’ve set up an operator that checks the speed of the particle. So when the particles are on the bridge they are still, but when the bridge falls the particles fall and begin to pick up speed! Then any particle that is moving will then turn into dust. More testing underway. This is a procedural way to animate effects, instead of keyframing all of these operations they are dynamic instead.
I’ve also got a few holiday tutorials coming, so stay tuned.

Set Extension Setups

In the Set Extensions tutorial we learned a technique to add CG elements on top of a live action shot. But there are other effective ways to do this, include masking out parts and even using a green screen in the field.


In the above example, luminance keying and some masks were used to remove the sky and replace it with a destroyed city. Since our characters do not extend over the separating wall it is easy to remove the sky by masking the wall off and replacing it with our set extension.

This is a fake setup to demonstrate another possible way to remove the background. Obviously this would be even easier to remove than the white sky green keyer. Especially since it is pure green from the paint bucket in Photoshop. Of course in real life you want to add some track points as well so you can track the camera movement and I don’t mean in Photoshop.


In this example a fake green screen is painted on to demonstrate how using a small green screen in front of your actors will allow you to extend the background directly in front of your characters while maintaining the original dirt ground which makes your charcters look like they are really there. Once the green is removed a background plate of the original dirt lot can be placed back into the scene, then by using a subtraction mask and some feathering, you can blend the real foreground dirt with the background plate of the matte painting. Just be careful not to fade the mask beyond the end of the green screen or you will get a sharp edge where the green screen ends.

Another idea would be to park a static object like a car in front of the actors with a green screen behind it. Then you can key out the green and use a garbage matte to cut the rest of the scene out, and this way you wouldn’t have to blend the original footage with the background matte painting because the car would serve as a separator.

You can also extend the set with a camera movement and place some large building in the BG and simply pan upwards to the top of it… or even… Okay, that is enough for now.