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Using the New Warp Stabilizer in Adobe After Effects CS6

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In this excerpt from Adobe After Effects CS6 Classroom in a Book, you will learn how to use the Warp Stabilizer to stabilize a handheld camera shot and to track one object to another in an image so that their motion is synchronized. Then you will use corner-pinning to track an object with perspective. Finally, you will explore some of the high-end digital effects available in After Effects CS6: a particle system generator and the Timewarp effect.

Note: This excerpt is from the forthcoming book Adobe After Effects CS6 Classroom in a Book, ISBN 9780321822437.

In previous lessons, you’ve used many of the essential 2D and 3D tools you need for motion graphics design. But Adobe After Effects CS6 also offers motion stabilization, motion tracking, advanced keying tools, distortion effects, the capability to retime footage using the Timewarp effect, support for high dynamic range (HDR) color images, network rendering, and much more. In this lesson, you will learn how to use the Warp Stabilizer to stabilize a handheld camera shot and to track one object to another in an image so that their motion is synchronized. Then you will use corner-pinning to track an object with perspective. Finally, you will explore some of the high-end digital effects available in After Effects CS6: a particle system generator and the Timewarp effect.

This lesson includes multiple projects. Take a peek at all of them before beginning.

  1. Make sure the following files are in the AECS6_CIB/Lessons/Lesson13 folder on your hard disk, or copy them from the Adobe After Effects CS6 Classroom in a Book DVD now:
    • In the Assets folder: flowers.mov, Group_Approach[DV].mov, majorspoilers.mov, metronome.mov, mocha_tracking.mov, multipoint_tracking.mov
    • In the Sample_Movies folder: Lesson13_Multipoint.mov, Lesson13_Particles.mov, Lesson13_Stabilize.mov, Lesson13_Timewarp.mov, Lesson13_Tracking.mov
  2. Open and play the sample movies in the Lesson13/Sample_Movies folder to see the projects you will create in this lesson.
  3. When you’re done, quit QuickTime Player. You may delete these sample movies from your hard disk if you have limited storage space.

Using the Warp Stabilizer

If you shoot footage using a handheld camera, you will probably end up with shaky shots. Unless this look is intentional, you’ll want to stabilize your shots to eliminate unwanted motion.

The Warp Stabilizer in After Effects automatically removes extraneous jitters. When played back, the motion appears smooth, because the layer itself is scaled and moves incrementally to offset the unwanted movement.

Setting up the project

As you start After Effects, restore the default application settings for After Effects. See “Restoring default preferences” on page 3.

  1. Press Ctrl+Alt+Shift (Windows) or Command+Option+Shift (Mac OS) while starting After Effects CS6 to restore default preferences. When asked whether you want to delete your preferences file, click OK.
  2. Click Close to close the Welcome screen.

After Effects opens to display a new, untitled project.

  1. Choose File > Save As > Save As.
  2. In the Save As dialog box, navigate to the AECS6_CIB/Lessons/Lesson13/Finished_Projects folder.
  3. Name the project Lesson13_Stabilize.aep, and then click Save.

Importing the footage

You need to import one footage item to start this project.

  1. Double-click an empty area of the Project panel to open the Import File dialog box.
  2. Navigate to the AECS6_CIB/Lessons/Lesson13/Assets folder. Select the flowers.mov file, and then click Open.

Creating the composition

Now, you will create the composition.

  1. Drag the Flowers.mov clip in the Project panel onto the Create A New Composition button (icon) at the bottom of the panel.

After Effects creates a new composition named Flowers with the same pixel size, aspect ratio, frame rate, and duration of the source clip.

  1. Click the RAM Preview button in the Preview panel to preview the footage. This clip was shot with a handheld camera in the late afternoon. A slight breeze rustles the vegetation, and the camera moves unsteadily.

Applying the Warp Stabilizer

The Warp Stabilizer gets to work as soon as you apply it. Stabilization is a background process, so you can work on other compositions while it works. How long it takes depends on your system. After Effects displays a blue banner while it analyzes the footage, and then displays an orange banner while it applies stabilization.

  1. Select the flowers.mov layer in the Timeline panel, and choose Animation > Warp Stabilizer. The blue banner appears immediately.
  2. When the Warp Stabilizer has finished stabilizing, and the orange banner has disappeared, create another RAM preview to view the changes.
  3. Press the spacebar to stop the preview.

The clip is still shaky, but it’s smoother than it was initially. The Warp Stabilizer moved and repositioned the footage. To see how it applied changes, view the effects in the Effect Controls panel. For example, the clip’s borders were scaled to 102.8% to hide black gaps that occur when the image is repositioned in the stabilization process. You’ll adjust the settings the Warp Stabilizer uses.

Adjusting the Warp Stabilizer settings

You’ll change the settings in the Effect Controls panel to make the shot smoother.

  1. In the Effect Controls panel, increase the Smoothness amount to 75%.

The Warp Stabilizer immediately begins stabilizing again. It doesn’t need to analyze the footage, because the initial analysis data is stored in memory.

  1. When the Warp Stabilizer has finished, create another RAM preview to view the changes.
  2. Press the spacebar to stop playback when you’re done.

It’s better but it’s still a little rough. The Auto-scale setting in the Effect Controls panel now displays 103.75%; the effect moved the frames more dramatically, requiring more scaling to eliminate black gaps around the edges.

Rather than change the amount the Warp Stabilizer smooths the footage, now you’ll change its goal.

  1. In the Effect Controls panel, choose No Motion from the Result menu. With this setting, the Warp Stabilizer attempts to lock the camera in position. This requires even more scaling. When No Motion is selected, the Smoothness option is dimmed.
  2. When the orange banner disappears, create another RAM preview. Press the spacebar to stop the playback.

Now the camera stays in position, so that the movement you notice is the rustling of the flowers in the wind, not the shakiness of the camera. In order to achieve this effect, the Warp Stabilizer had to scale the clip to 114.5% of its original size.

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