On June 18 a new version of Adobe After Effects, After Effects CC 2014, has been released on the Adobe Creative Cloud. Since it is a new version rather than a minor upgrade, you have to install it as a separate application from the Creative Cloud desktop app.
In this post I will cover some of the exciting new features that are available in After Effects CC 2014.
One of the most common techniques in Visual Effects is using a green (or blue) screen as backdrop for your actor and then keying out this screen to place your actor on a different background layer. After Effects CC 2014 adds 2 new effects to help you get a clean key when working with grainy footage or with footage that suffers from compression artefacts. These two new effects are Key Cleaner and the Advanced Spill Suppressor. You can find them under the Keying tab in the Effects & Presets panel.
Both of these effects are designed to be used in conjunction with the Keylight effect so a typical setup would see the Keylight effect followed by the Key Cleaner and then by the Advanced Spill Suppressor.
Here is a typical green screen scenario. Ignore the fact that the green screen setup itself is pretty awful - the green screen is not smooth and the lighting on it is rather irregular. Once the green screen has been removed using the Keylight effect in After Effects, you may see some ugly edges around your actor. Have a look at how rugged Mario's hair looks in the shot on the right.
This can be caused by blocky compression in your footage, but also by a rather bad green screen setup - like the one I had when I shot this scene. This is often compensated for by jacking up the strength of the Keylight effect, leading to ugly, hard edges in your key.
The Key Cleaner effect in Adobe After Effects CC 2014 can help reduce the harshness of your edges by removing any noise from the underlying footage. Have a look at how much more detail can be seen in the green screen matte after applying the Key Cleaner after the Keylight effect.
In the screenshot below you can see the results of applying the Key Cleaner effect to the final green screened clip on the left. Note that Mario's hair has gotten a rather green tint, but we can easily remove that by also applying the Advanced Spill Suppressor in After Effects CC 2014. On the right hand side you can see the final, cleaned result.
After Effects long had the concept ofAdjustment Layers which allow you to apply effects to specific areas of your footage. After Effects CC 2014 takes this concept one step further and introduces Effect Masks. These masks can be applied to individual effects and control the area that will be affected.
Let's assume you wanted to darken your entire footage, except the area around your actor. In the old world you might make a copy of the footage layer, add a mask over your actor to cut them out of the upper layer and then apply a Brightness & Contrast effect to darken everything except the area around your actor.
In After Effects CC 2014 you can apply a mask directly to the Brightness & Contrast effect. First, add a mask to the layer that you want to work work with. In the screenshot below, I have cut out the area around Walter.
Apply a Brightnss & Contrast effect to the layer and then expand the effect properties in the Layer window. Every effect in After Effects CC 2014 now has a new setting for Compositing Options. Click on the little '+' to add Compositing Options to the Brightness & Contrast effect.
In the Compositing Options you will find a Mask Reference property. Simply select the mask you added earlier as your Mask Reference. This will restrict the area of the effect to the area of the mask. Super easy!
Note that the mask on the layer has been marked with a little 'fx' to indicate that this mask is now a Mask Reference for an effect. All of the normal settings for the mask are still available and will now control the area of the effect the mask is tied to. I have set my mask to 'Subtract' to only have the Brightness & Contrast effect applied to the area not covered by the mask.
We now have full control over the area of the Brightness & Contrast effect and without having to duplicate layers or use Adjustment Layers, we can control where individual effects are applied to!