Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Rotoscoping - Part 2

Rotoscoping - Part 2
I cover the process of creating rotosplines for visual effects and some tips and suggestions. Examples are in Commotion but should apply to any application that has rotosplines (or masks in the case of After Effects)

I've changed this to use the YouTube version which should be easier to view.

In case you missed it:
Rotoscoping - Part 1

[Update: I have a Rotoscoping Basics post that links to the various roto posts, covers some basic notes and provides a linking to the fxGuide  article on roto that discusses the history of rotoscoping and some of the currently available tools. It also includes an interview with me talking about Commotion, which is the package I did the video demos with.]


  1. Thanks Scott!

    Your contribution to the FX community is greatly appreciated. Having followed your "exploits" since around Cinefex issue #1, it is really fanstastic to hear you explain these issues in your own words. The behind the scenes videos on the pants spot are really well done. Have you thought about producing DVD's. I have always hoped to see a set of "real world" behind the scenes how to FX tutors. I look forward to your next entry. . .
    -David Swoboda
    Milwaukee, WI

  2. Glad you liek it.
    There could be a polished DVD or book in the future if there's enough interest.

  3. hi scott,

    thank you for this great site.

    please try to get avid to continue to develope commotion. for me it is the best programm for roto and it would be a shame to leave it where it is.

    of cause i would be interested in a book and / or DVD :-)


  4. dude i really like what imseeing thus far. i just subscribed via itunes. keep it up champ


  5. Thanks so much!
    Working in a small video house, it's essential that I spend as much time producing. Since I am the only animator, 3d artist, compositor, vfx, motion graphics person here, I don't have much of a chance to collaborate. All of your casts have been invaluable to my continuing understanding of this ever-changing industry. The rotoscoping is the best yet. My boss is probably going to have doing a lot of roto soon and your technique for roto'ing people is awesome. Previously, I always tried to roto the whole body with one spline. What a waste of time! I practiced on an older piece of footage we have here and I was able to get a decent result of the lower body of a person running in just a couple hours.

    Thanks again!
    Chip Weatherman

  6. Thx for your podcast Scott. I'm loving them.

    A loooong time ago, I owned a book called Photoshop Channel Chops. Unfortunately, someone "borrowed" it for an extended period of time.

    Have you had any luck doing shots like this procedurally? Is it possible use Commotion to combine color channels to produce a rough alpha then roto the other bits out as needed?

    Thx again,


  7. Keying will only work with specific shots. If you want to matte the edge of a red brick building from anotehr you'll have to create the matte yourself.
    In regard to the pantless man shots - There are a few ways to key. Color, Luminance, difference matting would all be possible to some degree.
    Color - dress the actor in a specific color such as blue or green and pull a key off that. Outdoors with hard lighting tends to make this somewhat tough to get clean keys. I also want a hard matte at the body edge but then a wider, softer matte where I'm removing the body so there's no visible difference.
    Luminance - using white on the actor could allow pullign a Luminance key but since there are other brightness items you'd have to have roto matte to isolate.
    Difference matte- Since there's a clean plate you could calculate the difference between the clean and the shot with the actor. The problem is film grain/video noise and other variables produce a key that tends to have a lot of holes. You can roto to isolate the areas but you'd also need roto to isolate just the body sections you wanted to remove.

    I think as I mentioned in the podcast if you can cleanly do a key then you should do it or try it. However be aware of the limits and also understand the tradeoffs. Keying can take longer to shoot since you have to check the light and the rest of the scene. It's sometimes easy to spend as much or more time getting a good as it would be to roto a scene to begin with.

