Download Free Light Wrap Plugin for After Effects

Download a free Light Wrap plugin for Adobe After Effects here

ProductionCrate has released a free light wrap plugin for Adobe After Effects! It is available to download now. Crate’s Light Wrap fixes one of the biggest obstacles any VFX artist faces, how to cleanly and easily composite in After Effects. We made it specifically for use alongside the VFX Assets available at FootageCrate, but it works perfectly for any compositor’s needs.

What is a light wrap?

Light-wraps are an effective and underutilized technique that improves the realism of a compositor VFX. These simulate the apparent diffusion of extremely bright lights around a foreground, helping to integrate the composited layer into the background. This visually blends the two different layers, creating a cohesive unified final image.

When should I use a light wrap?

Light wraps are commonly used against bright backgrounds, skies, fire video effects and any other intense sources of illumination. This can be added with the motivation of improving the realism of a scene, as a bright source of light (such as an explosion) will carry excessive luminant energy that leaks into adjacent pixels. This means that when a particular area of an explosion is being obscured by a foreground, its colors may still influence the pixel’s final output due to bloom, illumination and fog scattering.

An artist may also want to add a light-wrap for stylistic purposes to visually exaggerate the intensity of a source of light. For example, a dragon breath can be given a stronger light wrap to communicate its deadly heat; or the opening doorway of a UFO blinding the onlookers to reinforce their mysterious nature. Digitally, a pixel can only reach a maximum luminance of 1 (white), so to create a sense of limitless intensity, the implied brightness is reinforced by a light-wrap.

How to create a light wrap in After Effects

Crate’s Light Wrap generates light-wraps at blazing fast speeds. While most light-wrap After Effects tutorial videos require a dozen individual steps to complete, Crate’s Light Wrap generates these optical effects instantly.

Begin by installing the plugin to your Windows or Mac plugin directory:
Windows:      Extract plugin to C:\Program Files\Adobe\Common\Plug-ins\7.0\MediaCore
Mac:                Extract plugin to Applications/Adobe After Effects/Plug-in

Open Adobe After Effects, and in your composition, identify your background (the source of light) and the foreground (what the light-wrap will interact with).

The plugin then requires you to pre-compose these two layers, so that they can be correctly aligned. Once that’s done, apply Crate’s Light Wrap to your foreground layer.

  • Background Layer – Use this to select the source of your light wrap.
  • Background blur – Blur the background before the light-wrap is generated to help smooth out colors.
  • Free After Effects Light Wrap Plugin Comparison Background Blur
  • Wrap Width – How far into the foreground the light-wrap extends
  • Free After Effects Light Wrap Plugin Comparison Wrap Width
  • Exposure – Controls how bright the light-wrap is
  • Blend mode – Choose between several different ways for the light-wrap to transfer onto the image
  • Tint/Color – Increase the saturation of the light wrap
  • Free After Effects Light Wrap Plugin Comparison Tint
  • Luminance Bias – Use this to control how much influence the foreground’s luminance has on the intensity of the light wrap
  • Free After Effects Light Wrap Plugin Comparison Luma Bias
  • Bias Exposure – Adjust the luminance bias matte’s brightness
  • Bias Gamma – Adjust the luminance bias matte’s contrast
  • Auto Detect Gamma – Allow the plugin to guess the best color management settings for your project
  • View – Change how the light-wrap is output to the layer.
  • Premult background – Before the light wrap is processed, premultiply the background so that anything directly behind the foreground does not contribute to the glow.
  • Free After Effects Light Wrap Plugin Comparison Premult

The great way to build a free light wrap in After Effects is to duplicate the foreground layer and apply the light wrap with the “View” set to “Wrap Solo”. By setting the blending mode to “Add” or “Screen”, you will have a separate light wrap layer that is available for even more artistic control. For example, you can add a Curves layer to enhance a specific color, or control exactly where the light wrap is applied with a feathered mask.

Light-wraps in After Effects work best when working in a 32-bit project with an sRGB linear workspace. This provides the most accurate color behaviours, which is especially important in the context of light-wraps. By utilizing a linear workflow, bright highlights in your backgrounds (whether from a sunset, or a bright energy blast) will create the correct intensities and falloffs in your foreground. We recommend using this for professional use.

