… for Visual Effects

Tip #370: 4 Steps to Better Skin Tones in Resolve

Quick steps to improve skin without damaging the rest of your color grade.

Color wheels in DaVinci Resolve.

Topic $TipTopic

This article, written by Rubidium Wu, first appeared in PremiumBeat.

In this tip, we’re going to use DaVinci Resolve to improve skin tones, without affecting other color edits. Here’s how.

  • Make a Mask. In a new node, select the qualifying tool, and drag it across the most even and representative part of the face. Increasing the clean white also helps a lot.
  • Unify Tone. Once you have the skin isolated, increase the contrast and look for yellow, red, or green areas that don’t fit with the overall skin tone. In the Curves menu, select Hue vs. Hue, then select those colors using the curve up or down to shift the problem colors back to the central color.
  • Pare Imperfections. In the color tab, adjust the slider marked MD for Midtone Density. Turning this down gets rid of contrast in the skin, effectively hiding imperfections.
  • Separate. The last step is to add another node, then hit Option+L to turn this into a layer mixer node. Dragging the blue alpha arrow of the skin mask to the input on the lower of the two mixed nodes means that your skin grade will “pass around” anything done in the latter nodes. This lets you cool down the background — or desaturate it — without also affecting the skin.

Done.


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Tip #335: Remove Black Backgrounds & Blend Clips

Blend modes are a great way to combine effects.

Smoke swirling over a fire. Both are effects and both use the Screen blend mode.

Topic $TipTopic

While many effects, such as those from HitFilm or Red Giant, include a transparent background, called the “Alpha Channel,” other effects don’t.

If you need to remove a black background when adding light-based effects, such as smoke, fire, gun flashes, and sparks, add the effect on top of the video as desired, and then apply the Screen blend mode.

This trick also works when applying light leaks from companies such as Light Leak Love and Rampant Design Tools.

NOTE: Be careful using the Add blend mode. While OK for web work, this creates white levels that exceed broadcast, cable and digital theater specs. I recommend against using it.


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Tip #339: Inexpensive Green-screen Kits

Do-It-Yourself is possible, but this kit is better.

This illustrates the contents of the Linco lighting kit.

Topic $TipTopic While there are tons of articles on the web about creating Do-It-Yourself green screen kits, what you save in money, you more than waste in post-production trying to pull a clean key from a cheap background. Instead, consider a green-screen background kit.

Here are three to look at.

There are many others to choose from. With these three, though, for less than $150, you get everything you need to create and light a background.

While the Emart kit is the least expensive, what I like about the other two kits is that they include softlights for the talent, as well.

The key to a successful key is an absolutely smooth and flat-lit background. Then, use separate lights to light the talent. Any of these kits can help.


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Tip #345: Add Perspective

Perspective makes your text stand-out.

This text perspective was created in Premiere using the Corner Pin effect.

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If your NLE does not support adjusting text in 3D space, there’s an easy way to create the effect of text receding into the distance.

In Final Cut, its called Distort. In Premiere, you can use either Basic 3D or the Corner Pin effect. Older NLEs will probably only support corner pinning.

What corner pinning does is allow you to move each corner of a text or video clip and stretch it so that which is closest to the “camera” is wide, while that which falls into the distance is narrow.

3D rotation allows you to rotate a clip along its X (horizontal), Y (vertical) or Z (depth) axis. 3D is easier to use, but corner pinning provides far more bizarre effects, like a clip getting extruded through a bottle.

There’s no “magic number” on where to set values, use what looks good to your eyes. This screen shot, for instance, was created in Premiere using Corner Pin, the Stencil font and a bit of tweaking.

EXTRA CREDIT

You can animate this effect using keyframes.


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Tip #327: Red Giant Universe: Create Chromatic Effects

Some video looks better distorted.

All effects from Red Giant Universe.
RGB Separate and Chromatic Aberration effects applied to video of a crowd cheering.

Topic $TipTopic

A “chromatic aberration” effect separates an image into it’s three main color components – red, green and blue – then shifts each one horizontally by different amounts. (This is easy to see in the screen shot.)

Most NLEs have some form of color shifting. Here’s how a version from Red Giant Universe works in Premiere.

  • While you can apply this to a single clip, you may want to create an adjustment layer and apply it to several clips at once.
  • Select the adjustment layer in the timeline.
  • In the effects panel, search for “uni.RGB separation” and apply it to the adjustment layer.
  • In the effects controls panel, edit the radius, distortion, angle, and linear to your liking.
  • To add a lens distortion effect, search for “uni.Chromatic Aberration” in the effects panel and apply to the adjustment layer.
  • Adjust the parameters in the effects controls.

EXTRA CREDIT

Here’s a video from Red Giant that show this in operation.


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Tip #328: Track & Blur Faces

Blurs are a great way to hide faces.

A Gaussian Blur applied to a portion of an image to blur a face.

Topic $TipTopic

When you need to hide a logo or face, a blur is a great way to do so. While no longer a safe way to protect identity (Tip #329), all NLEs provide a way to apply a blur to a portion of the image. Premiere also provides an easy way to motion track it. Here’s how.