  8. heya scott!

    first let me say a huge THANK YOU! thank you for commotion, i've used it extensively on many a project in the past on up to just recently on "KING KONG". i fear it's days are numbered though due to lack of continued support. a shame really.

    i stumbled upon your blog whilst doing a search for 'ROTO' (since i'm enjoying some much deserved downtime) and i'm glad i did too.

    after listening to your podcast and checking out your two vodcasts on roto, i have a thought. you mentioned the concept of remote based work and specified that it was really well suited for matte painters. i'd like to take it one step further and mention that the concept of remote based VFX work is also conducive where ROTO work is concerned. i've done it before on commercials and music videos and i'm hoping the idea catches on more widely. ROTO is a task which, with proper experience, requires no hand holding from supervisors or production staff once the proper shot requirements have been transferred to the ROTO artist.

    as a test to this, i've started a little project to begin to prove my point. i've created this website ( ) to begin to generate some interest in acquiring work from around the planet. it is my goal to make my services available to anyone who might be able to use them and to be able to do that work from where i am based here in New Zealand. a new entry to the web so the results are not in yet but i'm hopeful and confident that ROTO is a task (right up there with matte painting) that can and will be done by people like myself from remote based locations on a freelance basis.

    i just wanted to chime in and say thank you to the one person who i'd guess is mostly responsible for a good deal of my happiness in life. ROTO has treated me very well over the past decade and i don't envision stopping any time soon.

    i'd love to hear your thoughts about the possibility of ROTO work becoming more widely accepted as a task that can be accomplished remotely like i envision.

    kind regards,

    george oliver

  9. Hi George,

    Remote roto is certainly something that's already starting to happen. For the Levis spot I had someone else roto a couple of shots. Set images and file by ftp.
    Some companies are starting to outsource some work, especially under crunch time so a roto service sounds good.

    PS- Commotion may not be entirely dead. We'll see. Luckily it does run under Rosetta on the MacTel boxes.

  10. great blog,
    havent checked any of the podcasts(mv4).
    but caught the mp3 from fxguide.

    about the book/dvd...would be wicked ;) ...i cant imagine there NOT being enough demand on this especially wire removals(without mokey hehehe).

    thanks for the site.


  11. AnonymousMay 03, 2006

    Great Site. This is great for the vfx community, especially coming from a well respected guy like you. I only have one complaint. Your Roto series needs to use tools that people can get now. Commotion , Elastic Reality, GFX are not available anymore , unless you know something different. Tools like Mokey and SilhoutteFX are taking the stage now. I know you have "history" with commotion but for the newcomer to the scene it would be great to start creating these tutorials with the tools that can be purchased today. Other than that, once again great site

    The Idol

  12. At this point part of the fate of Commotion is in hte hands of Avid.

    One of the things I'm trying to avoid is getting too deep into is the specific tool commands. There's a number of books and DVD's covering specific tools in detail. I'm hoping to give peopel enough knowledge they can apply that with whatever tools they choose to use.

  13. AnonymousMay 18, 2006

    I'd just like to join in and say thanks for such a great podcast. Its taken me a while to watch it as I only just got my iPod video put they have really opened my eyes to rotoscoping and I'm pretty excited to try it out on some projects I've got coming up.

    So here's a direct question - you use Commotion during the examples, but what would you recommend as the best roto app now and going into the future. I know you have history with commotion but is it worth hunting down a copy or starting with a more modern program.


  14. I'm not sure there currently is a great roto tool out there. After Effects is finally starting to add some of the basic features. Some people are using Shake, Silhouette, etc.

  15. AnonymousJune 01, 2006

    Thank's Scott,

    for your opend minded way of sharing your knowledge with others.
    I hope you find time continuing this blog.
    What do you think about Fusion5?

    All the best.

  16. thanks...lot..

    this blog will really helpfull for... me


  17. hi scott
    If you have little time , please make little tutorial or say word or two for hair rotosocoping, especialy for a commotion.

  18. hi scott
    If you have little time , please make little tutorial or say word or two for hair rotosocoping, especialy for a commotion.

  19. Hair is a tricky area. If the hair isn't blowing all over and the person is moving you can usually get away with creating a normal roto. Don't worry about losing a few strands of hair, as long as the animation is smooth it's not noticeable.

