After Effects: The Roto Brush
(Note: I’m still pretty new to AE myself, so I don’t know eeeverything... yet!)
Love Like Fluttershy contained 80 frames of animation rotoscoped directly from the show. Each frame took around 15 minutes edit. This puts the total time spend on those 80 frames around 1200 minutes. This is 20 hours.
While it was fun at first, it was 20 hours. The results look great, but it was 20 hours. I have a huge creative drive... but it was 20 hours...
However, after the release of Love, and specifically the making of, I was directed towards the warm and inviting glow of a program called After Effects and its very special feature called The Rotobrush. Having little experience with the program I nevertheless set out to use it for Shine Like Rarity.
I’ve since then repeatedly cried tears of joy. For After Effects is awesome and we are truly blessed with its mere existence.
Ahem. I’ve come to refer to AE as ‘Photoshop for moving images’ and it has features familiar to Photoshop users like Layers, Effects, a brush panel and the like. Though there are of course key differences.
It’s a motion graphics & compositing program and allows you to alter video footage in a nigh infinite number of ways. It’s a beast of a thing and... daunting. So I’m not going make you and myself anxious with the sheer number of possibilities. No, instead I shall lead you through one special functionality:
The Rotobrush. It’s brush which allows you to rotoscope an object out of the frame, much how you can mask an object in Photoshop using Quick Select. There’s just one difference and I’ll keep you curious for now.
Note: I highly recommend using a tablet for this.
First: prepare the footage you’d like to use.
Cut the footage you want from your video source and render it in its native resolution and framerate. Preferably without audio, since you’re not going to need it right now.
After Effects will eat a lot of footage, though for this particular purpose I recommend uncompressed AVI.
Open After Effects.
Immediately you’ll be presented with a dialogue. Great news! You don’t need it!
Click it away and look up your rendered video.
Locate your video and drag and drop it in the projects panel on the left. Your footage is now part of the project. It’s now also a good time to save.
Now your project is only the collection of different assets you’re using. These can be video, audio, image sequences, still images and the like. What you need to do now is make a composition out of the video you’ve just added. Click on the video in your projects panel and drop it over the filmreel icon
After dropping it you’ll see your video in the composition window and a timeline below. Notice the the length of the timeline is the amount of frames of your video, in this case 18.
Double click on the composition, this will open it up in an editable layer.
You are now ready to Rotobrush.
Located near the top, under the W of Window sits the greatest tool since the invention of fire.
Click it and your cursor will change to a green circle. Handy tip: go to Windows and select the Brushes option, this will open up the Brushes panel on your right.
“Sweet Jesus, it’s just like Photoshop...” I said as I tried this for the first time.
Start dragging over the area you want, you’re now leaving a green trail.
Now I’ve got an area I don’t want. Did I mention this was like Photoshop? Hold alt while drawing and your cursor turns red, meaning you can remove sections from your selection.
Tip: if you want to change the size of your brush, do not press ‘[‘ or ‘]’. These are keyboard shortcuts for going to the beginning and end of your composition. I scared myself many times with my Photoshop muscle memory...
Instead, hold down control and drag up or down to change the size of your brush. Or use the Brush panel you’ve opened.
Continue selecting the area you want to have and when you’re finished, go back to your composition view and watch how the background is now gone!
Additionally you can switch between several viewmodes in the Layers view.
Go to the next frame using either the playback controls on the right or page-down. Page-up is the shortcut for the previous frame
SWEET JESUS! THE SELECTION IS ALREADY THERE! This is the part which had me crying tears of joy.
This is the difference I mentioned earlier.
Rotobrush is a smart sonuvabitch and it remembers what you’ve selected. Granted it’ll take some additional editing, but the bulk is already done.
Edit your selection where necessary and repeat the last few steps until you have your entire sequence ready.
Next up, the Effects panel. It’s located in place of your Projects panel, now that you have your rotobrush selected.
Here you can edit your existing selection. Increasing smooth will make the angles less harsh.
With choke you can clamp down your edges or make them wider.
Since you’re going for an image sequence later on Reid I recommend having a smooth selection with Choke dialled to the negative. You can fine-tune it later on in Photoshop.
Rotobrush can be a pain when working with artifacted footage like I’m for this demo (I'm an idiot), so if you are, use similar settings.
Play with them until you have something that looks good overall.
Toggle ‘refine matte’ for more options.
Motion blur isn’t recommended when dealing with the crispness of FiM animation, so keep that unchecked.
Decontamination may be of interest, since it ‘decontaminates’ the edges of any colour that doesn’t belong. You can view the area of effect by checking the box in the bottom and finetune that with the settings above.
After having something you’re happy with it’s time to render this!
Go back to your Projects Panel, select your composition and hit ctrl-m. Alternatively, go to Composition above and click ‘Make Movie'.
This will open the render panel where your timeline sits.
Here you have a couple of render options, what we’re going to do first is change the type of file we’re going to render. Click on ‘Lossless’ next to ‘output module’.
You’re now able to tell AE what kind of file you’d like your composition to render as.
Click on the top dropdown menu and select your format of choice. Ooh, Image Sequences!
Select the file format you'd like. For instance an image sequence (jpeg, png, photoshop, targa etc). If you want to have more control over the quality, select Format Options in the Video Output section.
Not touching on the rest right now.
Exit the window when you’re ready.
Hit the text next to ‘Output To’ to tell AE where you want your file to be rendered. This will open up a window where you can select the folder and change the name.
After that’s done. Hit render!
Et voila, you’ve just rotoscoped something and you can now further edit it in Photoshop.
Phew, that was a bit of a write. Let me know if I've missed anything or if something's unclear