VFX is a make or break situation with this film so everything I put into it has to be perfect.
Adobe offers this brilliant feature between Premiere Pro and After Effects which is their dynamic link. Dynamic link is when you can send a clip from Premiere to After Effects by right-clicking a clip and press ‘Replace with After Effects Composition’. What this does, is that it sends the clip off to After Effects but stays where it is in Premiere. When I change something about that clip in After Effects, save it and then head back to Premiere, that change has been brought over with Dynamic Link.
This feature is a lifesaver when it comes to busy projects because you don’t need to export footage from Premiere and do all the changes you need, then export it again in After Effects then add it back to Premiere. With Dynamic Link, it’s just on click and it’s connected. It’s the most useful tool Adobe has to offer.
The smallest effect I did in the film was removing the noise from the image, making the image less grainy. This is a subtle effect but when it’s in use, it makes the image clearer and less busy so it’s easier for the eye to focus on things. The plug-in is based in After Effects.
In After Effects, in the effects panel, go to Noise and Grain and drag ‘Remove Grain’ onto your clip. The first thing you should do is change the ‘Viewing Mode’ to ‘Final Output’ and now you can begin removing noise. Once you’ve added the plug-in, it’s already done part of your job but you can raise the ‘Noise Reduction’ and ‘Passes’ slider up a bit more until you’re happy.
There are a lot of sliders in the other drop-down menu’s but I didn’t have any time to learn what they all do to the image so I just stuck with the basic two sliders. This plug-in is very powerful with what it offers and is very easy to use and learn. It’s not good with massive amounts of noise but if there is a little bit, then it’ll do wonders.
Another effect I did multiple times was removing a person, a piece of scenery or an object in a reflection. This is a must-know effect when it comes to After Effects, you just need to put some time and care into it, and it’ll look great. I’ll be using the removal of a car park in the distance for the example.
I’ll be doing this once again, in After Effects. The first step is to track your footage in a 2D space. I tracked the small blue dot just under the tree which gave me a nice track because TJ didn’t walk in front of it. Tracking in After Effects is very easy. You have the footage you want to track highlighted then you click ‘Track Motion’. This will bring up a ‘Track Point’ on your footage. You can move that to a place you’ll get an easy track. Things to look for: make sure nothing passes over it and that it’s a sharp edge. This just gives it a more solid track to work with.
You can also choose to track the rotation and scale, which will bring another ‘Track point’ up that you need to find a second tracking placement for. I didn’t need these two as I wasn’t moving towards the car park or rotating the camera.
Create a Null object on your timeline and press ‘Edit Target’ and choose the right Null object. This is where your tracking data will go. Press the small sideways triangle and that will track your footage forward. When it’s done, hit apply.
Now that I have my solid track, I can begin hiding the car park with the surrounding trees. I masked around the tree on the right-hand side and moved it over to cover the top half of the car park.
I then masked out some grass beside and under the lone tree and moved it over the car park to completely cover it.
I then masked the lone tree out and brought it in front of the grass so it isn’t cut off at the top.
I then parented them all to the Null object so they would be able to move with the camera movement, selling the effect.
I really enjoy making these types of effects, hiding something that only you know is there is fun and a good skill to have.
With no doubt, the biggest effect in this project is the selective colour effect. I used it on the blood in the last scene and the case file. I’ll cover both because they are two methods that achieve the same effect but done differently.
With the blood, I used a plug-in in After Effects called ‘Leave Colour’. On the bottom clip of the timeline, I added the plug-in and picked a dark red as most of the blood in this shot was dark. I changed the ‘Match Colours’ from ‘Using RGB’ to ‘Using Hue’ which allows only the colour you pick to be shown. If I had picked ‘Using RGB’, it wouldn’t have the same softness as ‘Using Hue’. I put up the ‘Amount to Decolour’ to 100% and then played with ‘Tolerance’ and ‘Edge Softness’ until I got something I was happy with which is shown below.
When looking at it, something was off which I narrowed down to some of the blood being in black and white next to the hand on the shirt. I started off masking around the area I wanted the extra blood in because if I change the sliders on the main clip, everything else in the clip would look different. If I did it this way, I can get that extra blood but also keeping the same look on the rest of the hand. I added the ‘Leave Colour’ plug-in again and got that extra blood I was wanting.
That was the selective colour method using a plug-in but there was one other method I used that took a lot longer than the method above. The second method was with the masking tool for the case file. If I used ‘Leave Colour’ on the case file, the colour of it is too similar to TJ’s hand and a few other things in the scene.
The first thing I did was put tint onto the main clip at the bottom of the timeline. This is the tint that is tinting everything but the fingers and the case file in the final shot.
I duplicated the footage three times and removed the tint on one of them. The one that isn’t tinted, I put above the bottom clip and masked the case file out, keyframing the mask if the folder moved at any point. I also masked out the book on the left-hand side which is currently being covered by a finger.
On the clip above, I started to mask around TJ’s right hand, which will make the fingers black and white. I did this for all the fingers that went over the book or the case file to give the effect that the only thing coloured is the case file.
I did the same for the left hand as well, making sure the masks have no mistakes or any overlap, making part of the case file Black and White.
When I finished keyframing the masks, it looks like everything, including the hand, is black and white with only the case file coloured. This gives the shot a unique and interesting look and, in my opinion, is much better than plain and boring just black and white or just colour.
The two methods are used for different reasons and they both work well. The masking does take a lot of time but stick on a few podcasts and get stuck in, the time will fly by.
The reason I used this effect is that I wasn’t wanting a plain image, I wanted to have something interesting going on that makes people want to watch it. If I just did black and white or just colour, I feel like my film will just be very ordinary and unoriginal. I wanted to add something to it and this was the perfect thing to do to get people watching and asking why I did it that way.
That was all the VFX work I did on ‘A Lonely Wanderer’, and looking back at my proposal, where I said I wanted to push my boundaries with this type of work, I feel like I did just that. If I didn’t do the selective colour effect, I would have failed on my goal of pushing my boundaries in VFX work but once I locked down I wanted to do this effect, I knew it was going to be a challenge and I knew it was going to be tough.