Post Production

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Are You Making These Common Mistakes in Your Architectural Photography?

Are You Making These Common Mistakes in Your Architectural Photography?

Architectural photography is an exacting discipline. Consequently, small mistakes can make a large impact on your body of work. In this article, I cover five common mistakes that I’ve observed in architectural photography.

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The Retouching Toolkit 3.1: The Best Photoshop Plugin Gets Even Better

The Retouching Toolkit 3.1: The Best Photoshop Plugin Gets Even Better

The Retouching Toolkit is, without a doubt, the best Photoshop extension I have tried yet. It helps streamline one’s editing workflow, improves Photoshop’s interface, and with the latest update, it’s getting one step closer to becoming the only Photoshop plugin you could ever need.

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How to Make Great Wedding Images in Not so Ideal Conditions

How to Make Great Wedding Images in Not so Ideal Conditions

If you are a wedding photographer, then at some point in your career you will be faced with the challenge of making great images with conditions that are less then ideal. These tips can help you make the best of any situation.

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Photoshop Beginner Basics: Video Tutorial Number 2

Photoshop Beginner Basics: Video Tutorial Number 2

Just about anyone who has played with Photoshop a bit can learn about portrait retouching from YouTube, as there are tens of thousands of videos on there covering the many and varied methods involved in the process. But what about tutorials for photographers who are legitimately brand new to Photoshop, and have never used it?

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Photographing and Editing the Northern Lights Made Just a Bit Easier

Photographing and Editing the Northern Lights Made Just a Bit Easier

If you’re fortunate enough to be somewhere in the world where you have the chance to photograph the northern lights, you’ll want to be prepared to take some beautiful images. Hopefully, the tips and tricks in this video help to set you up for success.

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Cartoon Animator 4 and Facial Mocap: real time animation for anyone

Cartoon Animator 4 and Facial Mocap: real time animation for anyone

For those dealing with extreme deadlines and limited manpower, Reallusion introduces Cartoon Animator 4 and Facial Mocap Plug-in, to simplify and fasten the whole animation production.

Reallusion launches Cartoon Animator 4 (formerly CrazyTalk Animator), the complete professional 2D character system, and it’s new Facial Mocap Plug-in (Motion LIVE 2D) which allows users to animate characters with their own facial expression in real-time. In the last decade,  says the company, Cartoon Animator has been widely used by million subscriber YouTube channels to online businesses, graphic designers, to marketers and award-winning directors.

“Cartoon Animator 4 is one of the most accessible 2D character design and animation tools in the current market for both entry and professional users.” said John C. Martin, VP of Product Marketing, Reallusion. “ CTA 4 is a complete 2D character system with tools to design and animate in a new way with a unique motion UI and the industry-breakthrough 2D, 360 degree head creator. Indie, pros and first time animators can apply speed to creativity with a new approach to 2D animation.”

From virtual production to web broadcasting

Cartoon Animator 4 is, says Reallusion, more than a character animator, it is a total 2D animation toolbox that can turn images into animated characters, generate lip-sync animation from audio, accomplish 3D parallax scenes, produce 2D visual effects, access content resources, and wield a comprehensive Photoshop pipeline to rapidly customize and create characters.

Today’s challenges for most content producers such as marketers, trainers and YouTubers are the extreme deadlines and limited manpower. The Facial Mocap Plug-in (Motion LIVE 2D) offers a solution that can greatly simplify and fasten the whole animation production.

With Cartoon Animator’s Facial Mocap Plug-in, anyone can animate character with their facial performances via webcams or an iPhone TrueDepth camera to track expressions with head and eyes movements, and natural body animations driven by head position. This solution is designed for virtual production, performance capture, live TV shows and streaming web broadcasting.

Use a webcam or iPhone, add lip sync

The prominent features of Facial Mocap Plug-in (Motion LIVE 2D):

  • Real-time Face Tracking via Webcam and/or iPhone
    Users can utilize any webcam or iPhone X to capture real-time face tracking via Facial Mocap Plug-in, the facial expressions will instantly project onto virtual characters in Cartoon Animator.
  • Head driven body movement
    During facial mocap, users can also add upper body motions by capturing head movements, blending values, and adjusting arm or forearm rotation that can be directly blended during live performances.
  • Real-time lip sync and audio recording
    The Timeline editor can edit motion clips, alter speeds, blend and refine captured phoneme expressions. Turn on the PC microphone for simultaneous audio recording for complete control over talking lip shapes.

