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Beauty Box smooths skin. Which means you can make your actors look great, even if you don’t have time to put them in makeup. Like all skin smoothing effects, it’s possible to turn your on-camera talent into plastic Barbie Dolls if you don’t pay attention. However, Beauty Box gives you the controls you need to soften skin, while still allowing your stars to look human.
Beauty Box uses a combination of facial recognition with other algorithms to isolate skin and soften wrinkles without softening other elements in the frame. It supports After Effects, Final Cut Pro, Premiere Pro and OpenFX applications (along with a separate version for stills in Photoshop). While the effect takes a while to render, the results are worth the effort.
NOTE: While render speed totally depends upon your hardware and GPU, I would budget a render time of 10X real time, until you’ve had time to test your gear with the software.
New features in version 3 include the ability to soften skin when talent is not looking directly at the camera, faster rendering, and a series of presets to provide a variety of color looks to your talent.
The automatic settings work well, though the amount of softening they provide seems aggressive to my eye. Still, the manual controls allow precise adjustments so you can achieve exactly the effect you want. Tweaking will always improve the image and skin softening works best when you follow the adage: “Less is More.”
Publisher: Digital Anarchy
Version reviewed: 3.0.8
Free trial version available.
Here’s the image we’ll work with today. Note that the focus is carefully set to the front of her face, with extreme softening on the background. Also, her hair is blowing and we don’t want to lose the detail in the hair.
Like all FCP X plug-ins, apply the plug-in by dragging it from the Effects Browser > Digital Anarchy category onto the clip.
Instantly, the plug-in makes the face smoother. (This image shows the smoothing effect on the left, the source clip on the right.) But, while this is fast, we can do better. To me, the skin seems too smooth, with too little texture. (This look is called “too plastic.”)
AN AUTOMATIC APPROACH
At the bottom of the effect is the first button we need to click: Analyze Frame. This forces the plug-in to scan the image and identify the specific color range for skin in the image.
Then, adjust Smoothing Amount, Skin Detail Smoothing and Contrast Enhance to get the effect you want. (Contrast Enhance adds back some of the skin texture detail that smoothing takes out. It minimizes the “plastic” look.)
This is the results so far; again, the smoothed image is on the left.
ADDING MANUAL ASSIST
The real trick to getting this effect to look good is to make sure the plug-in is selecting as much of the skin as possible, while at the same time selecting as little of everything else.
Check the Show Mask checkbox.
Like all masks, the goal is to adjust the mask so that the skin we want to smooth is solid white while everything that we don’t want to smooth is solid black; or as close as we can get.
The challenge in this clip is that her hair is similar in color to her skin. This means we are softening, or blurring, her hair, which we don’t want to do. Also, the plug-in is selecting a lot of the background, but since that was blurry to start with, adding a bit more blur really doesn’t make any difference.
In adjusting the mask, I want to try to isolate the color to her face as much as possible.
To minimize the selection range we need to reduce the Hue, Saturation and Value ranges to limit the selection, as much as we can, to her face.
This is what the effect looks like after these adjustments.
Once we’ve restricted the selection more to her face, if necessary, change the Mode to Add Color, and click areas of her face to select missing colors; or expand the range of existing colors. This process is somewhat iterative – but the more you tweak, the more accurate the skin smoothing will be.
As I was playing with this filter, I found that adjusting the Value Range first yielded the best results. I also found that the Set Color and Add Color menu options were helpful, but did not always allow me to actually change the color selection.
I was never able to perfectly isolate the skin, but that wasn’t my goal. I simply wanted to isolate as much of the face as possible.
Once the mask was set, I dialed down the Smoothing Amount and Smoothing Detail, and increased the Contrast Enhance. This was the result.
NOTE: To me, the default smoothing settings are set too high and I wish the settings went a bit lower. However, defining the “proper setting” is entirely personal.
ADDING A COLOR PRESET
Another new feature in the 3.0 release is the ability to apply color looks, via presets. There are about 36 to choose from, all using the built-in Beauty Box color correction tools.
Just to give you an example of the range of these presets, here are three: Glo, Twilight, and Beauty Subdued.
NOTE: I found three presets especially useful for editors who are new to skin softening: SmoothSkin Light (which I like a lot), SmoothSkin Normal and SmoothSkin Heavy. Even the “Heavy” setting still made the model look human.
Beauty Box has long been a leader in creating “digital makeup” using skin smoothing. Like applying makeup in real-life, the more you practice the better you get. But, if you take the time, Beauty Box provides all the tools you need to make on-camera talent look great.
If adding glow, reducing shine and minimizing skin blemishes is important to your work, download the free trial of Beauty Box and start playing. You can create some amazing results.
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