    If you have long blowing hair then it's usually a combination of techniques. See if you can pull a lumikey or a color key of some type. As I recall this is how we did the shot in The Mask where Cameron Diaz is on the bridge. It doesn't have be for the full person, just the hair strands. The rest of the person and any clumped hair is done by standard roto. If you can easily see the hair then you're liekly to be able to get some kind of difference. Take a look at the different color channels to see what stands out the most. As I mentioned if you lose some hair it's usually not noticeable.

    Normallly when you shoot for rotoscoping keep an eye on the background. There was an old music video done of Michael Jackson when he had his big, fluffy hair. Unfortuantely they shot him against a black blackbackground with no edge lighting. This meant the roto people had to make up where his hair line was so always try to keep some type of contrast with background or cheat in just a little edge lighting so you can roto or pull a little key if necessary.

  20. Rotoscoping Rocks!
    Keep it up....

    Michelle Arcenal

  21. Thanks Scott for a hair rotos help. i think would be good idea to make a video tut for hair rotos with examples. Normaly If you have a time . thanks again

  22. It s ME again. would u be more explicite about "See if you can pull a lumakey or a color key of some type"


  23. hello sir i have a video of a person with wire but the wire is so close to camera nd it is giving me so many difficulty's .but i want to remove it i dont know how to do that because wireremovel tool nd paint tool is not working when ever i tried to paint its seems ok on that frame but when i move to next frames it shows me differ .plz help me 1 can send the frames if needed its a footage from net plz help acutely i m a beginner i m doing my diploma in 3d animation nd visual effects from framboxx Chandigarh nd going to join some studio in few days ....nd i want to add that footage in my show reel .plz help me out

  24. What application are you using to remove the wire? Avoid Photoshop and other tools that only work on single frames. You want something designed from the ground up to paint on moving images. Is there any footage without the wire?

    Of course in the future try to avoid an unwanted item close to camera.

  25. sir i m using fusion but its not working properly ....

  26. sir, i thanks you from the bottom of my hear for this blog

    My name is ebenezer am from India, am craz about roto and vfx,

    Sir, can you please lemme know where i should start from i have searched for schools in india they are not even worth to consider,

    only people like you can guide me,

    i do not have any basics in softwares but know photoshop, i want to be compositor - vfx artist,

    would doing nuke and fusion be good i am planning to take it up with fxphd,

    can you let me know about good tutorial and books, i prefer video tutorials

    your golden words are needed

  27. I don't have any direct experience with vfx classes or DVD's. fxphd does look like they cover a number of classes.

    General suggestions:
    When you can take a class in person it's preferable to an online class, especially early on, so you can get questions answered quickly and so someone can show you right there.

    Take a look at the potential jobs available. This may be where you currently live or be based on the type of work, company or projects you would like to do. There are now a number VFX job sites. vfxpro, smoothdevil, etc. This can help guide you to take classes in specific software. If you want to do motion graphics then most of places probably deal with After Effects. If you want to work with a specific company they may deal specifically with Nuke or some other package. Watch out for training with an application that few companies use.

    If you already own a vfx package you might want to take a class on that to make the most of it.

    Make sure somewhere in the process (early on) you get training on the general issues. It's much easier to learn to use a specific tool if you understand the fundamentals first (such as mattes, alpha channel and roto if you'll be doing compositing)

    Check out my VFX schools post, some of these offer online training.

    I'm sure you'll find training DVD's online but I would place these lower than taking a good online class so you're able to ask questions.

    Do a search online to see if there are honest reviews or opinions of the classes or DVD's.

    If you sign up for online classes or DVD's you may want to consider starting with just one to see how it goes. You may not want to commit to 3 classes and find out it's just not working for you. Check cancelation or return policies.

    Good luck.

  28. is there any paint tutorials about?


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