This free light-wrap plugin in After Effects is ideal for compositing green screen footage. When shooting inside a green screen studio, the lighting conditions are unlikely to match the complex lighting arrangements of the intended background. Using a lightwrap helps to carry your foreground elements coloring closer to what is expected to be seen if the actor was really in the artificial scene.

Light-wraps can also work inversely, adding CG elements to real-world footage. Most 3D rendering software are unable to produce the phenomena that are responsible for a light-wrap, and so in the compositing stage, a light wrap is often required to seamlessly integrate the 3D model into the scene. This makes ProductionCrate’s free light-wrap plugin a powerful and attractive addition to users of Blender, Cinema4D and Houdini.

Crate’s Light Wrap Requirements

  • AE CS6 and newer
  • MacOS 11.3 or newer
  • Windows 7 or newer
  • GPU required (integrated GPU such as Intel Iris supported)
  • Apple Silicon native. Older mac’s (~2013) with Nvidia cards may not work

This plugin cannot be re-shared, distributed or provided anywhere else without our expressed permission. Contact for any questions. Articles, blogs and videos promoting this free plug-in are encouraged. You are free to use any of our media elements in your promotions, reviews or edits.

Interested in more free plugins? Check out our free Godrays plugin here.

Download 200+ 4K Spark Stock Footage Assets for VFX

Download 4K Spark VFX assets here.

ProductionCrate has updated its VFX asset library, with over 250 spark effects now available to download and use in any personal or commercial project.

The addition of sparks in explosions, bullet impacts and crashing cars undeniably intensifies the visual spectacle of an action sequence.

Blazing trails of burning hot embers provide incredible contrast and detail, enriching a scene with its turbulent chaotic appearance. They are the icing on the cake of any pyrotechnic special effects and have become a go-to ingredient for many filmmakers to make their action-packed films memorable. Spark effects, when used well, can often elevate a scene to an iconic level, with Michael Bay taking the spotlight in; Transformers, 6 Underground and Pearl Harbor.

“The pyrotechnicians were having fun on this one!” Chris Kelly recalls, while reviewing the footage, “They kept saying things like ‘Oh, I didn’t expect that to happen’ or ‘let’s see what it looks like if we combine these two!’ clearly having a lot of fun. We got some great content out of it that would be nearly impossible to recreate.”

Bus speeding off a ramp with Spark VFX assets that are available to download

For visual effects artists, sparks offer an avenue for enhancing the realism of explosions and destruction simulations. Using these effectively tackles the challenge of digitally replicating the imperfect chaotic behaviour of explosions seen in the real world. While artists familiar with Houdini are capable of creating spark simulations, this task requires countless hours of R&D and rendering. Using live-action stock footage VFX elements allows editors to immediately apply authentic sparks to their video within minutes; making it an effective solution for projects facing a deadline.

By browsing ProductionCrate’s library of stock footage spark elements, you can instantly preview exactly what each file contains. With the vast selection available to download, you’ll identify the perfect spark effect that your project needs. Whether you need a brief bullet impact, or a star-wars style death star explosion, ProductionCrate aims to cover all creative requirements

These stock footage elements are meticulously prepared by carefully calibrating the recorded footage from the studio. This is done to meet the several requirements for creating professional VFX assets that are ready to be used in feature films, music videos and games. ProductionCrate ensures that all of its content is delivered with these consistent and reliable standards.

4K video resolution gives these video assets a greater range of flexibility. With this, you’re free to position any 4K spark asset around your composition whilst retaining incredible visual quality. The freedom to scale up, rotate and position the spark asset anywhere in the scene without introducing pixelation makes this worthy of even high-end projects exported at a high resolution. This 4K resolution is also crucial to match the realism of the original background footage, allowing artists to naturally integrate this into scenes effortlessly.

The spark VFX assets were recorded at 96FPS on 2 RED cameras. This high framerate captured all of the incredible behaviours seen in sparks, including crackling microbursts, rapid embers bouncing against surfaces, and the explosive initial blast during ignition. To achieve a greater sense of scale, these spark assets are being delivered at 30FPS. These pyrotechnic explosion effects now appear to be several metres high, making them suitable for large car explosions, missile impacts and exciting car chases. To convert these spark effects back to real-time speeds, set their framerate to 96FPS, or adjust the speed to 320%. Slowing down the sparks even further will make them appear even larger in size.

