Ident – The Making of – Fun with After Effects and Mocha

After seeing my short “Not with a bang” when he was the judge at St Neots Film Festival, Christian “Documentally” Payne hinted that he’d quite like an ident for his videos in a similar style, so seeing as it was his birthday and I hadn’t got him a card…….

You can watch the ident above and read about how I made it below :)

Christian said he wanted something “dystopian” so armed with a Sony A7SII and a CameTV Optimus gimbal I went out and shot some short clips in a deserted town center in deepest darkest England. Obviously not on a Friday night because who wants to walk around with loads of expensive gear and long hair in an English town center with all those drunk Brexit supporters, not me that’s for sure.
I was looking for big signs to replace with his website address, a shot that could be anywhere and which signs I would need to replace that were parallaxing behind other things as that is a lot of extra work.

Once I had watched the footage, decided on which shot I was going to use and imported it into Premiere Pro to trim it to the correct length, the fun began.
The workflow I used was similar to the process used in “Not with a bang” but thankfully less complicated, it goes like this:-

For each sign or element that needs replacing find the frame in the original video where it is at its largest and export a TIFF of that frame, making a note of the frame number.

Open it up in Photoshop and paint out unwanted elements (e.g. text) in the original sign using a combination of the clone tool, fills and adding noise to make it look as “in the scene” and natural as possible.
Add in any text or images that will replace the original sign. Tweak to taste referring back to the original frame to match grain, lighting and faux-3d position.

Turn off the background layer in Photoshop and export a transparent PNG of the whole 1080p frame with just the new element and its background.
Open a new After Effects composition, import the footage and the transparent PNG you just created.
Marvel at how great it looks, or tweak it using curves etc until it does.
Open a new Mocha Pro project and import the footage.
Carefully track the sign/element you are replacing paying particular attention to the planar surface, the corners need to be accurately placed and tracked for this to be convincing.
This step can get complicated if the track doesn’t want to play ball or if the element you want to track passes behind other things in the scene or if there are lots of reflections or if the scene is shot at night and the footage is grainy or……lots of other reasons. Just persevere with it, Mocha is very good at tracking (way WAY better than the native tracking in After Effects).
Once you have a good track position the play head in Mocha to the frame number you took the original still from and use the “align selected surfaces” button to push the corners of the planar surface out to the corners of the 1080p frame.
Hit the “Export Tracking Data” button and copy the “After Effects Corner Pin (supports motion blur)” data to the clipboard.

Hop back into after effects and paste the data onto the PNG layer (with the playhead at the beginning of the composition)
Play back the composition and exclaim –  1) “oooh that looks nice” or 2) “fuck that doesn’t look right”
For option one, pat yourself on the back, save the after effects project and have a nice cup of your chosen hot beverage, you need to get up and walk around now because you’ve been at staring at a screen for long enough. For option two, try to figure out why it looks shit and go back into Mocha to refine the track or Photoshop to tweak the replacement until you get to option one.

Deep vein thrombosis averted re-watch the original clip paying very close attention to any reflections that pass over your replaced element or brightness changes that occur over the clip duration.
In After Effects watch your composition again and think about wether you need to add brightness/curve adjustments over time to mimic any changes you noticed occurring in the original shot.
If you noticed reflections you may need to place a copy of the original footage over the top of your lovely tracked replacement and mask some areas so we can see the reflections again, it needs to look as real as possible because our brains are very fucking good at noticing when it doesn’t.


Right done all that? Now go back to the beginning and do it all again for every element you want to replace!
If one of your elements passes behind another element in the scene scratch your head and think about how you are going to make that work with a combination of masked copies of the original footage or some other voodoo.
If there is a reflection of something you have replaced visible in a shiny surface in your footage you are going to have to deal with that too. It will be a pain in the arse, especially if the surface it is reflecting in is curved, good luck with that.

Ok, really all done and happy?
Great! Render out the final composition from After Effects as a nice high quality ProRes file.
Import it back into the original Premiere Pro sequence and place it above your original footage.
Add any additional effects like the old TV or RGB split ones I used in places, add an adjustment layer and colour grade to your chosen look.
Add in the lovely audio track that you got sent to complete the recipe…
Export to a nice internet friendly codec.
Upload to Vimeo or Youtube and send your friend/client a link and revel in all the praise they heap upon you for your great (and fast) work.
Go and have a well deserved beer.

Alternatively hire me to do it all for you, my rates are surprisingly reasonable.

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