Special Effects in Videos

Ever wondered how special effects in movies or even some independent videos are made? The process is generally too complex and situation-dependent to make this a tutorial, especially if you intend to make and use your own custom effects, but I will give the general concept of how it is done. The techniques can be used in the video or independent projects in a simpler way.

The software I will be focusing on is Adobe After Effects. First, here is a video giving a general idea of what After Effects is capable of.

As you can imagine, with a sophisticated set of effects and a lot of work, it is possible to achieve movie-quality special effects with After Effects. However, the first step before trying to insert any effect into a video is to first have the full animation of the special effect you want to achieve. The hardest part would probably be obtaining a special effects animation clean enough to have the background filtered away leaving only the effect behind, otherwise there will be an obvious box surrounding the effect. Many effects can be purchased, but usually they don’t come cheap, and would likely be too much for amateur editors.

Assuming you have a special effect on hand, you now need to import the video into After Effects for use. Just like layering effects on images in Photoshop, a special effect video or animation is layered on top of an existing video. Because videos are much less predictable than static images, it may take a lot of effort keeping the effect in the intended positions across frames, depending on the amount of movement in the original video. In order to make it convincing, filter and mask layers may also need to be added to change the lighting on the effect and hide any parts that may be hidden due to it being behind an existing object in the video.

As an idea, with enough effort and dedication it should be possible to create your own special effects in Photoshop and After Effects itself, but it would require some mad artistic skill if you want a really eye-catching animation. Simple but effective compositions can be made with still images and clever manipulation of transformations within After Effects, but don’t expect huge explosions, lasers, or lightning strikes to happen easily.


Skip the Dye Job; Edit Hair Color in Photoshop

Ever wonder what you would look like as a redhead? Instead of going down to Rite Aid and spending $14.99 on a messy hair dye kit, why not opt for something less permanent and just spend $423 on an Adobe Creative Suite Master Collection?

Through some Internet browsing, I found an easy way to edit hair color using Adobe Photoshop CS5. If any of you have pictures of people in Phase I of your Photo Essay and need a way to manipulate them for Phase II, here’s your chance.

I experimented with this method using a picture of the one and only Michael C. Hall (of Dexter fame) with his natural, magnificent ginger beard, and attempted to match his beard color with his hair color.

To adjust the hair color of your photo –

  •  First open up the picture in Photoshop, and add a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer.
  •  Upon selecting the Hue/Saturation layer, you will see a tiny box called ‘Colorize’ to the right of the three eyedroppers – select that, and then your entire photo will turn a shade of red (regardless of what hair color you are trying to achieve, it was only ironic in my case because I was trying to turn him full ginger).

  • Next, adjust the ‘Hue’ setting until you find the color you want to change the hair color in the image to; once you find that, adjust ‘Saturation’ to alter the intensity. This will alter the color of your entire image, but don’t worry – that will be rectified later.
  • The next step is simple, but the concept is quite complicated; just click ‘Ctrl + Backspace’ on a Windows computer or ‘Command + Delete’ on a Mac to change the layer background to black. This gets rid of the colorization, which we will now bring back to the area where we want it – the hair!

  • Making sure your foreground color is white, select the brush tool and begin to paint over the hair in your image to get the colorization you chose back. You can adjust the opacity of the brush to take care of any strands that might be difficult to paint over.

  • Now, Michael is more noticably ginger! Happy dye-ing!