“Our top priority is for these to be composited in seconds, without any technical knowledge or refinement required”, David Blaker explains whilst demonstrating how effortless ProductionCrate has made the process. “It’s really important for us to know that any artist can use these without further instructions, no matter if they’re editing a gunfight or a space battle”.

A huge contributing factor to the quality of these assets comes from the clean-up process. The footage has been thoroughly processed to remove artefacts, background elements, inconsistencies, unfavourable behaviours and various other corrections; providing a clean and polished VFX asset that exclusively features the essential sparks. Further processing has been accomplished to perfectly eliminate any hard edges on the edge of the frame – no sparks will be immediately cut off as they fly out of the footage. This especially helps when the spark effect has been positioned far from the camera or scaled down until edges become visible. Wherever you position your effect, you will have confidence that it will just work with no hassle.

Some assets are designed to fill the entire screen as overlays, whose borders have not had feathering applied. This can easily be re-applied by adding a mask around the edges and feathering the edges to achieve a soft blend.

Complex chemical reactions and the black body spectrum cause real-world sparks to radiate a vast array of colors. It is fair for anyone to assume that sparks simply glow a hot firey yellow. But once observing the pyrotechnic explosions taking place up close, Chris decided it was important to preserve the unique oranges, reds, greens and yellows in the final assets. The imperfections in how sparks are illuminated offer unprecedented realism that is difficult to achieve digitally. However, it is possible to use the tint effect to easily adjust the color of your sparks to match a red sci-fi laser blast or a green magic spell.

During the production of these assets, several categories were produced, each featuring a diverse range of spark behaviours. ProductionCrate aims to meet the requirements of any scene imaginable, and so ambitiously build the largest variety of spark asset styles to date. These include:

Spark burst VFX

These spark explosions are perfect for impactful energetic events. Typically beginning with a sudden expansion of red hot embers, before rapidly decelerating from dragging through the air, the dynamic character of these spark VFX assets make them a favorite of the collection.

Careful adjustments were made to these spark burst stock footage elements to ensure that they worked as modular effects. The timing of all the bursts synced with the first frame, allowing mashups of several spark burst effects to be as easy as stacking the clips together.

Large aerial variations are available that have the iconic appearance of the classic death star explosion. These may also be used for various air-burst effects, such as helicopter explosions, asteroid collisions or electricity pylon destruction.

Ceiling spark VFX

Featuring falling sparks and embers, the ceiling sparks give artists flexibility in the placement of their pyrotechnics. Perhaps an incandescent light bulb is exploding due to a power surge, or chaos is unfolding on the engineering deck of the USS Enterprise. Use these spark video effects to add drama to your music video; saving the need to purchase expensive pyrotechnics and follow complicated safety requirements.

Various ground interactions have been included in several of these spark special effects. Sparks bouncing and breaking apart as they collide with these surfaces create a spectacular appearance that once again is very difficult to replicate in a digital simulation. The illumination cast onto the ground by the sparks has also been retained, helping artists seamlessly blend the falling sparks into their footage.

Bullet impact VFX

Quick and easy to composite, these bullet impact VFX stock footage elements are the go-to for building an action scene. These bullet impact effects feature sudden explosive bursts of sparks that rapidly dissipate in the air as they spread out, providing a visual punch that elevates the intensity of a shot.

These can be used for far more than just bullets; artists can creatively insert these into sword clashes, car crashes, robot fist-fights and laser impacts. With over 100+ bullet impact effects available on ProductionCrate, compositors will never run out of variety when using this in a climatic thriller setpiece.

Constant sparks effects

Perfect for factories filled with heavy industrial machinery, these constant spark effects feature a constant directional stream of sparks. Rapidly discharging from their source, the constant spark stock footage is perfect for creating train-derailment wreckage or intense rocket thruster flames. Multiple durations of these are available to download, ranging from one to ten seconds.

