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Professional Video Retouching (hair, skin, etc)

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Robert Morris
Professional Video Retouching (hair, skin, etc)
on Oct 24, 2009 at 6:04:19 pm

Does anyone have professional tips or techniques for retouching hair flyaways and skin blemishes in After Effects? I can think of several ways to do this, but I was wondering if anyone had real production experience in working with this type of project? Like say you have a beauty product commercial, and the client wants the model's hair retouched to remove strands that blow in front of their face or fly off and look too messy. Here are some techniques I would use to approach it (based on whatever assessment of the footage the client provides)... but I'm curious to hear other's thoughts.

- Use a combination of roto masks and track mattes to isolate the strands of hair, then on a copy of the footage, offset the transform or time to find a place where that area was clean, and use the track matte on that copy of the footage over the original.

- Using the above masks and matte, blur a copy of the footage and add back grain to match the original.

These techniques may not work if the area being covered has too much detail.

- On a straight hair or smaller areas, the "CC Simple Wire Removal" filter may work, hand tracking the two control points.

- Clone stamp and vector paint may work, though I haven't used these tools all that much to know their limitations or positives and negatives.

Does anyone have thoughts as to the best way to first approach this type of shot? I realize it's hard without seeing a piece of footage, but I do know there are general first approaches to certain techniques. I would love to hear people's thoughts who have done this in actual production scenarios.

Thanks.
-Robert


Fine Art Drawings | Photography | Compositing | VFX | Titles | Keying | 3D


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Tero Ahlfors
Re: Professional Video Retouching (hair, skin, etc)
on Oct 24, 2009 at 9:30:16 pm

I'd guess that a beauty product shoot would have a small army of make-up artists to do all that so one wouldn't have to worry about it in post.


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Robert Morris
Re: Professional Video Retouching (hair, skin, etc)
on Oct 25, 2009 at 5:00:46 pm

Thank you for that extremely unhelpful and obviously inexperienced response, Tero. Anyone who has worked for a commercial house would know that no matter how good the makeup artists are, and how great the DP is, the agency almost always wants some form of touchup done to a beauty shot. And hair flyaways are extremely common on shoots where a fan is blowing on the model to give added movement and dynamic to the shot. This has NOTHING to do with the quality of the shoot. This is a question about technique in post. I'm amazed someone would even respond with such a blatantly naive comment such as "one wouldn't have to worry about it in post". Unless you were being sarcastic, in which case the response is simply irrelevant.


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Robert Morris
Re: Professional Video Retouching (hair, skin, etc)
on Oct 25, 2009 at 5:18:18 pm

Thanks for giving me the Matlannon Photoshop tutorial on smoothing skin. Unfortunately, I am looking for After Effects techniques, hence why I posted in the After Effects Forum. I guess I should have been more specific and redundant in my lengthy explanation. But I am highly experienced with Photoshop retouching beauty photos. But anyone who has worked in a commercial house will know that retouching video is much different, and there are different techniques that apply.

Your second link was for a very old Andrew Kramer tutorial that uses remove grain and a track matte... similar to what I mentioned in my original post. I wish you would have given a more wordy response, because it appears to me as if you did a quick Google search and don't really have much real-world experience in retouching video. These aren't really helpful to what I was asking for. Andrew's is a very basic technique for smoothing skin, and most commercials do not want a completely smooth plastic looking skin. They want beauty... bringing out certain features, and specific other things removed... like hair flyaways. How about we focus on techniques for hair flyaways to keep this a bit simpler?


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Chris Wright
Re: Professional Video Retouching (hair, skin, etc)
on Oct 25, 2009 at 8:33:13 pm

My friend makes plugins for FCP that were recently used extensively on "E! Entertainment's Excellence on the Red Carpet series". Boris has a skin plugin too. To automate hair flyaway removal you can key with AE's pixel tracker to track the hair start/end points and then simply paste the keyframes into the start/end cc or bcc wire removal effect. Wire/hair its all the same to CC!

