Tag Archives: after effects

Detail Preserving Upscale in After Effects CC

The latest release of video tools for Creative Cloud contained over 150 new features. One of these is the new Detail Preserving Upscale effect for After Effects, which enables you to upscale content without negatively affecting quality – no pixelation, no loss of contrast. In fact, this is very closely related to the new detail preserving resize in Photoshop (which I recently covered here).

This new feature enables you to be able to dramatically scale content for special effects, or convert low resolution content to HD or even Ultra-HD formats without sacrificing quality.

Check out the video below to see it in action. I’ve included two examples of using the Detail Preserving Upscale to convert to 4K Ultra HD. One old/historical video upscaled to 4K, and one is a 1080p video upscaled to 4K. In both of the examples, you will see that there is better contrast and less pixelation in the final upscaled result.

Here are some screen grabs from the editing process. The center (small) image is a still from the original source clip at 100% size.  The image on the left is resized using After Effect’s normal scale transform, and the image on the right uses the new Detail Preserve Upscale effect.  If you look closely, you can see that the image on the left has more pixelation, and there is less contrast in the face.  With Detail Preserve Upscale, lights are lighter, darks are darker, and you don’t have pixelation/distortion.

Detail Preserve Scale Comparison (scaled to 800% size)
Detail Preserve Scale Comparison (scaled to 850% size)

If you’d like to see the final result, check out the JFK video below. You’ll just need to set YouTube settings to “Original” resolution to see the full size videos, though you’ll need a 4K monitor to see the video at full resolution.

Change YouTube Resolution
Change YouTube Resolution

JFK at 4K

Color Key/Green Screen Video Techniques with Creative Cloud

In my last post, I talked about masks in After Effects, specifically the new motion tracking feature for rigid masks. In this post, I’m again focusing on video composition, but instead of compositing using masks, I’m going to talk about keying.

Keying is a technique for selectively removing areas of a video based on content inside of that video, so that there is transparency.  With this transparency, you can add layers and special effects to your video compositions.  There is color keying, which removes pixels with specific colors from a video, luminance keying (luma key), which removes pixels based on brightness value, track matte key, and more…  all of which are just different methods of removing pixels from a video and adding transparency.

If you’ve ever wondered how news programs get the weather person to appear in front of an animated weather map, they’re just using color keying/green screen techniques. This is when the subject (the weather person) is captured on a green background, and the green background is removed using color keying.  Then you’re just left with the weather person, which can easily be composited/overlaid on top of the weather map.

Check out the video below to see two examples of keying in action (scroll down to jump directly to the video)… The first example shows how to use a green screen/color key technique in Adobe Premiere to overlay a subject on a background video.


Attribution: Dog Video, Beach Video – You’ll get better results with higher quality video – I just used these for simplicity. The dog video is licensed under Creative Commons with attribution, and the beach video is a preview file from Pond5.

The second example shows usage of color keying to overlay an explosion over a more complicated scene in After Effects – complete with motion tracking, and additional masking to make the explosion look like smoke is billowing down the streets between the buildings.


Now, check out the full video to see how to apply these techniques. You already have have everything you need for these within Creative Cloud.

Here are the techniques that I used in these samples:

If you aren’t already a member of Creative Cloud, learn more and join now at creative.adobe.com.


The New Rigid Mask Tracker in After Effects CC

I like to think of After Effects as an animated version of Photoshop – many of the same general techniques apply: selection, masks, blend modes etc… The primary difference being that the content changes over time when working with video. In general, masks work exactly the same as they do in Photoshop – you use the mask to determine which part of the image/video should be a part of the composition, and which parts should be hidden from the final output. Using masks you can selectively determine which parts of the video should get special effects, or you can use them to composite clips from multiple videos together. You can animate these masks on the timeline, and that mask will be animated in the video.

Note: Not to be confused with Keying or Rotoscoping, which I’ll be covering in subsequent blog posts in the very near future. 