Wild sparks effects

Miscellaneous setups were recorded, often purely experimentally to see what interesting things would happen. One pyrotechnic had the idea to hang a spark gerb on the end of a loose rope. The thrust created caused the spark emitter to fly around wildly, creating a chaotic and exciting effect that Chris decided to keep. Another shot saw a firecracker let loose, detonating several times around the ground. Various setups such as these were processed and included in this spark VFX bundle to offer fun options that can not be found elsewhere, and ProductionCrate is eager to see how these are used in projects.


These speciality spark effects feature a rapid discharge of an explosive fuse. Useful in planned demolitions, heists and SWAT ambushes, these charges often follow the geometry of interior surfaces, such as floors and doors.

How to add spark VFX to your video

ProductionCrate promises to provide assets that are compatible with the most diverse range of video editing software. Multi-layer compositing software is recommended for the best experience, such as Adobe After Effects, Adobe Premiere Pro, Hitfilm, Nuke and Davinci Resolve. These VFX editing programs allow anybody to perform a vast range of creative adjustments to meet your artistic vision.

For this tutorial, we will be using Adobe After Effects, although the principles can be replicated in any editing software. Begin by adding the background image or video to the composition, with this particular background being sourced from Pexels.

Empty Train Station in After Effects

Once you’ve browsed ProductionCrate’s collection of 4K spark VFX assets and found your perfect pyrotechnic, download the effect and import it to your project. From here, you will be able to insert the effect onto your footage simply by layering it over your background.

If you have downloaded a pre-keyed version of a spark effect, you’ll immediately see the results. You may experiment with different blending modes, such as Add, Lighten and Screen, each affecting the behaviours of colors differently. David used Lighten, allowing the darker red tones in the sparks to remain visible against the bright background.

How to add 4K Spark VFX to your video in After Effects

Depending on the geometry of your scene, you may need to mask out any objects that should be obscuring the sparks. In David’s case, the platform of the train station confines the spark explosion to a smaller size, and so with two subtraction masks, we can account for this.

How to add 4K Spark VFX to your video in After Effects

At this stage, you may already be happy with the quality of your spark VFX! The process of adding Hollywood-grade spark VFX only takes a few seconds with the power of pre-keyed stock footage elements. You’re now free to combine the sparks with even more elements, such as smaller bursts, falling embers and explosions. Additionally, you can color correct your sparks to match the tone and temperature of the scene.

If you’re working on a commercial or professional film, you may want to elevate the quality of your work with an additional reflection layer. If you’re unsure whether this is worth it, check out the comparison down below. Reflections offer an additional layer of scene interaction that visually integrates your spark stock footage into the environment. While most composited VFX requires a shadow, illumination effects such as sparks require the opposite, as their light is expected to illuminate surfaces in close proximity.

Begin by duplicating the effect, and flipping it vertically. Already you’ll see that we’ve taken the first step in creating a fake reflection.

How to add 4K Spark VFX to your video in After Effects

Clearly, this does not look correct – in the real world, we expect reflections to be darker on rougher surfaces. We will need an additional layer to inform the reflection layer on how bright it should be, otherwise known as a Matte. Copy the background footage, and name it something appropriate. You may precompose any layers if you need to perform additional masking or positioning.

How to add 4K Spark VFX to your video in After Effects

In your spark reflection layer, add an exposure effect. This helps you adjust the strength of the reflection. A color filter effect will allow you to intensify the coloring of the reflection, as the washed-out white colors in a spark effect may in reality be really bright orange. The final ingredient is the Set Matte effect. When using the background matte layer’s luminance values, we’re approximating the brightness of the reflection based on the brightness of the background. A great example of this in action is on the metallic rail tracks – its bright appearance in the photo indicates that it is a reflective surface, and so we want this to greater influence the opacity of the spark reflection.

How to add 4K Spark VFX to your video in After Effects

Depending on the roughness of your ground, it can be useful to blur the reflection sparks before these effects are applied. This helps evenly distribute the intensity of the light, simulating the  the bumps, crevices and dented surfaces that break up the reflected light.

How to add 4K Spark VFX to your video in After Effects

Those are the main principles that create an incredible spark explosion effect. You can improve this effect even further with the addition of glow effects, smoke, lingering flames and debris. You can find these additional effects and thousands more in ProductionCrate’s library of 10,000+ assets.

