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Roto in AE

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Charles Taylor
Roto in AE
on Apr 6, 2010 at 5:25:26 am

Well, everyone's favourite: Roto.

I'm used to Shake, which has great roto tools. I'm using AE for the current project, and need to train a rotoscoper in roto in AE, because I can't find a way to open Shake roto shapes, and we can't spring for Mocha Shape for AE (and importing image sequences of mattes from Mocha is not flexible enough).

My problem is not only that the roto tools in AE are pretty awful, but also that they are extremely cumbersome. Specifically, my problem is that it is a) way to easy to grab the layer instead of a point, b) way to easy to grab the handle instead of the point. Is there something obvious I'm missing here that will make my life much easier?

How are people handling this in their workflows?


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craig whit
Re: oto in AE
on Apr 6, 2010 at 12:25:49 pm

It is surely a pain, but doable. I usually double click the path to select the entire shape. If I want just one specific point, I then click away from the selection and THEN back on one specific point. Not sure if it's the right or only way, but it works for me. Good luck!


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Roland R. Kahlenberg
Re: Roto in AE
on Apr 6, 2010 at 12:47:49 pm

Rotoing in AE should be done within the Layer Panel and not the Comp Panel. As for selecting points, handles, arcs, or the entire path, it's a matter of getting used to.

HTH
RoRK

Sell your AEPs with broadcastGEMs' DVD series of templates. Click here for more


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Michael Szalapski
Re: Roto in AE
on Apr 6, 2010 at 1:08:45 pm

I actually do it in the comp panel sometimes with a half transparent copy below to help see where I'm at. Kinda onion skinning.

The After Effects online help is actually quite good these days. Todd's done a great job adding links to resources. Rotoscoping is one of those things. Here's the page. Not only is the page itself useful, but there are tons of nice links and tutorials at the bottom.

There are also some tutorials here at the COW. This one covers the pen tool and some rotoscoping. This one has some roto stuff too. But THIS ONE is the biggie. This one covers doing it with vector paint instead of masks.

- The Great Szalam
(The 'Great' stands for 'Not So Great, in fact, Extremely Humble')

No trees were harmed in the creation of this message, but several thousand electrons were mildly inconvenienced.


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Roland R. Kahlenberg
Re: Roto in AE
on Apr 6, 2010 at 1:15:33 pm

Good points Michael. And Pete's tutorial will be an eye-opener for sure - lots of great pro tips and techniques

Cheers
RoRK

Sell your AEPs with broadcastGEMs' DVD series of templates. Click here for more


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Charles Taylor
Re: Roto in AE
on Apr 6, 2010 at 2:51:42 pm

Thanks for the pointers, guys.

RE: roto-ing in the layer panel:
What I'm doing right now is creating masks in a solid layer that are then applied as an alpha matte to another layer. If I were to try and roto in the layer panel, all I would see is black.

Or are you suggesting that I roto in the layer panel for the footage, and then copy the mask to the solid, and just go back and forth like that?? Because if roto wasn't already a recipe for headaches, that would be...

RE: online help:
Thanks for the link to the online help, I hadn't seen that page on roto. The tip to turn off the eye for layers you aren't using and locking the footage seems like it's probably as good as it will get, unfortunately. Seems like a cumbersome workaround to do some pretty basic work though...

Any other tips relating specifically to making roto more comfortable in AE? Or, better yet, has anyone made a script that will import .SSF files from Shake rotos? That would be ideal, as our roto people already know Shake. I've looked, but haven't found one...


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Roland R. Kahlenberg
Re: Roto in AE
on Apr 6, 2010 at 3:30:43 pm

Charles, take a look at Pete's Roto tutorial. It provides all the answers you need except for SSFs.

Cheers
RoRK

Sell your AEPs with broadcastGEMs' DVD series of templates. Click here for more


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Peter O'Connell
Re: Roto in AE
on Apr 6, 2010 at 4:51:56 pm

Hi. You might be able to get your roto shapes in via Silhouette.
Pete

Rogue Keyframe
Feature Film Compositing


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Charles Taylor
Re: Roto in AE
on Apr 7, 2010 at 6:47:43 am

RE: Silhouette:

Unfortunately, buying more software is out for this one, or I would pick up Mocha Shapes for AE, so that we could import shapes from Mocha.

RE: Tutorials

Thanks for the links, but those are really more of "how-to-roto" tutorials, and not how to make roto in AE as comfortable as in some other effects packages. I think I've come to the conclusion that, without buying more software, there really just is no solution. Roto in AE is just a waste of time and mental energy.

After another day of trying, we just can't find a way to make doing roto in AE comfortable, and so will be going the also uncomfortable route of doing our roto in Mocha, and then just importing the mattes generated into AE. Kinda sucks, but is better than what we've been doing today and yesterday.

As I think I mentioned before, I think the bug that is getting to us the most at the moment is the fact that if you click off of the roto in the comp window once too many times you end up de-selecting the roto and having to click on it again in the layer window. Gets pretty old, pretty fast. I don't want to move that layer. I don't want to select that layer. I want to do my damned roto and get on with my life!

Also, the difficulty of switching between transforming the whole shape vs. one point. And the fact that you can't decide whether moving a point should move the adjacent tangent handles to smooth the curve or not (Nuke also doesn't do this right, so at least AE is in good company...). And the click zone for each point is way too small, and it's way too easy to click on the handle accidentally (because the whole handle and not just the tip is clickable). Basically, just really frustrated by a lot of lousy UI decisions. So many things require a high degree of precision when that's just completely unnecessary. Sigh.

Michael Coleman has hinted on his blog that there might be some improvements on the roto front in CS5, which would be much appreciated. I'm afraid that they will be of the new feature variety, rather than the refined-user-experience variety, though, which unfortunately seems to be the Adobe motto.


