After Effects and Compositing

After Effects and Compositing

The software, After Effects, has been in use for a long time. Ever since 1993 to be exact. However, the art of compositing video, (what After Effects is meant for) goes back much much farther. All the way back to around 1898 actually.

Georges Méliès, the famous French illusionist and filmmaker, is perhaps the first and most genius compositor that ever lived. 1898 was the year Méliès made his first debut of his magical craft with the shortfilm, “Four Heads are Better than One.” In this film, he employs the tactic that compositors call a ‘Track Matte.” The track matte tactic works by simply recording multiple shots from the same angle, but with parts of each frame of each shot cut out. Putting the shots back together, like a puzzle, results in what looks like  floating heads, because it was the body of Méliès that was cut out in each shot. This tactic remains largely unchanged despite being implemented over 100 years ago.

Jump ahead to 1940 and we find our first major implementation of ‘Green Screen’ effects. Everyone who’s anyone has heard of Green Screen effects. Often when most people think of big Hollywood movie effects they immediately think of a big green set. In 1940, The Thief of Bagdad was a movie that used this technique to make it look like a man was in the palm of a giant. Likewise, this technique also remains largely unchanged.

Compositing is really the magic of video and film making today. Very few films today are made without the use of some sort of compositing trick. With After Effects, almost every compositing trick in the business you can do, and do it with relative ease. Its very interesting to see how video compositing has evolved, and how a program like After Effects can bring all these aspects of compositing together in a clean, concise way. Tricks like ‘Track Matting’ and ‘Green Screen’ effects are accomplished faster and better than ever.

After Effects is where I tend to excel and I really enjoy the things I can do in it. In this age old and fast changing world of video compositing, its nice to have a companion like After Effects that really keeps up and holds its own.

By: Adam Baxter

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