Electronic Makeup Artist
http://straylight.tv/pluginz/


Boris skin plugin
http://www.borisfx.com/avid/bccavx_DS/

http://technicolorsoftware.hostzi.com/


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Robert Morris
Re: Professional Video Retouching (hair, skin, etc)
on Oct 25, 2009 at 8:43:29 pm

Thanks, Chris... but the FCP plugins don't seem to help me with After Effects. Besides, I didn't see much there that can't be done in AE with the native filters... same with the Boris FX. I appreciate your suggestion about using CC Wire Removal, but I already mentioned that in my original post. And as I mentioned, it only works with straight hairs, or short segments. And have you ever tried to track the end of a flyaway hair? Not something AE's native tracker can handle too well. Plus, pasting keyframes is a bit clunky these days. Using nulls and layer linking is much more efficient, in my opinion.

Anyone with actual recent production experience doing this type of work in After Effects?


Fine Art Drawings | Photography | Compositing | VFX | Titles | Keying | 3D


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Chris Wright
Re: Professional Video Retouching (hair, skin, etc)
on Oct 25, 2009 at 9:59:29 pm

You did know the wire plugin can bend, right? And using multiple layers is sometimes necessary, but sometimes you have to bite the bullet and clone stamp, heck you should read about the roto nightmares on Pirates of the Caribean.

here's a skin plugin for AE that you requested.
Smoothkit for AE
http://www.revisionfx.com/products/smoothkit/features/

http://technicolorsoftware.hostzi.com/


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Robert Morris
Re: Professional Video Retouching (hair, skin, etc)
on Oct 26, 2009 at 12:19:45 am

By "wire plugin", are you referring to CC Simple Wire Removal? Because it cannot bend. There are two control points, and you adjust the displacement between them in a straight line. So you must be referring to something else. Can you please be more specific?

And thank you for recommending the SmoothKit plugin... I am very familiar with it. But plugins are not what I was requesting. I am asking for techniques that people use in real production projects for hair flyaway removal and compositing beauty enhancements. A plugin is not an answer. It may be a tool people use, but the core techniques and layered effects are key in knowing how to resolve any variety of shots.

Please be extremely descriptive if you have suggestions for certain techniques. Saying "bite the bullet and use the clone stamp" is not very helpful to someone who is asking for techniques they have never used before.


Fine Art Drawings | Photography | Compositing | VFX | Titles | Keying | 3D


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Chris Wright
Re: Professional Video Retouching (hair, skin, etc)
on Oct 26, 2009 at 3:11:11 am

1. Do you mean sparkling skin, rosy cheak enhancements? etc...

2. do you want a ae clone tut?


3. The cc simple wire remover can use slope to get around small curves, but 180 curves you need to be a little more creative. I'll give away a secret that hollywood uses to remove curved wires/ropes. Open the effects control of the project file and enable the last 4 plugins, the curved blue hair will magically disappear from the background. cc bender unwraps the curve then wire removes it and finally picture is un-bended. This all gets motion tracked in realtime in the big movies because removing them by hand can take 9 months or more.

cc wire unwrap example
http://www.megaupload.com/?d=0Z3PLP2S

http://technicolorsoftware.hostzi.com/


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Robert Morris
Re: Professional Video Retouching (hair, skin, etc)
on Oct 26, 2009 at 12:47:18 pm

Thank you for the AE project file, Chris. Now THAT is the type of technique I'm hoping to hear more of. Unfortunately, months down the line this thread may not help other people because that project file may be gone. But using CC Bender to straighten a curved line, then CC Simple Wire Removal to remove the line, and finally CC Bender to reverse the corrected bend... that's a solid example of a good technique, in my opinion. I still think tracking a hair flyaway to make this technique work, would be a lot more hassle in AE. But until someone else posts a better example of a technique, this one is pretty good.