ProductionCrate is excited to see what content artists around the world are able to create with this new collection.

Download ProductionCrate’s media kit for the Spark VFX collection here.

Dr. Strange VFX Tutorial in After Effects

Watch this tutorial and learn how you can become Doctor Strange with VFX!

We have some downloadable content to help you on your VFX journey. Check out these links

Magic Circle VFX

Magic Circle Vector

AE Shield Template

Magic Cloak VFX

Magic Cloak 3D Model


Animate a Photo in After Effects with Photoshop Depth Pass

There are a multitude of techniques you can use to animate a photo in After Effects, but our favorite approach has to be utilizing a depth map.

This hasn’t always been easy. In the past, artists had to manually create a depth map by estimating and painting the greyscale images themselves. With the advances and accessibility of Machine Learning tools, a better approach is now readily available.

Photoshop is leading the charge with their Neural Filters. Here’s how to create a Depth Map in Photoshop.

Select your photo layer, go to Filter > Neural Filters > Depth Blur and toggle it on. Then select Output Depth Map Only and once it is done processing in the cloud, select Duplicate Layer and hit Okay

Now you can easily animate your image using your depth map and the displacement map plugin in After Effects!

If you’re looking to add some nice dust overlay assets, find them here

How to make Fire Text Animations in After Effects – Typekit Download

Download the fire font typography kit here.

How to create Fire Text in After Effects

Introducing your new favorite font, the Inferno Typekit! This tool is designed to help you create your own intense flaming title animations without any specialist editing knowledge required.

The characters from A-Z are free to download for all users. Pro members of the ProductionCrate community can access the full bundle of numbers, symbols and lowercase letters.

Each character is a separate video file, allowing you to combine them in any arrangement to create the fire text. This allows you to individually manage each letter, giving limitless animation potential.

The most impressive part is that these are all loopable fire video effects. So if your video is a 10-second commercial or an hour-long broadcast, this fire text can be repeated infinitely with perfect seamless transitions. All you need to do is duplicate the fire text and place it directly after the first, transforming them into one consistent animation.

Fire Text Tutorial

For this, we will be using Adobe After Effects. However, the process is incredibly simple and can easily be replicated in your own editing software, whether that’s Hitfilm, Premiere Pro or Sony Vegas. You’ll also need to download our Inferno Typekit here.

One advantage of using Adobe After Effects is that you can download and install our Typekit Script for Pro users. This tool automatically writes the correct text into your composition, however, you can easily drag and position each layer manually. You can run this script by navigating to File -> Scripts -> Run Script File -> TypeCrate.jsx.

Hit the ProductionCrate logo at the top to open your preferences. Here you can press “choose” to navigate to the folder where you have installed your fire Typekit.

You’re now free to type in the text you want to be generated, here I’ll type “Inferno” and press Generate.

How to create Fire Text in After Effects

It’s as easy as that!

From here we can stylise the effect. I’ll be adding some of our new ember VFX assets which are easily composited with a screen blend mode.

Fire Text in After Effects Tutorial

Another effective bundle of assets are the new mini smoke plume video effects which I will once again use a screen blend for. I’ll make a circular mask and feather it so that it appears that the flames are illuminating the smoke.

Fire Text in After Effects Tutorial

Adding plenty of glow effects before applying our final colour corrections to the contrast will complete the look of the shot. I used Crate’s Heat Radiation to create the final grading of the flames, as well as some sharpening to enhance the details in the flames.

ProductionCrate’s mission is to help you create the impossible. Join our growing community today to check out over 10,000+ exclusive VFX, sound effects, music, 3D models and tools.

If you’re interested in our other typekits, check them out here!

How to create Alien Invasion VFX – Tutorial

To prove the power of ProductionCrate assets, we put them to the test by creating a large-scale city destruction VFX shot.

ProductionCrate is a library of over 10,000+ professional video effects, stock footage, sound effects and 3D models. You’ll be happy to hear that a lot of these assets are free to download, while Pro users can access the entire library, including 4K assets.

We’re constantly updating our library with new and exciting creative content, such as our most recent bundle of 4K dust and smoke accents.

