One of the more interesting workflows I’ve been showcasing on the various roadshow seminars & tradeshows is the workflow that lets you process an entire video clip with the Live Trace feature of Adobe Illustrator CS2. This feature converts a standard raster image, such as a photo, to vector artwork. Since Live Trace was designed with single images in mind, we created a workflow using the scripting capabilities within Adobe Bridge. You need to start with your video already in an After Effects composition, and then render the video as a series of Photoshop files (thereby putting each frame of video in its own Photoshop file). From the Composition, select Composition > Add To Render Queue. Then, from the Render Queue, select Output Module.
Make sure you select Photoshop Sequence from the Format pulldown menu (above). Once rendering is finished, select File > Browse, which launches Bridge. Use the navigation tools at the top or left of the Bridge UI to drive to the folder where your Photoshop files were rendered to.
The next thing you need to do is create a Live Trace preset. Right-mouse click on one of the images and select Open With > Adobe Illustrator CS2. Once the image has opened, click on it and the Live Trace button will appear at the top. Click the small triangle to the right of the Live Trace button to reveal the Preset pulldown menu, and select the last item, Tracing Options . . .
The Tracing Options dialog (above) opens. Click the Preview checkbox to see the results of your changes as you make them. Start by changing Mode from B&W to Color, experiment with Max Colors, etc. Once you’re happy, click the Save Preset button, give your preset a name, then click the Trace button to close the dialog. Close the document and don’t save.
Back in Bridge, select the files you want to run through Live Trace, the go to the Tools menu and select Illustrator > Live Trace. A dialog appears allowing you to select your preset and an output destination. Set ‘em up and go!
To compile your images back into a video clip, go back to AE, select File > Import, select all the Illustrator images you just created, and make sure to check Illustrator/EPS Sequence at the bottom of the File Import dialog. If AE asks you, make sure to select import as Footage, not Composition.