As for your 1 and 2 questions, it's been hard enough to get any sort of "secrets" revealed from people about how to do these sorts of cleanup, so let's stick to the example of removing unwanted hair flyaways. Things like blemishes could fall under similar techniques. I'm not looking for sparkling skin or rosy cheek enhancements. I'm talking more about removing unwanted distractions in a shot.

And so finally, yes, a tutorial on using the clone stamp tool in AE for removing such unwanted hair flyaways would be wonderful, as I haven't been able to find one online. Or even some sort of discussion as to methods, steps, or techniques that for some reason are labeled as "hollywood secrets". I realize a lot of this is guarded, but hopefully people such as yourself are interested in support sites like this one which could help people learn REAL techniques. Of course, there is no substitute for diving into it and learning by trial and error. But I'm still interested to hear how other people approach these shots.


Fine Art Drawings | Photography | Compositing | VFX | Titles | Keying | 3D


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Chris Wright
Re: Professional Video Retouching (hair, skin, etc)
on Oct 27, 2009 at 2:51:48 am

1. Basic 2.5 rig removal
http://library.creativecow.net/articles/larsen_carl/simple25d_rig_removal.p...

2. Blemishes using track matte, smart blur free AE project file
http://forums.creativecow.net/readpost/50/857292

3. Basic roto masks
http://library.creativecow.net/articles/oconnell_pete/roto.php

4. animated masks-scroll halfway down to AE article
http://www.adobe.com/designcenter/cs4/articles/lrvid4107_xp.html

5. clone stamp tutorial for video
http://www.adobe.com/ap/tips/aft6clone/

http://technicolorsoftware.hostzi.com/


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Robert Morris
Re: Professional Video Retouching (hair, skin, etc)
on Oct 27, 2009 at 4:07:22 am

Thanks, Chris. Those are some decent tutorials... albeit quite old. And generally deal with basic techniques of tracking and rotoscoping. But personally, I don't see much in there that would be useful for flyaways without a combination of techniques and extensive tracking/stabilization. I like how tutorials generally do rotoscoping or tracking on locked off shots or shots with an "almost" perfect scenario for what they are trying to teach. Hair flyaways are quite unruly and rarely can be tracked. Pete O'Connell's tutorial touches on some key techniques, albeit quite old and somewhat outdated with newer software such as Mocha and AE's native stabilization. But still a good tutorial nonetheless. I remember watching it years ago when it first came out. His more recent Creative Cow Master series DVDs are much more updated and go into a lot of great (proper) techniques for fast roto work. Good stuff indeed.

I wish there were more people who had techniques or suggestions here on the Cow.


Fine Art Drawings | Photography | Compositing | VFX | Titles | Keying | 3D


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Juan Olivares
Re: Professional Video Retouching (hair, skin, etc)
on Jan 3, 2010 at 3:34:11 pm

Hi robert
I have the same problem here... this is my first time doing hair on a commercial, it's a L'oreal ad. And the agency is VERY annoying with the hair subject.
So... I first tried the same things as you describe on your first post, those was the first things i thought too. But after an hours of trial and error i came up with a "technique"(?)... It's far from been perfect or ideal, but i think it could help in some cases, specially on the shots with a very blurred background (the typical HAIR SHOT).
What i did was duplicate my hair layer, to the one below i put a median effect 'till it make the little hairs go off. Then on the above layer i started to erase the little hairs mixing the eraser tool and in some cases masks. I know it's a pain in the ass to do it, but the good thing is that you don't have to be so much precise because it's all so blurry that it doesn't get noticed.
I'm still trying to make it look better, at this stage it still looks kinda blurry on the edges, but i think if i put a sharpen effect, or something like that, it may give some detail back.
hope it helps!!
PS: Sorry for my english (i'm Chilean) i can speak better than write.
saludos!