  • Select the clip you want to blur in your Premiere timeline.
  • Apply Blur > Gaussian Blur from the Effects panel.
  • In Effect Controls, select the name of the mask – Mask (1) in my case – in the Gaussian Blur effect to make its controls visible in the Program Monitor.
  • Drag the blur in the Program Monitor to reposition it, then using either the on-screen controls or the mask settings in the Effect Controls panel, size and rotate it till it matches the same in your image.
  • Add Feathering to soften the edges. (In this screen shot, Feather = 22.0)
  • Increase the Blurriness till the face loses recognizability. (In this screen shot, Blurriness = 18.0)

EXTRA CREDIT

If the face moves, motion track the effect to automatically move the blur as the face moves. Here’s how:

  • Position the playhead at the start of the clip. (If the object you want to track is not visible, read Premiere’s help files for the best way to create a track.)
  • In the Effect Controls panel, click the right-pointing arrow in Mask Path for the mask you just created.
  • After a few seconds of analysis, Premiere will be able to track the mask as the subject moves.

NOTE: If the track fails to work, read Premiere’s help files for guidance. Explaining the intricacies of motion tracking is too large for a tip.


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Tip #329: Blurs and Mosaics are No Longer Safe

Blurs are no longer safeguards against protecting identity.

New graphics technology, combined with AI, recreates high-resolution images from blurry, low-res source files.

Topic $TipTopic

For years, editors have used mosaic and blur effects to hide the identity of on-screen talent. However, recent research has found a way to reverse-engineer a high-quality image of the speaker’s face from a low-resolution blur. Here’s what you need to know.

Research published in Sept. 2018, from universities in the US and China has revealed a technology that “learns to reconstruct realistic [image] results with clear structures and fine details.”

Using a low-resolution image (on the left), their technology creates a high-quality result using off-the-shelf computer hardware and nVidia GPUs. Using AI, the researchers discovered an algorithm “to directly restore a clear high- resolution image from a blurry low-resolution input.”

“Extensive experiments demonstrate that our method performs favorably against the state-of-the-art methods on both synthetic and real-world images at a lower computational cost.”

Here’s a link to their scientific paper. The text is highly technical, but the images are frightening, if you are a producer charged with protecting someone’s identity.

KEY TAKEAWAY

If you want to protect the identity of an on-camera speaker, don’t shoot their face. Today’s technology makes blurs, mosaics and low-res images completely ineffective.


… for Visual Effects

Tip #121: Quickly Create Tracking Masks in Mocha

Mocha Pro 2020 makes tracking masks easy.

Topic $TipTopic

A mask isolates something so we can place the masked object over a different background (or hide it altogether.)

A tracking mask does the same thing, but to a moving object; say a car or person. What makes tracking masks tricky is if the moving object changes position or shape during the move; for example, as people do as they walk.

Mocha Pro 2020 has a new feature that makes creating tracking masks easy:

  • Select the Area brush tool in the toolbar
  • Draw over the area you’d like to motion track
  • Scale the brush by selecting the open/close brackets
  • Press Option on Mac (Alt on Windows) to change the Area brush tool to erase

This is a much easier way to create masks to motion track objects, without having to create several shapes to isolate the desired tracking object.

Learn more about Mocha Pro here.


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Tip #314: Faking a Stop Motion Effect in Premiere

Stop Motion can be faked using Posterize Time.

Search for Posterize Time in the Effects panel.

Topic $TipTopic

A longer version of this article first appeared in RocketStock.com.

As you are probably aware, it takes a bit of time to set up, shoot, and edit a proper stop motion shot. But, what if the video is already shot? Can we create a similar effect in Premiere? Yes, and here’s how.

In Premiere, select the clip you want to work with, then:

  • Open the Effects panel and search for “Posterize Time.”
  • Apply this effect to your clips.
  • Adjust the frame rate to between 8 – 12 fps. Try 10 fps as a starting point.

Done.

EXTRA CREDIT

This effect can be used for much more. For example:

  • Emulate the look of very old film.
  • Apply it to existing motion graphics for a blockier, chunkier look.
  • Create flashbacks, dream sequences, even a “drunken sailor” look.

… for Visual Effects

Tip #316: Working with Vertical Phone Footage

Tips to coping with a 9:16 aspect ratio.

A vertical video example based on the settings in this Tip.

Topic $TipTopic

A longer version of this article first appeared in PremiumBeat.com.

Shooting vertical phone footage is a cardinal sin in film-making. However, that doesn’t mean we won’t be working with it in post. Here’s how.

The easiest thing to do is create two layers, zoom the bottom layer so it fills the screen, add some blur, and be done with it. The problem is that this doesn’t make the footage look very good.

Here’s a better technique:

  • Stack two copies of the same clip one above the other.
  • Using the Scale settings in your NLE, stretch the Y value, but leave the X (height) value alone.
  • Apply a Gaussian Blur and increase the amount a lot: say 70-100.
  • Lower the Opacity from 100% to 40-50%.

When you follow these steps, you end up with a more pleasing image, such as you see in this screen shot.