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Animating 'hand drawn' graphics over footage and tracking them to movements of people in the scene.

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Jim LarkAnimating 'hand drawn' graphics over footage and tracking them to movements of people in the scene.
by on Mar 22, 2012 at 4:44:11 pm

I've been a user of Final Cut Pro for some time but have always thought I should learn some skills in After Effects, I now have a project where I can see a nice and hopefully simplistic effect that might be good to cut my teeth on.

I'm involved with a documentary that will feature re-enactments of a violent attack. I have some specific ideas about some small animations to add to these scenes and as the filming hasn't yet begun I feel like now is a good time to get advice ahead of time.

I wish to represent information regarding the angle and force with which an object was used to strike a victim and I want to give the impression that this information is being presented to the viewer as if someone were 'drawing' it for them over the top of the scene. I've drawn these with a sharpie, scanned them and isolated the individual elements, placing them over an alpha layer.

When the footage comes in I want them to gradually appear on screen in the same way that it would appear if a sharpie were tracing them over the top of the screen. I also want for them to, (once the drawing animation is complete) move horizontally and vertically anchored to various tracking points on the screen. For example, tracking to the swinging motion of the assailants arms as they strike the victim.

I'm sure after effects is capable of this, but I've never used it and so I just wonder what tools I need to use and what the simplest (for beginners) methods are to achieve this effect. I think it's a reasonably basic thing for after effects, at least I hope so.


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Kevin CaminRe: Animating 'hand drawn' graphics over footage and tracking them to movements of people in the scene.
by on Mar 23, 2012 at 2:56:12 pm

You can use the Stroke effect to do the draw on. Put the Stroke effect on a empty solid layer and then create mask paths for the Stroke to follow. The parameters are pretty straight forward for the effect.

Tracking can be done in AE (helps greatly to have a target high in contrast). And you can have the stroke follow the track.

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If you are new to AE and this project is coming up soon, I would start learning the fundamentals yesterday. It is an extremely deep and often complicated program. I would really suggest that you do fundamental courses in order to establish a decent baseline to work from. Because if you just do some Stroke and Tracking tutorials, I don't think it will be enough to complete the project. There are other unseen aspects to the process that will require other fundamental parts of AE to be in place. And often things won't look like envisioned and other techniques or effects will need to be employed.

Good luck!

Best regards,

Kevin Camin


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Jim LarkRe: Animating 'hand drawn' graphics over footage and tracking them to movements of people in the scene.
by on Mar 25, 2012 at 8:42:34 am

Thanks mate, I'll look in to the suggested techniques for tutorials. Unfortunately the project is coming up soon and I won't be able to take any kind of lessons or spend too long on those necessary fundamentals, the good news is that this is part of student work and I will have someone who does know what they're doing overseeing my work. It's just that I will only have this person's help once a week and want to try and get my head around as much of what I need to do in the time between sessions with him. At present I'm using some unrelated dummy footage just to practice and am trying to perfect this as much as I can and give the director for this project the best overview of what I'm describing in words to them, visually so they can see the usefulness of the effect as applied to our project.


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Benjamin AusmithRe: Animating 'hand drawn' graphics over footage and tracking them to movements of people in the scene.
by on Mar 26, 2012 at 8:05:23 pm

I personally wouldn't use the stroke effect if you're happy with your drawing. The effect will generate a nice vector drawing, but it will look computer-generated, since it will be. Although that effect totally works in many (most?) situations, if you want to retain that hand-drawn feel, I'd use your actual drawings and have them trace on screen using the Generate > Write-On effect. You'll animate a line as if it were drawing your image, and it'll reveal it depending on how you animate it.

Otherwise, yes, I totally agree with Kevin on this one. Jumping into software with one specific task to do can be tricky. Best of luck!

Benjamin Ausmith
Post-Production Assistant
Monadnock Media, inc.


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