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Robert Morris
Re: Professional Video Retouching (hair, skin, etc)
on Dec 24, 2010 at 6:42:34 am

Exactly, Juan... I think the techniques you are using are the core of where a lot of the "Hollywood secrets" originate. But of course, certain other techniques have been refined and developed to be more effective, especially as footage becomes of higher and higher quality. I'm glad I started this thread, because I think it is something that hasn't been touched on too much at these tutorial/discussion sites. There's a lot of students trying to get help learning motion graphics, but some of these more high end real-world production techniques are kinda left as "secrets".

I, too, worked on a Pantene commercial where the client was VERY picky about the hair and skin. Most of the backgrounds in the beauty shots were also blurry, so I was able to experiment with similar techniques to what you were describing, Juan. I only blur enough to remove the flyaways. And a lot of times, I would clone a clean background plate, then mask it back in around the hairline. I found that each shot would require addressing things in a different way, but there were certain things that remained consistent... like the all-important tracking data.

Thanks for your input!


Fine Art Drawings | Photography | Compositing | VFX | Titles | Keying | 3D


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Jim Tierney
Re: Professional Video Retouching (hair, skin, etc)
on Dec 4, 2011 at 5:10:13 pm

Just to add to this post (which I realize is old) since it came up in a search.

We develop the Beauty Box plugin for AE/FCP/Premiere which is developed specifically for skin retouching videos. While plugins may or may not be the total solution they do offer the ability to do some things that aren't possible in After Effects by itself.

The masking part of Beauty Box is something that can be accomplished in AE or FCP, but the smoothing algorithm we're using is not something that you'll find commercially available. For the purposes of skin retouching there's nothing in AE that's comparable.

Given the amount of time you'll save for this type of task, I would recommend at least looking at the various plugin solutions.

You can get more info on Beauty Box here:

(http://digitalanarchy.com/beautyVID/main.html)

cheers,
Jim
-----------
Jim Tierney
Digital Anarchy


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Andrei Nazarov
Re: Professional Video Retouching (hair, skin, etc)
on Aug 20, 2010 at 4:28:37 pm

I "did a quick google" and spotted this Thread. For the topic.
1. I never saw serious post house who does beauty shots with clients behind on ae.
2. My opinion that best friend in this situation is good planar tracking with stabilization like mocha, an handjob with rotopaint.

But I have a question - what is best (except what I already described) to deal with woman cellulite in dynamic lightning conditions :-). ? Plastic skin is no option.


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Chris Wright
Re: Professional Video Retouching (hair, skin, etc)
on Aug 20, 2010 at 7:46:15 pm

Here is a skin plugin for AE
http://www.digitalanarchy.com/beautyVID/main.html


I have since moved on from AE to commotion because it natively supports b-spline(curves). Hope this helps.

http://technicolorsoftware.hostzi.com/


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Robert Morris
Re: Professional Video Retouching (hair, skin, etc)
on Dec 24, 2010 at 6:54:05 am

Andrei, thanks for your response. But I have to say... you must not have seen a lot of serious post houses. I know of several big post houses in NYC that use After Effects for cleanup right alongside Flame systems. It's all about the talented people behind the tools and what the studio is most comfortable using with their given workflow. It's also about being open to doing things quicker and better, with technology and techniques being introduced all the time. You might want to remain a bit more open-minded.

Planar tracking works in some situations, just like any sort of tracking helps. I'm glad that you mentioned stabilization. Because stabilizing a shot will let you clean an area much easier when things aren't moving all over the screen. Great technique! I cleaned up an actress's eye recently, who was stung by a bee. Her eye was inflamed and red, so I stabilized her eye, then reconstructed it on the more or less static area, then re-introduced the movement of the shot to bring it back to its original state. All of this was done on 1080p DPX files. Very clean and efficient workflow that got it done very quickly. The client was pleased.

