Download Crate’s Face Relighter for Pro users here Windows Compatible Only
When compositing VFX into live-action footage, one thing is absolutely essential to get right – lighting.
This is the most powerful and crucial aspect of blending visual effects into video. When done correctly, replicating the real-world behaviour of light helps convince your viewers that what they’re seeing is real. Because light bounces, scatters and casts shadows in a specific predictable manner, it’s very easy for anyone to identify lighting that doesn’t follow the properties of reality. This is especially the case on human faces, which almost always becomes the focal point of any shot. That is why it’s so important to get it right.
Crate’s Face Relighter aims to revolutionize the face-relighting workflow. We’re offering a powerful AI-assisted After Effects tool that provides a creative new way to illuminate your actor’s faces. This can assist VFX artists to create better muzzle flashes, magic, fire, explosions, holograms, lightsabers and more.
Element3D, a powerful 3D rendering plugin for After Effects, is required for this to work. By leveraging Element3D’s extensive range of creative controls, such as materials, fully-adjustable lighting and pixel-perfect camera integration, we’re able to offer a user experience that you’re already familiar with. You can purchase and install Element3D from VideoCopilot here.
Let’s take a look at some of the ways you can use Crate’s Face Relighter in After Effects.
The much-loved iconic plasma blades have always presented the challenge of casting illumination on the hero or villain’s face. Without LED lights lining the length of the laser using an expensive prop, it is notoriously difficult to fake the bright light shining on an actor; a task typically requiring many hours of tedious keyframes and masking.
By using Crate’s Face Relighter, we’re able to represent the laser with a simple After Effects light. You can adjust the properties so that it matches the brightness and color of your desired effect perfectly. From there, our tool will handle the complex illumination of your actor’s face, automatically tracking both the position, orientation and facial structure with near-perfection.
Magic VFX are some of the most visually spectacular effects that can be produced. Not only is it fun, but it’s as easy as adding our magic stock footage from FootageCrate over your background using a screen blending mode. Combining particles, flames, smoke and plasma can let you produce any imaginable sequence of magic powers: telekinesis, portals, superpowers, teleportation and spells. Once you’re happy with the special effects, you’ll usually need to perform some final compositing corrections, one of these being simulating realistic lighting in your environment.
A great example is if your wizard is summoning a ball of fire. We want this to be an emissive effect, and so it’s imperative that we help improve our compositing by creating fake lighting in the footage. This After Effects extension provides an effortless solution; delivering a responsive and realistic facial light that interacts with the shape of the actor’s face. You can combine lights and color them differently to produce multi-angled illumination for more complex scenes – we aim to avoid any restrictions on your creativity in any way.
As the VFX industry has grown, using digitally composited fire has become the mainstream choice for most producers in their video projects. Not only is it safer to keep actors away from pyrotechnics, but it is also less expensive and provides the VFX artist with the ability to control the look and behaviour of their fire in post-production. These are highly important benefits to filmmakers, and so you’ll need to be prepared and know how best to create convincing fire. We recommend taking a look at our extensive collection of professional fire stock footage to help you achieve any scene, ranging from small embers to raging infernos.
Ensuring that your digital flames illuminate your footage environment helps elevate your VFX closer to reality. Being able to utilize Crate’s Face Relighter means that the complex shadows from the nose, eyes and lips are correctly produced on an actors face. You can even use After Effects expressions, such as “wiggle(5,30)”, to cause your After Effects lights to flicker, delivering a dynamic lighting setup that can’t be replicated with standard LED lights.
Muzzle flashes are some of the first steps any VFX artist takes when compositing with live-action footage; and are deceptively difficult to do correctly. While quick muzzle flashes can often be achieved by simply layering some muzzle flash assets in the correct position, a realistic effect fit for a film would typically require the additional effort of illuminating the face of who is firing the gun. By using this tool, you’ll be able to do this quickly – simply animating the opacity of the illumination layer from 0% to 100% every time the muzzle flash is visible. This provides an effective way to speed up your workflow, especially when considering that some muzzle flashes may require hundreds of frames to be relit. You’ll be emphasising the impact and power of the muzzle flash with the light that it emits.
How to relight a face in After Effects for VFX?
To get started, you must have Element3D installed into After Effects, as well as a Pro ProductionCrate membership. Please be aware that this tool is highly experimental, and we cannot guarantee that it will work on your system. We are in no way affiliated with Element3D, and will not be able to provide support for Video Copilot’s product, our face-relighting tool simply uses it for the rendering process.
Once you’ve run our installer, simply open the tool by navigating to Window -> Extensions -> Crate’s Face Relight. We’ve done as much as we can to simplify the workflow using this After Effects extension, and so you’ll only need to perform a few steps!
Input Video – First, select your input video. You’ll require an MP4, MOV or ProRes4444 file.
Output Folder – The tool works by converting an input video file into a 3D OBJ sequence. This contains a 3D mesh of the actor’s face, including their position, orientation and posture, each stored in an individual file for each frame. As you can expect hundreds of files depending on the length of your project, we recommend you create an empty folder to deposit the sequence of files.
Launch App – Once you’re ready, hit “Launch app”. The tool will begin processing your footage frame-by-frame. A black console window may appear, but that’s expected due to how the tool works. You can even look at the files being generated in real-time by visiting your Output folder! If the conversion process gets stuck, it’s likely that no face was detected in a particular frame, in which case you simply click “Force Quit” on the interface.
Element3D – In most cases, this should remain checked. This will simply optimize the output mesh in a way that best works with Element3D.
Cinema4D – Checking this will enable a unique mesh generation mode that keeps each vertex-index consistent on the face. This means that in 3D packages such as Cinema4D, 3ds Max and Blender, it’s easier to attach objects to vertices in the face mesh. To retain the index consistency, the polygons are un-welded. To optimize in C4D simply merge your OBJ sequence, set proper frame-rate, select OBJ mesh and enter Polygon Mode, and with all your polygons selected right click and select Optimize. Download the C4D Template here to have your camera pre-calibrated.
Setup Scene – Once the files have been generated, clicking “Setup Scene” will produce a new composition with several layers included, kickstarting your relighting adjustments.
Before we relight the face, we must first open Element3D. Select layer 7 of your composition, and hit “Scene Setup”.
Once the Element3D interface has opened, hit File -> Import -> 3D Sequence.
A file dialogue will open, navigate to your chosen Output folder, and select the first frame of your sequence (for example, “0000.obj”).
An import preferences panel will appear. Here, you must change “Force Alignment” to “From Model”. This helps the face mesh align itself with the footage. You’re now safe to hit “Ok” and close the Element3D scene editor.
You should now be seeing results!
If your face mesh doesn’t line up quite perfectly, we recommend adjusting the “Zoom” parameter in the composition camera.
We know that artists don’t like being restricted, which is why we’ve ensured that the default preset is as open to interpretation as possible. By clicking the Shy switch above the timeline, you’ll be displayed additional layers which can be adjusted to fine-tune the blending of the light with the face. This includes the luma matte (which sharpens the details of the light), and the feathering system (which gradually blurs the edges of the face illumination layer). Feel free to adjust these however you feel works best for your project!
We’re looking forward to seeing you make use of this face relighting tool in your After Effects VFX project! If you’re interested in our other plugins, scripts and extensions, check them out here.