Week 6: Motion Tracking Madness

Ever wondered how they get the words “zoom zoom” to follow a Mazda as it hurtles over cobblestoned streets in a nameless European city at 120 km an hour? Well, tonight we learned how to do exactly that!

The effect is called “motion tracking” and it basically involves pinning an object (such as text, a shape, a video or whatever) to a fixed point in a video composition – called the “attach point” – enabling the object to follow that point, in a scaled and proportional way, for the duration of the video. The golden rule is that the attach point needs to be visible at all times during the video, otherwise the effect tends to go a bit pear shaped, and we definitely don’t want that.

Rather than telling you, i will show you what I mean. In the first video below I’ve pinned the words “Big Black Bag” to my, well, big black bag. This is an example of a 2D effect whereby the subject moves but the camera remains static.

Big Black Bag


And here’s another one, also in 2D.

I Like Bins


And last but not least, an example of 3D motion tracking where the camera moves around a stationary object. In this case I tracked some text to the top of the subject (a tripod) and added a couple of shape layers, onto which I added images (sourced from the web) of the Mona Lisa and the character Lucy from Peanuts. You can see how the tracked objects maintain a realistic scale and perspective as the camera moves, just as they would if they were real objects attached to the tripod.

Mona Lisa Goes Peanuts


My examples are very basic but this exercise did give me a glimpse into the myriad potential uses of After Effects to spice up, personalise, brand and enhance video content. Below is something far more schmick, sourced from Vimeo…