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Michael Coleman
Re: Roto in AE
on Apr 7, 2010 at 3:20:57 pm

Hey Charles, all I said on my Keyframes blog was "stay tuned" :-) In any case, the After Effects 'way' is to combine both new features and UI improvements. Plus a healthy dash of workflow improvement.

--
Michael Coleman
Sr. Product Manager, Adobe After Effects
http://blogs.adobe.com/keyframes/


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Peter O'Connell
Re: Roto in AE
on Apr 7, 2010 at 4:39:49 pm

[Charles Taylor] "if you click off of the roto in the comp window once too many times you end up de-selecting the roto and having to click on it again in the layer window"

Just hit the layer number on the numeric keypad if you lose your roto-shape. I personally never use the layer window for roto.


[Charles Taylor] "I don't want to move that layer. I don't want to select that layer."

Lock all layers other than the roto layer. Turn the roto layer visibility off for fast ram playback (You sacrifice marquee sub-selections when you do this though).

[Charles Taylor] "Also, the difficulty of switching between transforming the whole shape vs. one point."

Double click for a transform box around all points. Option click to select all points without a transform box.


[Charles Taylor] "And the fact that you can't decide whether moving a point should move the adjacent tangent handles to smooth the curve or not"

consider switching your mask to roto-bezier mode.


[Charles Taylor] "it's way too easy to click on the handle accidentally"

It isn't the handle, it is anywhere on the mask itself which can be handy at times.

Pete


Rogue Keyframe
Feature Film Compositing


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Michael Szalapski
Re: Roto in AE
on Apr 7, 2010 at 5:47:25 pm

Great tips, Pete.
And, for the record, I think AE and Photoshop (my two most-used Adobe softwares) have improved immensely over the years. I love all the UI improvements that have come in over the years, especially the docking panels in AE. And one thing I really appreciate is all the responsiveness to the community. The help files have gotten amazingly good over the years and the powerfulness and usability of the software is insanely amazing compared to a few years ago.
I just want you Adobe folk to know that some of us really appreciate all you do.

- The Great Szalam
(The 'Great' stands for 'Not So Great, in fact, Extremely Humble')

No trees were harmed in the creation of this message, but several thousand electrons were mildly inconvenienced.


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Charles Taylor
Re: Roto in AE
on Apr 7, 2010 at 8:03:50 pm

Thanks for the tips, Pete.

RE: losing the roto:
Moving over to the keypad every time I mis-click is not really any more fun than mousing over to the layer (and might actually be slightly more work).

RE: accidentally moving things:
I had been wondering why I couldn't marquee select - I hadn't pieced together that is was because the roto layer was invisible. Is that a bug? Because I can't see what functionality that provides. Add not being able to marquee select while doing the thing that makes everything else semi-usable to my list of gripes...
Also, is there a shortcut to lock all layers but the current layer? Because once the roto is in a comp, it's pretty painful to lock every other layer...

RE: difficulty of switching between moving the whole shape etc:
That's just the problem. In Shake and Nuke (not that Nuke has stellar roto tools either, but...) you have a persistent transform handle that will move and rotate the shape and that doesn't interfere with the rest of your work. In Mocha, there is a key that makes your click and drags move the whole shape while it's pressed.
I was hoping I had missed how to enable something like either of those in AE.

RE: RotoBezier
Is that what that does? I'll have to check that out. The manual seemed to imply that it did that at creation, but not while working. That would be nice.

RE: too easy to mis-click
Not sure I understood you there - I was talking about the tangent handle specifically. In all the other roto packages I've used the point looks like this: 0---0----0, with the centre 0 being the point on the mask and the out 0's being the ends of the tangent handle, and only clicking on the 0's does anything. In AE, you can click on the whole tangent handle, which is a problem since the point itself is so small, it's easy to misclick. You think you've grabbed the point, and find that you've flung the tangent handle into the nether regions... That's another thing - bigger targets for the points (perhaps even a user-definable size, like Shake).

I guess I'm just blown away by the fact that version 9 of a supposedly professional compositing program has such poorly thought-out roto tools. It's disappointing, really, because the final effect that these rotos are going into is looking really good - it's just way, way more painful to get the roto done than it should be.

RE: Michael Szalapski's comment on UI

I've only been using AE and PS much since the CS days, and the UI has been changed only cosmetically since then. Both AE and PS still stick with their limited and cumbersome layer-based UI. What people want and need (even if they don't know it or think they disagree) is a hybrid layer/node based system where the main interaction paradigm is modified mouse clicks and gestures.


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Peter O'Connell
Re: Roto in AE
on Apr 8, 2010 at 12:44:12 am

[Charles Taylor] "Also, is there a shortcut to lock all layers but the current layer?"

Click a lock and drag across all other layers you want to lock. This can probably be done with scripting too.

[Charles Taylor] "you have a persistent transform handle that will move and rotate the shape and that doesn't interfere with the rest of your work."

If you choose to leave your layer on, marquee select the points you want and then double click any one of them to transform only them. If the roto layer's visibility is off (to preserve the ram cache), click a point to add it to the selection of points or click on a line connecting 2 points to add 2 points at a time then double click the selection to get the marquee box.

[Charles Taylor] "In AE, you can click on the whole tangent handle"

I can't click on a handle to control it. Which AE are you using? Are you sure you aren't confusing this with clicking on the mask itself (but not directly on a point)

CS5 is coming out in a few days so lets hope some of your beefs get addressed. My solutions are all kind of workarounds. I do agree that Shake has a very nice roto tool set. And as far as Nuke's roto it has apparently much improved since the release of Nuke 6.


Rogue Keyframe
Feature Film Compositing


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