One of the features in Premiere Pro CC that got a lot of attention with the spring, 2014, update was the Mask and Track feature. This allowed you to create a geometric shape – oval or rectangle – place it over an element in the frame, then track it automatically as that element moved.
The classic example of how to use this is in masking the identity of a person’s face or hiding the text of a sign. The effect was easy to set up and simple to use.
Now, with the October update to Premiere, this feature has been extended to include new shape drawing tools.
HOW IT WORKS
The big news in the latest update is that we now have access to a free-hand drawing tool for masks. Let’s say, for the purpose of this article, that we need to hide the identity of this locomotive. (Um… Its a fugitive train on the run from the roundhouse. Or something.)
Apply the effect you want to appear inside the mask. In this case, we’ll apply a Gaussian Blur.
NOTE: While this technique is available for almost all effects in Premiere, it is easiest to practice with effects from the Blur or Stylize categories. Another good use for this technique is color correcting a portion of the image.
Before drawing the mask, I set the blurriness to 0 so that I can clearly see the entire image while I draw the mask.
For other effects you may need to turn the effect itself off by click the Fx button to the left of the effect name so you can see what you are doing while drawing the mask.
In the Effect Controls menu, click the new “Freehand Pen” tool which is now part of every effect.
When you click any of the three mask tools – oval, rectangle, or pen – the mask options appear below it.
NOTE: You can add multiple masks to the same clip, for example to blur multiple logos or faces. A new mask is added every time you click a masking tool. To delete a mask, highlight the name (“Mask 1”) and press Delete.
Before drawing the mask, is generally a good idea to move the playhead to the beginning of the clip, where you want the effect to begin, though this is not necessary as you can track in both forward and backward directions.
However, where possible, I generally position my playhead to the start of the clip.
Using the pen tool, draw a path around the object you want to hide. Click and drag to change corner points to curves, the same as any other path-drawing tool.
Tweak each path point until you are happy with the shape of the mask.
NOTE: Click a path point to display the Bezier control options to change the shape of the curve. Press Option, Shift or Command keys to adjust one side of the Bezier control point.
You know you’ve drawn the mask correctly when there is a small dotted blue line on either side of the path. This blue line indicates feathering and can be adjusted for each mask in the Effects Controls window. The default feather is 10%.
At this point, we are ready to track the mask and Premiere gives us two options:
NOTE: Creating automatic keyframes deletes all manually set keyframes.
To turn on key-framing, click the small stopwatch icon next to the words “Mask Path” so it turns blue. This needs to be done for both manual and automatic keyframes.
To create keyframes manually, move the playhead in the Timeline to each point where you want to modify the shape, then drag the Bezier control points to their new positions.
To start automatic tracking, click the right-pointing arrow to the right of Mask Path.
NOTE: If you are in the middle of the clip, set a marker for your current clip position, then track the mask back to the beginning (for example, when the object first appears in the frame) by clicking the left-pointing arrow for “Track mask backward.” Return to the marker and track forward for the remainder of the clip.
Premiere starts tracking the mask forward (or backward) enlarging, shrinking, or rotating the mask as the underlying object changes size and position – but not changing the overall shape of the mask.
When tracking is complete, increase the blurriness amount to blur the portion of the clip inside the mask. Or, turn the effect back on by clicking the Fx button.
Adjust the blurriness to your satisfaction. Notice that the blur is confined to the area contained inside the shape we just tracked and softened at the edges by the feather amount.
To create the illusion of depth-of-field, click the Inverted checkbox in the effect to apply the effect to that portion of the clip that is outside the mask.
NOTE: Effect mask and track does not allow tracking images on separate clips, such as text moving in sync with an object in the frame. To do that, you need to use the motion tracker in After Effects.
Motion tracking an effect is a fast way to apply an effect to one portion of the image without applying it everywhere. The latest version of Premiere makes this easier and more flexible than ever.
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