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Tracking 101 in After Effects tutorial

Tracking is the process where you collect data on a particular point in video footage and then apply it to something else. Sounds boring, right?  I’m with you, but it is an essential tool for a variety of effects and looks that you see quite often. In this tutorial, you can get the basics on how to use After Effect’s internal tracking tool.

I’ll warn you that the download is a bit bigger than usual (about 6MB) because I wanted to include a short piece of video.  Even after bringing it down to Quicktime’s H.264 codec, it still was pretty big.  Sorry…

Back to tracking: One movie that struck me with it’s tracking usage that you may remember was Wil Farrell’s Stranger than Fiction movie.  In the opening credits, you basically saw tracking data in every scene as the movie set the story up about his character.

Aharon Rabinowitz wouldn’t want me to neglect to tell you that when we had a meeting of AENY that featured a third party tracking solution (Mocha from Imagineer Systems) we polled the audience of about 100 people if they used tracking often.  I was truly astonished to see that more than half of the hands went up.

So…I hope this tutorial is worth the download. Once you have it, be patient as tracking does take a little hand holding, but once I got the hang of it, I actually kind of enjoy it.

Tracking in AE Tutorial

As always, there’s a lot more to tracking than what I covered, so if there is interest in learning more, let me know.  In other words, comments are welcome.

UPDATE: I got some comments from Michael Coleman, the Product Manager for After Effects and I wanted to post them here as he points out a couple of mistakes on my part…

* The apply button should be used to move the relevant keyframes to
the target. I don’t recommend copy and pasting KF, unless there’s
something special you’re trying to do. Use the "edit target" button
to choose a place to apply the data. This saves a lot of time,
particularly if you need to tweak the tracker and re-apply the data.

* The final result of the tracker data is the Attach point. It’s the
little plus symbol and it’s not necessarily within the feature
region. It’s separate so that you can attach something to a different
location from the object being tracked.

See, that’s why they’re beginner tutorials – I make mistakes once in a while! 😉




Thanks alot from the inside of my heart because I spent alot of time searching for it
Thanks again

[DR – glad I could help]

I have a problem with my AE7, the motion track panel don’t appear in manu “Window” , so plz if someone know the solution tell it to me.

[DR – with AE7 there were two versions – standard and professional. This was the last version to ship with two versions. With AE7 Standard, there is no motion tracking. The good news is that upgrading to AE9 (CS4) is pretty easy and we don’t penalize you for having an older Standard version. Hope this helps.]

HI there…
I am trying to import media from Avid to After effects… the video imports fine but the audio from the same file does not…what am I doing wrong?

[DR – If the file is muxed – meaning the audio and video are together in the same file then import the clip and then drag it to the new comp button.

If not, then you need to make sure that the audio format from the Avid is a supported file format by After Effects. Here’s the list from the AE help file
* Adobe Sound Document (ASND; multi-track files imported as merged single track)
* Advanced Audio Coding (AAC, M4A)
* Audio Interchange File Format (AIF, AIFF)
* Video for Windows (AVI, WAV; requires QuickTime on Mac OS)
* Waveform (WAV)

hope this helps – D]

Hey guys!!!!!

I just purchased CS4 Production premium- and am getting used to the CS4 layout… Wow. Suddenly i cant find saving to different filetypes… Shall i just save it as a quicktime file and then export- then using a converter to make it Avi or Mp4? And YES- I am retarded 😀

[DR – Not sure which application you are speaking of but assuming it is Premiere Pro, the main way to output media is via File>export>media. This will launch the Adobe Media Encoder and give you a variety of output options including AVI (PC) and MP4. I hope this helps.]

i need a tutorial with after effects

Hi , I have a problem with motion tracking, I cant find the motion tracking window… I dont have it in my AAF 7.0. Please help me with this problem

[DR – You can go under Windows>Tracker Controls and it should be there. If it isn’t, you probably have After Effects Standard. With CS3, we got rid of Standard and Professional and only ship Professional. Please post another comment to let me know you saw this.]

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