Download 4K Smoke Burst VFX Assets

These have been built in with alpha-mattes using a Quicktime PNG codec so that you simply need to drag and drop this into your project. This, with the different file formats available for you to download, means our VFX assets are compatible with After Effects, Hitfilm, Premiere Pro and more.

Another brand new asset that we used in the shot is our 3D alien spaceship model. This is provided in OBJ format, the most widely supported file type, compatible with Blender, 3ds Max, Cinema4D, Element3D and more.

GraphicsCrate provided a huge level of control for the look of the environment. While video assets are good for explosions and lasers, static graphics can give us the power to add cracks, scorch marks and rubble to our scene.

Here’s the full list of assets we used in this video:





You can learn exactly how we built this shot by watching our latest tutorial, which covers several valuable compositing techniques that will improve your skills. Enjoy!

If you’re interested in some fantastic new sound effects for your cinematic trailers, take a look at them here.

How to Install Scripts to After Effects (Windows and Mac)

After Effects scripts are a powerful way to automate and accomplish tasks that would have otherwise taken far longer.

For example, many popular scripts automate the way that you animate, automatically adjusting keyframes in an instant to save you valuable time and get better results.

If you haven’t tried any out yet, you can browse our library of exclusive scripts and plugins. Many of them are free to download, while Pro members of the ProductionCrate community can access the entire collection, as well as over 10,000 other creative assets.

Thankfully, installing these scripts is an incredibly easy process, and works the same on both Windows and Mac. We also ensure that our tools are compatible with the most recent versions of After Effects (CC 2018, CC 2019).

Our example today will be walking through the installation of our free Hologram generator script which has just launched!


1 – Extract the script to “/Adobe After Effects CC 2019/Support Files/Scripts”

If you don’t have any .zip file tools, you can use WinWar.

Using this software to open the .zip file that you download will allow you to then drag the files to a new location. Make sure that you extract all of the content from the zip file.

Our destination is usually found in the Program Files folder. In most cases the full directory is:

C:\Program Files\Adobe\Adobe After Effects CC 2019\Support Files\Scripts

But if you are using any other Adobe CC version, feel free to place it there instead.

How to Run Scripts in After Effects

2 – Create your After Effects composition

Most of our tools won’t work if there’s no footage for it to work on!

3 – Click File -> Scripts -> Run Script File

From here you can then navigate to the place you extracted the files to. Clicking on the “.jsx” file will then launch your chosen script.

Fixing Errors

There’ll always be the chance that something goes wrong. We’ve compiled a list of steps you can take to troubleshoot these issues


Take a moment to quickly look back in the zip folder, and check if all of the contents are also in the After Effects script folder. If it isn’t, simply drag it all over again!


Go through Edit -> Preferences -> General. A window will open with a bunch of checkboxes, where you can enable “Allow Scripts to Write Files and Access Network”.

Call for backup

If all else fails, you can ask on the forums, the comments below or contact us at, we’ll happily try our best to help out!


Achieve True Cinematic Footage with log

What do people mean when they say ‘cinematic’?

You’ve seen the videos suggesting harsh color-grading, or the tutorials that tell you to just throw on some aspect-ratio bars. The truth is, there is no simple one-step solution. Quality footage shot with dynamic range will allow you to create the exact look you want. There are the shooting-steps and then the post processing-steps, you have to work on both if you are going to improve your videos.

Today you’ll get to learn a bit about shooting with log. Alex and Alexsa from Crate’s Camera Corner will break down the basics for utilizing this powerful feature available on many consumer cameras.

The true definition of log can be a bit confusing, so let me try and summarize it. Log images look washed out and flat. Suffice it to say you will not like the look of footage shot with log. At least, not until you color it. Log footage is made to be extremely dynamic, storing color and luminosity with loads of depth, allowing you to truly hone in on whatever look you would like to achieve. Yes, that does mean log footage requires more work than you might be used to. If you’re shooting a vlog you probably won’t want to shoot with log, but if you’re shooting a film or client video then log may be right for you.

create cinematic footage with log

Alex and Alexsa shoot with Sony, so they use the S-Log2 setting. Different cameras will have different log formats. Shooting log does take practice, we don’t suggest you try it when the stakes are high. Instead shoot some test footage, or if you are a Pro User you can download this aerial clip shot with log and practice your coloring in post.