From a 2D face to a 3D head

It is also possible to quickly transform a 2D face into a 3D head. The 360 Head Creator streamlines the workflow for head creation and expression setup, while directly applying it to the animation core through face key editing, puppeteering and the timeline system. The 3D Head Creator transforms static 2D art into 3D-styled characters with up to 360 degrees of motion for deeply rich performances. Artists can also use the Photoshop round trip in/out integration for editing multi-angle characters.

The Smart IK (Inverse Kinematic) ) Animation’s simple and functional design sets Cartoon Animator apart from other 2D applications, says Reallusion, as the intuitive IK/FK system auto-switches for a fluid, and logical workflow. Smart Motion Retargeting correctly applies any motion files to different body shapes, while automatically aligning new characters to the original motion pose.

Pricing and Availability:

  • $199 for Cartoon Animator 4 Pipeline edition, $99 for Cartoon Animator 4 PRO edition (lower price compared to its CrazyTalk Animator 3 predecessor).
  • The PC and Mac webcam facial tracker is a separate module along with the “Motion LIVE 2D” plug-in ($199), allowing users to freely choose what to purchase while giving them device expandability for future live performances.
  • Available Cartoon Animator 4 Early Bird discounts. Offer ends on 5/31/2019.

The post Cartoon Animator 4 and Facial Mocap: real time animation for anyone appeared first on ProVideo Coalition.

Advanced keying with After Effects: Part 2

In Part 1 I did a quick overview of the most commonly used keying plugins for After Effects.  Regardless of which keying plugin you’re using, and no matter how advanced their algorithms are, you can always get better results by pre-processing your footage. The term “pre-processing” refers to any effects / plugins applied to the footage before the keying plugin.  In essence, we are using other effects to help the keying plugin get a better result. So with the introduction out of the way, it’s time to open up After Effects:

To pre or not to pre, that is the question

The introduction to this series outlined the many technical changes to video production since the late 1990s, the period we can call the “desktop video revolution“.  As video production moved to desktop computers, online communities sprung up with users from all around the world offering advice, sharing experiences and eventually making and sharing free tutorials.  As with all online communities, there could be good advice, bad advice, advice which was good but became outdated, rumours, speculation, all intermingled with a healthy dose of enthusiasm.  At some point early on in my career, I came across a post that said when keying in After Effects, you should not pre-process the footage.  The rationale was that dedicated keying algorithms were more sophisticated than After Effects itself, and so it was best to deliver as much information to the plugin as possible.  Pre-processing was just stripping out useful detail that the plugin needed.

Over twenty years later, I have no idea where I read that or why I remember it.  With some reflection, it would have come from a time when After Effects only processed images in 8-bit, so if a 3rd party plugin such as Ultimatte was doing internal calculations in 16 or even 32bit, maybe (just maybe…) there was something to be gained by letting the plugin work with the original data… but I think I’m being kind.

Around this period I had the good fortune to win a raffle at a local user group meeting, and I was able to prove for myself that this advice was best ignored.  Because while I was battling was 4×3 standard definition interlaced video, I won a copy of a new product called “Composite Wizard” – a suite of plugins designed to help key and composite in After Effects.

Composite Wizard” is still sold today, you can buy it from Red Giant.  A more sophisticated version was released a few years later as a separate product, which is called “Key Correct“. Both of these products contain a bunch of plugins that are designed to help the overall keying and compositing process. Both of these products contain plugins that are designed to pre-process footage before you actually key it, mostly to even out the screen colour first to fix uneven lighting.

“Composite Wizard” (left) and “Key Correct” (right) are two plugin suites sold by Red Giant.

Winning a copy of Composite Wizard made a huge difference to my early workflows.  Being able to compensate for noisy, poorly lit greenscreens made all the difference.  But most of all, I learned a huge amount from just reading the manual.

Despite the fact that I relied so heavily on Composite Wizard in my early years, these days I’ve moved away from 3rd party plugins and I try to do as much as possible using standard After Effects tools.  So while I’m aware of what these plugins can do, in the video component of this series I’m only going to concentrate on two specific types of pre-processing: denoise and colour channel adjustments.  If you’re interested in the Red Giant plugins then you can download a free trial and see if they work for you.

