Inspired by some really cool videos and TV shows, I decided to up my skills in the dark-and-daunting program known as After Effects. One of the coolest things that I have seen recently is the seemingly “live text” you can get in a moving camera shot.
Standard text or titles usually look like they are just stuck in front of the video and don’t interact with the 3D space. However, you can use Motion Tracking to make it appear as though the text is REALLY there, on set with the actors. You’ve seen it in movies like Zombieland and in TV shows like Sherlock and it always looks freaking amazeballs. Well, DoSomething.org is going to step it up and get some cool motion graphics!
Here are three things to consider when trying to make a two dimensional video appear to occupy three dimensional space:
- MARKERS: After Effects has a Motion Tracking function that picks high contrast areas of the screen and analyzes them frame by frame to determine the movement through space. One way to MAKE these high contrast areas so that After Effects can track them easily is to take a dark piece of tape (a MARKER) and put it on a light area. If I wanted to make it look like someone had the word LOSER on their head, for example, I would put a marker on their forehead and take a video. Once the program has tracked the movement of the marker, I can add the text and apply the movement to the text. Wherever the marker goes, the text follows.
- DEPTH OF FIELD: Another thing you will notice about films (and real life) is that not everything is in focus at the same time. The objects or people nearer to the camera may be in focus and the objects in the background may be out of focus. This is determined by the depth of field and capabilities of the lens. To make it appear as though the text is REALLY actually in 3D space, I wanted to use focus and apply a depth of field to the text. This is done by creating a “digital camera” with a “digital lens” in After Effects. I can set the text in 3D space in After Effects and the digital camera lens will automatically put things in focus and out of focus depending on how far they are away from the camera.
- MOTION PARALLAX: There is a property of motion known as parallax. Parallax is a phenomenon that you can observe when you look out the window of a moving vehicle. Objects very close to the window, such as mailboxes or lamp posts, appear to move by very quickly, as objects in the distance, like trees or mountains, appear to move quite slowly through your field of vision. So to make the text look as real as possible, I applied a motion parallax to the text as well as setting three different tracking points on a table – each a different distance away from the camera. I set one word to follow each tacking point and, voilà; we have text that look like it is in real 3D space.
Observe. Make sure to take notice of the motion tracking, the depth of field and the parallax of the different words. #LearnedSomething #BecauseApathySucks.
- Brad Williams is our kickass Video Producer. He's responsible for that baller video clip below.