In the latest video tools release on Adobe Creative Cloud, more than 150 new features were introduced. One of those features is the new Rigid Mask Tracker in After Effects CC. The Rigid Mask Tracker makes it incredibly easy to create masks that automatically track motion in your video compositions. Using the Rigid Mask Tracker boils down to just a few simple steps:

  1. Draw your mask on the target video
  2. Analyze the video to track motion
  3. Done! The mask will automatically track the motion in the video, based on the content underneath the mask

You don’t have to use the Rigid Mask Tracker, you can still animate things manually, but this new feature makes applying motion to masks incredibly easy.

Let’s take look at a simple use case… I have a color video, and I want to make *most* of the video black and white, but leave color in certain places to add drama and focused emphasis on certain parts of the video. Take a look at the screen grabs below to get an idea what I mean:

Video Effects Applied Using the Rigid Mask Tracker
Video Effects Applied Using the Rigid Mask Tracker

Pay attention to the fire truck in the screen capture above (and the video below). I’ve made the fire truck stand out from the rest of the video using a mask that was drawn over the fire truck, and employed the Rigid Mask Tracker to automatically track motion of the fire truck in the video. The top (masked) video layer has increased saturation to make the reds brighter, and the bottom video layer has decreased saturation to remove colors.

Now, take a look at the video below to see how this was done and see the final output! It really was as simple as the steps I mentioned above. Just draw the mask, analyze/track motion, apply effects, and you’ve got it!

Now, go get out there and create great things! If you aren’t already a member of Creative Cloud, lean more and join now at creative.adobe.com.


Video: GoPro Cameras, Quadcopters & Creative Cloud

Last week I had the opportunity to present an incredibly fun topic to the DC/MD/VA Creative Professionals user group… GoPro Cameras, Quadcopters, and Adobe Creative Cloud.  Thanks to everyone who attended.  This topic is a personal interest of mine, and I had a great time.  There were great questions and great conversations all around.

For those who weren’t able to attend, here’s a video of the full 2-hour presentation.  The audio quality isn’t perfect, but you can still catch most of it:

My slides are available here:

Slides: GoPro Cameras, Quadcopterss & Creative Cloud
Slides: GoPro Cameras, Quadcopterss & Creative Cloud

Attribution: I included some images from the GoPro photo of the day gallery.

Here are a few quick links for getting started with Adobe Creative Cloud for producing video and photography content:

For those who were asking about my copter rig, here are the details on what I am flying:

  • Copter: DJI Phantom
  • Gimbal: Beholder Lite (details on my configuration – definitely requires some tuning)
  • FPV: KumbaCam – Great for a remote viewfinder, though the GoPro feed flickers when in time lapse photography mode.  I put it on a tripod at eye level so I can quickly glance between LOS and FPV viewing (FPV = First Person View). I use this as a remote viewfinder, not a primary flight mechanism, and never go beyond line-of-sight.
  • Case: Nanuk 940 – perfect size to fit the Phantom
  • Batteries – get lots of extras b/c you won’t want to stop flying!
  • Camera: GoPro Hero 3 Black

Without the gimbal and FPV, you’ll get about 12-15 mins of battery per flight.  With the gimbal and FPV, I get about 7-8 minutes per flight… I’m currently researching options to extend battery life & flight time.

You can definitely get bigger copters with a heavier lift capacity, but this configuration is great for getting started, and is designed specifically for the GoPro. Then, use Creative Cloud to polish your images and video.

Creative Cloud Helps Me Fulfill My Creative Vision

In my last post, I proclaimed my love for Adobe Creative Cloud. This post will show you the reason why. I was playing around with some of the aerial footage I captured last week in San Francisco. Just for fun, I wanted to create a HUD (heads up display) to add to the first-person experience of the video. My inspiration was the HUD created for The Avengers & Iron Man, which was created using Adobe After Effects. This turned out far better and far more interesting than I could have possibly hoped, and it is all thanks to the power of Adobe Creative Cloud. Here’s the final video complete with special effects, and below I will discuss how I used Creative Cloud to get to this. (Best experienced at 1080p, with audio – preferably loud, with lots of bass.)

First things first, I had to design the HUD. I used Photoshop to pull in a still from the video footage, and started layering elements on top of it. I Googled images of real fighter jet HUD displays, and used those as inspiration. I obviously didn’t have all of the same information, so I couldn’t make my HUD absolutely real, but I could make it look “good enough”.