There are simply so many chromakey related products for After Effects that I can’t cover them all.  While I will always have a soft spot for Composite Wizard, it’s not possible to look at every single product that can smooth out uneven lighting or otherwise perform some sort of keying-related operation.  A simple search for “keying” at aescripts+aeplugins reveals 18 products with “keying” in their title, and over 50 in the “compositing” category. The most important thing to do when trialing and evaluating products like these is to use the snapshot tool, render some tests, and continually ask yourself the question “is it better?”.

BUT… yeah

OK so let me immediately contradict myself.  While I generally use standard After Effects plugins whenever possible, there are some applications where a 3rd party product is unmistakably better.  Denoising / degraining footage is one of those examples.  In the video tutorial above, I demonstrate the use of Neat Video.  It’s simply the best denoising plugin I’ve used.  However I’m also aware that Red Giant have their Magic Bullet Denoiser plugin, and while I haven’t used the latest version it has the advantage of being included in a suite of products (you can also buy it individually). If the video convinces you to invest in a 3rd party denoising plugin, then look at the options available, take advantage of free trials, and choose the product that’s best suited to you.

Both Neat Video (left) and Magic Bullet Denoiser (right) offer a huge leap in performance when compared to the native After Effects “Remove Grain” plugin. At a price…

Old dog, new tricks

After Effects is over twenty five years old, and I’m even older.  During that time all sorts of upgrades and improvements have been made – it’s easy to forget how far we have come.  In the video tutorial above, I demonstrate colour pre-processing and how it can help Keylight get a better result.  I decided to use Levels and Hue / Saturation, as these are two standard plugins that are almost as old as After Effects itself.  By using these simple, dedicated plugins it keeps the focus on exactly what I’m doing and why.  Everyone is familiar with them – they’re the go-to plugins I’ve been using for decades.  I’m mentioning this because over the past year, I’ve been increasingly using the newer Lumetri plugin for colour processing instead.  Lumetri not only bundles a whole range of different colour controls into a single plugin, but it also introduces broadcast style scopes to After Effects.  But for the same reasons, Lumetri can be distracting. It’s big…  The purpose of the tutorial is to demonstrate how Keylight works and responds to changes in colour channels, not to explain how broadcast scopes work.  But although I’m using Levels and Hue Saturation in the video, feel free to experiment with Lumetri as it’s a fantastic new tool.

A few more things

There are a couple of notes to go along with the video above.

  • Firstly, if you missed the introduction then you can check it out here.
  • While I skip over garbage matting, there can be more to it than just drawing a mask – especially if the camera is moving.  As After Effects is always improving, it can be easy to miss upgrades and new features.  When it comes to garbage matting, the ability to track masks and the new integration of Mocha are good examples.  If you find yourself doing a lot of garbage matting with moving cameras, then don’t overlook these more recent upgrades.  Tracking and masking in Mocha can be so fast and effective that it makes you wonder how you ever worked without it…
  • In the video, I mention that I garbage matte separately to denoising because of the way some denoise plugins ignore masks.  While this is true, there are other reasons too.  As I mention in the introduction, I’m a huge fan of pre-rendering.  Because the native After Effects “Remove Grain” plugin is so slow, if I’m using it then I will generally apply it as step 1, and then background render the clip.  It can be pretty quick to set up a batch of clips to render in the background, and I can leave them overnight if there’s a lot.
  • As I mention in the video, it’s technically difficult to demonstrate denoising plugins.  The screencapture software I use compresses the raw images.  By the time everything is edited, output as an MP4, uploaded to Vimeo and then resized to your screen, a lot of fine detail will be lost.  Hopefully, if you can watch the video at full-size (or full-screen) then you’ll be able to see the benefits of denoising software.
  • When I was recording the tutorial, I inadvertently discovered a bug with the latest version of After Effects.  When I demonstrate how to interpret RED footage, I originally duplicated the RED clip in the project window, so each one could have different settings and I could compare them side by side.  Unfortunately, the ability to duplicate items in the project window and give them different interpret settings didn’t work!  Luckily, Adobe quickly confirmed this as a bug in the very latest version of After Effects only (19.2), and I expect it will be fixed very soon.  However if you’re wondering why there’s a jump in the video and perhaps the voiceover doesn’t make complete sense, it’s because I had to jump back into a previous version to record a patch.

