Pluralsight Rotoscoping Basics

Jonny and Gareth from Iglu Media have talked about a possible job opportunity as a junior VFX artist. With this possibility in mind I’ve been looking through some suggested tutorials to try and learn new skills necessary for the job such as rotoscoping, motion tracking and compositing. These are areas which I’ve been curious about for a while so it’s been an interesting few days.

Rotoscoping in After Effects by Laura Hawk on Pluralsight

This course was a good introduction to using the pen tool to create masks in After Effects, using masks with different blending modes and adjustments and animating the mask to follow a particular shape through time. This course also introduced me to the concept of fully articulated roto where a shape, which is made up of lots of moving parts such as a hand, is divided into smaller masks for animating separately.

These are my notes:


We are creating a rotoscope in After Effects but we use masks to create them. Rotoscoping is isolating an object in footage. Use the pen tool to add points, convert vertices or delete points. Use spacebar to move the new point plus handles together.

03: For complex shapes such as a hand with moving fingers, make separate masks for the fingers and palm which overlap. This saves time when it comes to animating which can be the longest part of the process.

04 Rotoscoping for color correction and other effects. Create a new adjustment layer and then create the mask on the adjustment layer.

05 Transfer a mask from one layer to another. Simply copy your masks from one layer and paste on top of another layer e.g. an adjustment layer.

06 Animating Masks. It may be better to draw your mask at the end of the footage rather than at the beginning depending on how much more of the object is revealed. Draw your mask and then move back to the start of your footage and use the ‘mask path’ to key the mask back into position. Double click your path and move all the points at once. Add more keyframes in the halfway areas as needed to clean up the mask.

07 Controlling mask edge and opacity: Adjust the feather attribute and use the feather brush to add more feather handles to the mask edge.

08 Reusing keyframe data For similar positions in space, copy the key you want with ctrl+c, make sure the time indicator is where you want the copied key and paste. With a repeated motion e.g. a bobble head, try repasting groups of keyframes as a starting point for editing.

09 Animating a complex rotoscope Split the mask up into areas that correspond to the where the body might break naturally e.g. at joints. Animate one mask at a time.

10 Integrate rotoscoped footage with a background plate Make sure all your masks are on ‘add’ mode so as to isolate what’s inside the mask and then add your background plate.

*look up other tutorials on color correction.

11 Outputting masks into an image sequence for later use. Write out your composition as an image sequence as this is the most stable/compatible with other software e.g. png, tiff sequences. TIFF is good for file size. Chose to output the alpha channel. Use LZW compression to create a smaller file.

*Look into using rotoscoping with tracking.

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