An important thing to note is that you need to nail your exposure if you’re shooting with log. It is less forgiving than out of the box picture profiles or standard color outputs. We only suggest you shoot log if you know how to get properly exposed shots and are willing to take the time in post production to hone in on your color.

Check out the first episode of Crate’s Camera Corner


Want to know more? Alex will show you his workflow and approach to coloring in Premiere Pro including how to build your own LUT to load onto your external monitor.

The aerial stock elements Alex mentions can be found here

Want to know the top 5 Mistakes Videographers make on their websites? Check this article out

Rotoscoping Tricks in Adobe After Effects and Mocha AE

Adrian Jensen recently created this Pro VFX Course teaching you his techniques for rotoscoping in Adobe After Effects and Mocha AE. Here are some highlights from his course, Pro Users can view the entire roto-series here. If you’re rotoscoping to place video effects behind your subject or to integrate Motion Graphics into your project then this course is for you.

Rotoscope with Masking in After Effects

This is the most common technique for rotoscoping in After Effects. Some think it is antiquated, however we utilize it all the time.

When you’re using masks to roto in After Effects don’t try to use one mask. This may seem like the correct approach at first, but you’ll quick realize how complex and messy it will become. Instead, break up your subject(s)  with multiple masks, this will speed up your workflow tremendously.

A lot of tutorials suggest a fixed number of frames to move before keyframing. Adrian suggests keyframing your masks at the point of most-motion as a better approach.

There are two different kinds of masks you can use, Adrian prefers the Auto-Bezier mask option.

Remember, you can double click your masks and rotate them, this will save time, especially for rigid body objects. You don’t have to move each mask point by point every time.

Color code your masks. This will help distinguish them from one another, and will help if your mask looks too similar to the subject you are trying to roto out.

Rotoscoping with Mocha AE

Boris FX Mocha AE

Adrian’s preferred method for rotoscoping is Mocha AE.

Mocha AE comes with After Effects and is a terrific tool for motion tracking and rotoscoping work.

You can track multiple masks (or ‘layers’) at one time with Mocha AE. Adrian still recommends multiple masks for your subject, instead of attempting one mask.

When using Mocha AE set your spline up and let it track all the way through before making any adjustments.

Lock your mask when you are done with it, you can turn off the Gear icon to disable processing.


Want to learn more? Visit Adrian’s Pro Rotoscoping Course and get your roto-game leveled up. Adrian covers masking, Mocha, the Roto Brush Tool and even techniques to avoid rotoscoping entirely.

Hidden Visual Effects

Story: The Great Unseen Equalizer in VFX

There is an art to using VFX as an unseen tool. So much consideration goes into the curating of what you, the viewer, see at any given moment, that it is easy to forget about what you don’t see in a shot. But more often than not, what you don’t see is where the best and most impactful story moments lie.

In VFX, just because we can do anything and everything doesn’t always mean we should. So often audiences and media focus on what we can see and what is shown on screen in VFX. When The Avengers and Game of Thrones are the baseline for visual excellence, the bar is pretty high. Freeze frame any moment from those shows and the still image is a renaissance painting.  (Unless there is Starbucks cup.)

But ultimately consideration for VFX emerges from a directorial, editorial story perspective. A visual should not exist simply for the sake of existing.

Curious about what are some of the ways to use VFX with restraint or purpose in more subtle and useful ways?


Back to the Basics and Classics

A sense of film history is the best tool you can use when figuring out your shot. Think back to a world of Alfred Hitchcock and Rod Serling; a world of storytelling where it is not so much what you show, but what you don’t and how that restraint can serve the better purpose of your story.

Take for example, one of my most favorite episodes of The Twilight Zone, Eye of The Beholder (Watch it on Hulu.)

The Twilight Zone was created during the infancy of television, an episode conceived in 1960, almost 60 years ago. In Eye of the Beholder, the filmmakers obfuscate, misdirect, and use light and contrast as an unspoken character. The claustrophobic visual language creates a foreboding slow build, leading to a masterful, gasp worthy reveal.