That’s it for this week, in the next part I’ll be diving into Keylight.  Until then, I have plenty of other After Effects articles to check out!

(and just for giggles, here’s the compilation of greens I put together, demonstrating the huge variety in greenscreen footage)

I collected 15 clips of greenscreen source footage and eye-droppered the background. You can see the huge variations in “green” from different shoots.

The post Advanced keying with After Effects: Part 2 appeared first on ProVideo Coalition.

Classic Course: Directional Blur

After Effects has long supported the ability to calculate motion blur of layers animated inside AE. However, that could add a lot of time to your renders. Therefore, some users liked to “cheat” by applying blur effects to layers to simulate the blur of motion – or to add that impression to pre-rendered layers that are not animating inside AE. 

Last week we shared some of the Radial Blurs in After Effects; this week we’ll focus on Directional Blur. As is often the case, effects like these can be used in creative ways in addition to mimicking reality.

These movies previously appeared in our Insight Into Effects course on Learning. They’ve retired that course from their library, so we’re making them available publicly for free.

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Attach Splines To Animated Objects

Attach Splines To Animated Objects
Learn how to attach splines to animated objects, and alembics.



This article is slightly different than my usual format, as I will be presenting two tutorials on splines. One video will show splines being used more in a visual effects based shot. The other will show how to attach splines to alembics specifically.

Some Backstory

Back in 2018 I worked on a TV miniseries for about three months and I actually went back to my roots doing motion tracking, building shot templates for said tracks, particle/smoke FX, crowd replication, and a variety of other visual effects, even a little compositing. All in all I touched about ninety shots total in this series.

This type of work I don’t normally do these days as I have transitioned over to 3D volumetric and particle FX about four years ago. Every so often however, I will get a call from Dennis Shin to do such work. Dennis is currently VFX supervising at Bemo in Los Angeles, CA. He’s a long time friend of mine, and I enjoy working with him very much on these types of projects. We both have a strong understanding of our skill sets and communicate very well. I respect and trust this man.

C4D and Splines

Along the way Dennis presented two shots in this miniseries that needed something unique. I’ve not dealt with creating a fully digital hospital feeding tube before, so it was fun challenge for me.

So for this one particular effect I had to build a feeding tube that had to properly slide. One actress playing a nurse was pantomiming the action of pushing the tube into another actress’s mouth. The other actress was playing an unconscious patient. A physical prop tube was held in place during the filming, but of course wasn’t actually moving into the mouth. This prop had to be removed from the scene, of which another company was tasked with, and I had to mimic the look and feel of the prop digitally. I was tasked with the build, animation, render, and composite.

I knew I was going to use a spline to create the tube itself, but had to troubleshoot getting it to feel like it was moving forward as the nurse pushes it into the patients mouth. In this tutorial I’ll show you how I used animated nulls, connected individual spline points to those nulls, and how I created the final render material in Redshift3D.

Attach Splines To Animated Objects Tutorial

Alembic Hurdles

Another use case I have run into before when attaching splines or even just accessing geometry point data in general is with Alembics. For those unfamiliar with the Alembic format you can read more details on it here. Basically it’s an open framework that allows you to bake 3D animated geometry. This format is fairly universal, so you can send an animation from one 3D application to another easily without worry of needing the original tool set or plugins that created the 3D animation.

Depending on the 3D application you are using, you can also save other data for the geometry with the Alembic. You can save stuff like point or polygon selections, vertex colors, and vertex transforms. When using Cinema4D you can read this information if you choose them upon importing the Alembic. What becomes a bit confusing though is accessing the polygon points or the polygons themselves. Cinema4D does not immediately make these easy to view or select. There are workarounds though.


In this alternate tutorial I’m gonna show you how to import and attach splines to an animated Alembic file. Accessing the geometry mesh points or polygons of an Alembic in Cinema4D is not obvious, but it is easy.

Attach Splines To Alembics Tutorial

The post Attach Splines To Animated Objects appeared first on ProVideo Coalition.