I've also dealt with cellulite before. The area was a leg with lots of age spots, pores, and wrinkles. You have to address each shot differently, depending on what you can remove and the methods you can use to remove it, while still keeping the skin looking natural. I tracked the leg, then used a series of masks on the skin area. It was a while ago, but I do believe I used two copies of a colored solid tinted with a medium skin color, with blending modes applied to lighten the shadows and darken the highlights. This diminished the artifacts that the client did not want to see in the shot. Then I added back a little grain. This gave the impression that the skin was not so plastic. The important thing is to keep the shape and major defining features in there, while removing only the things that are distracting. It is truly an art. I hope that you found your solution.


Fine Art Drawings | Photography | Compositing | VFX | Titles | Keying | 3D


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Brandon Morris
Re: Professional Video Retouching (hair, skin, etc)
on Mar 3, 2012 at 1:07:26 am

probably too late now, but Red Giant Cosmo is pretty nice.
it isolates skin tones too.
default settings are pretty good, of course it's pretty noticable.
so tweaking will make it less noticable.

Brandon Morris
Co-owner/Creative Director
http://www.fugostudios.com

RED Scarlet, Canon T2i, Panasonic HPX-170
Nikon Primes
Mac Pro 12-core 64GB RAM (2011)
Mac Pro 8-core 12GB RAM (2008)
Mac Pro 4-core 8GB RAM (2006)
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Robert Morris
Re: Professional Video Retouching (hair, skin, etc)
on Mar 3, 2012 at 1:26:05 am

Any plugin like that is good is you want plastic, slick looking skin. Seems to be the trend these days in pop music videos. But most commercials that advertise skin or hair products won't want things to be THAT obviously effected. It should still look natural with texture. That's the art and skill of any kind of facial retouching. There's no real push-button solution. It takes a combination of techniques. And I'd still love to hear other people's solutions.


Fine Art Drawings | Photography | Compositing | VFX | Titles | Keying | 3D


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Brandon Morris
Re: Professional Video Retouching (hair, skin, etc)
on Mar 3, 2012 at 1:39:50 am

yeah, it depends what your going for.
i've been able to tweak the cosmo plugin to get some pretty good results though.

Brandon Morris
Co-owner/Creative Director
http://www.fugostudios.com

RED Scarlet, Canon T2i, Panasonic HPX-170
Nikon Primes
Mac Pro 12-core 64GB RAM (2011)
Mac Pro 8-core 12GB RAM (2008)
Mac Pro 4-core 8GB RAM (2006)
13" Macbook Pro (Mid 09) 8GB RAM Lion


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Jim Tierney
Re: Professional Video Retouching (hair, skin, etc)
on Mar 3, 2012 at 1:46:21 am

Beauty Box has been used on many national shows and commercial spots, including a spot for Avena skin care products:

http://digitalanarchy.com/beautyVID/gallery.html#faq14

It creates a very realistic look that is very customizable. This includes multiple parameters for maintaining skin detail and texture. You can also render out the skin tone mask and use that as a Track Matte for other effects. For example, on the photography side of things, where extreme realism is necessary (video can be a bit more forgiving than stills), we have many photographers that use Beauty Box as a base layer and then add in a texture layer and/or additional retouching on top of it. This technique could certainly be used for video.

There are a lot of people doing excellent work using Beauty Box and other retouching plugins. Most people have time/budget restrictions that make frame-by-frame retouching difficult and such methods rarely produce significantly better results that would justify the significant extra expense.

cheers,
Jim
-------------
Jim Tierney
President
Digital Anarchy
http://www.digitalanarchy.com


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Rod Xander
Re: Professional Video Retouching (hair, skin, etc)
on Jul 24, 2013 at 11:10:42 am

Hey,
Sounds like you got a job at some "commercial house," but you don't know how to do what they need of you.
Clearly you got the job by some fluke, since you are obviously unqualified to fulfill the job requirements.
That's cool, but keep it real man.
Instead of insulting the people that offer help, because of their "inexperience," maybe you can take a more humble approach to their advice even if it doesn't equate to the specific needs of your job assignment (which only you are getting paid for). Perhaps you can thank them for the advice rather than insult them for not knowing the answer you are trying to find :)

Rod


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