Thursday, June 09th, 2011 | Author:

Multi-pass compositing using Adobe After Effects.

I haven’t had time to create an updated showreel, but here’s some recent compositing work completed in After Effects. This was a fun project to work on and it was produced by a great team of guys at Digital Pulse, in Sydney.

The fun part of compositing is thinking of elements that would enhance the scene and then creating them from scratch within After Effects. For example, the opening shot required rain – that was in the script. But adding splashes on the footpath added authenticity- simple yet effective.  In the shot where the guy looks out of the window, some subtle light rays (using CC light burst) give the scene a softer atmosphere. And the ripples on the car windscreen as the wipers animate also add realism to the shot.

Most of these shots use a ‘light wrap’ to enhance the edges of objects. These are easy to make from a matte shape. You duplicate the matte layer and use it as an inverted alpha for itself. Then blur the top layer (the track matte).

In most cases I didn’t have a matte shape for every object in the scene, so I would concoct one from the depth pass using plugins like levels, curves or ‘extract’.

For stronger edge effects, and to create directional rim-lighting effects, I simply used the ‘bevel alpha’ effect on the matte layer. First I’d use the ‘fill’ effect to fill the matte with black, so you couldn’t see anything. Then the ‘bevel alpha’ effect would add a directional edge that I could easily move and adjust the thickness of. This could then be tinted and added over the colour pass. It’s a very useful technique using very basic effects!

The ambient occlusion pass is used to define shadows and edges, usually with either a ‘multiply’ or ‘linear burn’ blending mode.  I would always tint the blacks of the AO pass to be the opposite colour to the light source.  So if the light source is blue, I would tint the AO pass orange.  This adds realism and also a sense of warmth to shots that would feel colder and harsher if all of the shadows were pure black.

Finally, the Frischluft ‘Lenscare’ plugin was used to give each scene a shallow depth-of-field, and for a number of pull-focus shots.  It’s an awesome, gorgeous looking plugin.

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