Animating a poster effect

It’s nearing the end of election season, so I’ll give you something that will distract you from all that. There have been tons of posters made with a 2 or 3 tone effect made of Obama. I’m sure you’ve seen them somewhere. This tutorial will show you how to create that effect in Motion, and then how to animate that.

Concepts used: clones, 3D space, keying, cameras

  1. First, you’ll need to find the photo you want to use. I got mine from Wikimedia Commons, a picture in the public domain of Rep. Jim Gerlach. No political endorsement here- I just looked for photos in the public domain to use for this. You can right click and save the photo to use as well.
  2. You’ll want to crop and resize it in your favorite image editor. You’ll want it no bigger than 720×480 or so, and crop it close around the face, but not neccessarily too tight. We’ll mask it later.
  3. Launch Motion, and import the cropped picture.
  4. Select the picture in the canvas, and choose the Bezier Mask tool (Option B).
  5. Draw a tight mask around the face. When you’re done, go back and tweak it with the Adjust Control Points tool to make sure that the background isn’t coming through. Err on the side of too tight a mask.
  6. In the Layers tab, select the group with the photo in it. Hit “k” to clone the group. Rename the new group “Back” and turn off the original layer.
  7. Select the Clone Layer. Apply the Threshold Filter- it’s under Color Correction. Set the Threshold and Smoothness both to 0 so that all you have is a nice white outline of the face. Now, change the Light Color to a dark blue.
  8. Duplicate the “Back” group, and rename the duplicate “Middle.” Change the light color on the Threshold Filter to a darkish red, then move the Threshold slider up until you get some nice detail.
  9. Only problem is that since the Dark Color is black, everything else is black, which blocks out the dark blue underneath, from the “Back” group. To fix this, select the “Middle” group in the layers tab and add a “Color Key” Filter, under Keying, to the group. Set the color to pure black, and the tolerance to 0. This will key out the black parts of the “Middle” layer, and let the blue come through from underneath.
  10. Now, we want to add some more highlights. Duplicate the “Middle” group, and rename the duplicate “Middle 2.”
  11. Change the Light Color to a lighter color, say a lighter blue, and adjust the Threshold to a point where you like the effect.
  12. Duplicate the “Middle 2” group, and rename it “Top”. Change the Light Color to an off white, and move the threshold up so it accentuates the highlights.
  13. Now, for organization’s sake, put Bottom, Middle, Middle 2, and Top into a new group, called “Face”.
  14. I’m not too happy with the neck- it’s looking kind of weird. The beautiful things about clones is that you’re able to go back and change the original. Turn off the “Face” group, and turn on the original group with the original photo. Rework the mask to cut off the neck a bit better. Then turn back on the “Face” group, and turn the orginal group off and see how everything updates.
  15. Now let’s get to animation. First, we need to arrange it in 3D space. Add a new camera, and in the box that comes up, Switch to 3D.
  16. Select the “Back” group, and go to it’s Properties in the Inspector. Twirl down the Position so you can see where it is on the Y-axis. Then, while holding down the Command AND Shift keys, drag up on the Y-axis button in the HUD. The Command key makes the layer scale so that it looks like it’s the same size, and the shift key makes it go faster. You want to put this far back- say about at -4000 in the Z position. It shouldn’t look any different. This is a tricky step.
  17. To make sure you did this right, change the view to Perspective by hitting Control-P. The back layer should appear much larger than the rest. If you rotate the view using the controls in the upper right hadn corner, you’ll see that it’s separated from the other layers.
  18. Hit Control-A to go back to the active camera. Repeat the same method to move the “Middle” group to about -3000 in Y space. Then move “Middle 2” back to -2000. Leave “Top” where it is. When you look at it in perspective view from the side, it should be obvious that they were separated.
  19. Return to the active camera view. Set a keyframe for the camera’s Z-position, and type in -4000. You should get a completely blue screen, as all the camera sees is the very back layer.
  20. Go to about 2 seconds, and set another keyframe for the Z-position. Type in 0. The face should be properly constructed. Play it back, and you’ll see the layers fly in as the camera dollies out.

    Right click and save Motion File
  21. There you have it- you can figure out other ways to use this. Here’s one with the layers a lot closer together, and the camera simply rotating from the side back to (0,0,0).

    Right click and save Motion File
  22. So play around with this, and I’m sure you can get some cool effects.

As always, have fun, and let me know how you like the tutorial, and if you use it, drop me a line with what you did.

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