Yet, you would think that since it’s almost 100 years old, it should be primitive in its filmmaking, with all that limitation of technology. Rather the opposite,  Eye of the Beholder manages to pack a gut-punch allegory on Nazism and conformity, against the backdrop of a totalitarian state, using mostly shadows, concerted camera movement and actors backs to camera. Even with such heady topics, nothing in the production feels cheapened, nothing feels lost to age, it holds up remarkably well as a gem of perfection.


With just light and camera direction The Twilight Zone achieves masterful commentary about the perceived value of homogeny in beauty. What we, the viewer, don’t see informs the story just as much as what we are allowed to see. This gives so much weight to the double-blind reveal. What does her face look like? Is she a monster?! What do the doctors look like? Eye of the Beholder remains riveting and engaging television by any modern measure. If they can do that with so little, there’s nothing you can’t do.


Technically Difficult and Time Consuming? Yes, if it serves story.

Way back in 1948, Alfred Hitchcock audaciously sought to create a seemingly single take film.  Rope was an amazing and difficult orchestration, with entire magazines of film taking up the length of each take. Hitchcock’s use of “the television technique” was unheard of and novel and considered by many “daring” for a mainstream director at the time.

This single take (“one shot”) approach popularized by Hitchcock has been adapted, paid homage to over and over since then, which only stands to show how clever the concept was in its infancy. From The X-Files to Birdman to Mr Robot, each new attempt at this concept acknowledges its roots and predecessors then ups the ante and reliance on VFX to create the seamless intended story effect. The most recent entry in this category may be to the 59 minute 3D shot in Long Day’s Journey Into Night.

Don’t be discouraged if something technically difficult requires testing, rehearsal, pre-vis and blocking. A deliberate approach harkens back to my thoughts on Mise en Place for production. When you are able to plan for VFX during production process versus an afterthought, you’re putting they story front and center.

Mr. Robot is unique and well known for capturing accurate technical details about computing and hacking, so it’s no surprise that an immense amount of technical preparation went into creation of the episode with a special focus on the shots and camera movement.


This breakdown video shows everything from general environment clean up, stitching, tracking and compositing of multiple takes. All this is required to create a seamless and invisible shot. Read more from the director of Mr. Robot’s eps3.4_runtime-err0r.r00.

Imagine if Alfred Hitchcock had the same kind of VFX capability. In Rope, Hitchcock wound up re-shooting the ending segments, because he was dissatisfied with the color of the sunset. Today, perhaps he would ask his team environment painters (Digital Matte Painters) to paint and adjust the background accordingly.  


Use Constraints to Elevate Story

Figuring out how to “make it work” in filmmaking is a feature not a bug. Famously there is a story about a director that wanted to shut down an entire freeway for a large multi-car crash scene. With a logistical nightmare of permits, stunt men and traffic the Producer griped “Can’t we just make it a reverse shot in a telephone booth?”

Never has there been a more honest and funny acknowledgement of such constraints than in a movie sequel like the Phil Lord & Chris Miller‘s 22 Jump Street – in which, if you didn’t know, is an entire movie is based on the construct of what a sequel is, and what happens in sequels. It’s fun.

Police Captain Dickerson, played by Ice Cube, makes it crystal clear in this movie, there is no budget for a big police chase like last time. As a reminder, Jonah Hill’s character yells to turn the car “whichever way is cheaper!”

This is called “making it work.” With a wink and a nod, 22 Jump Street opts to make all the action happen off screen.

It’s a funny moment with loud off screen banging and crashing. If this were a large tent-pole movie perhaps there would be hundreds of interior shots of CG robots and equipment being destroyed in real time. As the cars exit the other side of the building, Channing Tatum’s character quips: “Wow, there was a lot of expensive stuff in there.” We’re all in on the joke now.

The next time you feel you have to “show it all” think about these examples of unseen story in VFX, remember your filmmaking roots, commit to the vision, see it through and make something awesome.


Check out this fantastic video showing off some great hidden VFX. Remember, Visual Effects are a tool, just like any other. Don’t be limited in how you utilize them.

David Fincher utilizes Visual Effects to achieve what he cannot in a real-life scenario.