HUD Design in Adobe Photoshop
HUD Design in Adobe Photoshop

I got the mockup to a point that I thought looked good, and then it came time to implement it for real in the video. It turns out my initial design didn’t work great in the final implementation, so I came back to Photoshop played with colors, and sizes, and chopped pieces up into separate image assets that I could pull into the final composition.

Next, I pulled the video into After Effects, and started overlaying the HUD graphic elements.  I chose After Effects for this instead of Premiere because After Effects has better control over the visual output and effects – Premiere is my primary tool for sequencing multiple clips into a larger composition.

Editing in Adobe After Effects
Editing in Adobe After Effects

I added all of the HUD elements and manually animated rotation and position so that it fit well with the actual flight path. Everything seemed in place, but I felt like it needed more.

Why not have targeting indicators that follow the cars? With After Effects’ Track Motion feature, this was easily done. I created a “target” graphic, inserted it into the composition, and then used Track Motion to create a motion path for the graphic. To do this, select the video layer that you want to use for motion tracking, and go to a frame that has the object that you want to track. Then click on the “Track Motion” button in the “Tracker” panel. You’ll have to select an area that will be tracked. When you analyze frames, it will detect the movement of your selection over time, and translate that to x/y coordinates, which are applied to the motion target that you choose (the “target” symbol).

I repeated this step for a bunch of vehicles, and it started looking much better. Once I had the red target indicators in the HUD, I thought “that looks cool, but it’s still not enough, and it’s not believable.”

I added some color correction using After Effect’s Tritone color correction.  This made the HUD really stand out from the video, and gave it a nice cinematic look and feel, but I still wanted more.

I thought to myself… If you’re going to go “over the top”, you might as well go “way over the top”, so I started getting creative/ridiculous. I had this robotic fighter jet feel in the video, so I figured that something needed to blow up. I found this explosion and that’s when things started getting really interesting. I added one, then two, then three explosions to the scene by leveraging After Effects’ Linear Color Key effect so that the explosion was overlaid without the background. Add some color correction on the explosion, and voila… you have an explosion on top of the video with minimal artifacts.

Note: Keying is the process of removing pixels from the background based on pixel colors. You can also remove pieces of a video clip using the rotoscoping tool – it’s like a Photoshop selection over time.

This was really starting to come together. Since I had explosions, I needed more smoke. I first tried the After Effects particle system for producing smoke, but it didn’t seem real enough for this specific use case. I found some stock footage of smoke plumes and ambient smoke, and started going to town. Pairing the stock footage with Track Motion, I was able to add smoke to the landscape that followed buildings as the camera rotated to focus back on the building.

Like I said earlier, I wanted to go “way over the top”, so of course, why not add a flyby from some jets. So I added some stock footage of computer generated jets flying overhead, again with Keying to remove the background.

At this point, things were really coming together for this scene, so I wanted to add an intro title and some music… enter Adobe Premiere.

Composing/Sequencing in Adobe Premiere
Composing/Sequencing in Adobe Premiere

Here I added the title, and started adding the static effect overlaid in the beginning and the ending of the composition.  Next, I needed background music and sound effects.  Sound is critical to the experience of video.  It can help convey emotion, and tie everything together.

I pulled in some background music from Audio Jungle. Things were starting to come together really well, but I needed more sound effects… A while back I stumbled across freesound.org, which has a bunch of Creative Commons sound effects.  This has been a goldmine for me. I pulled in sound effects for the explosions, the ambient aircraft noise, ambient machine guns, and radar beeps.

Then I pulled some of the sounds into Adobe Audition for some fine-tuning…

Audio Processing with Adobe Audition
Audio Processing with Adobe Audition

Once I had everything sequenced where I wanted it, I just exported the video from Premiere, uploaded it to Youtube, and started sharing it.

The best parts of this entire process:

  1. I did this whole thing start to finish in a little over one day.  I started working with the video on Monday night, and uploaded it to YouTube this morning. Creative Cloud has an insanely productive workflow.
  2. My background is in software development, not in video production… I do that for fun. By using Creative Cloud, I already had all the tools I needed to put everything together.
  3. Creative Cloud helps me fulfill my vision.

Now, get out there, get creative, and have fun doing it!

Sound Attribution: