Category Archives: skin smoothing

Easy Ways of Animating Masks for Use with Beauty Box in After Effects, Premiere, and Final Cut Pro

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We have a new set of tutorials up that will show you how to easily create masks and animate them for Beauty Box. This is extremely useful if you want to limit the skin retouching to just certain areas like the cheeks or forehead.

Traditionally this type of work has been the province of feature films and other big budget productions that had the money and time to hire rotoscopers to create masks frame by frame. New tools built into After Effects and Premiere Pro or available from third parties for FCP make this technique accessible to video editors and compositors on a much more modest budget or time constraints.

Using Masks that track the video to animate them with Beauty Box for more precise retouching

How Does Retouching Work Traditionally?

In the past someone would have to create a mask on Frame 1 and  move forward frame by frame, adjusting the mask on EVERY frame as the actor moved. This was a laborious and time consuming way of retouching video/film. The idea for Beauty Box came from watching a visual effects artist explain his process for retouching a music video of a high profile band of 40-somethings. Frame by frame by tedious frame. I thought there had to be an easier way and a few years later we released Beauty Box.

However, Beauty Box affects the entire image by default. The mask it creates affects all skin areas. This works very well for many uses but if you wanted more subtle retouching… you still had to go frame by frame.

The New Tools!

After Effects and Premiere have some amazing new tools for tracking mask points. You can apply bezier masks that only masks the effect of a plugin, like Beauty Box. The bezier points are ‘tracking’ points. Meaning that as the actor moves, the points move with him. It usually works very well, especially for talking head type footage where the talent isn’t moving around a lot. It’s a really impressive feature. It’s  available in both AE and Premiere Pro. Here’s a tutorial detailing how it works in Premiere:

After Effects also ships with Mocha Pro, another great tool for doing this type of work. This tutorial shows how to use Mocha and After Effects to control Beauty Box and get some, uh, ‘creative’ skin retouching effects!

The power of Mocha is also available for Final Cut Pro X as well. It’s available as a plugin from CoreMelt and they were kind enough to do a tutorial explaining how Splice X works with Beauty Box within FCP. It’s another very cool plugin, here’s the tutorial:

Breaking Down Using Beauty Box in a Music Video

It’s always cool to see folks posting how they’ve used Beauty Box Video. One of the most common uses is for music videos, including many top artists. Most performers are a little shy about letting it be known they need retouching, so we get pretty excited when something does get posted (even if we don’t know the performer). Daniel Schweinert just posted this YouTube and blog post breaking down his use of Beauty Box Video (and Mocha) for a music video in After Effects. Pretty cool stuff!

Here’s a link to his blog with more information:
http://schweinert.com/blog/files/49c88ab71626af3ecef80da0a92c9677-47.html

Speeding Up Beauty Box Video

We’ve come along way from Beauty Box Video 1.0, which was pretty slow. It’s now as fast as any other solution out there, and BB still offers the easiest and highest quality way of doing retouching for HD, 4K, and film. That said, it still requires a render and there are various things that can slow it down. It can really slow FCP X down if FCP isn’t configured correctly.

What should you expect speed-wise from Beauty Box?

A minute of HD video should take from 3-10 minutes to render out on a reasonably fast machine. So let’s discuss how to get those faster speeds. If you have a fast video card (say, the Nvidia 680 in an iMac) and are seeing really slow speeds, make sure you read to the end were we discuss the configuration file BB uses.

After Effects: Beauty Box will render faster in AE than any other host app. This is primarily because of how AE handles multiprocessing. It’s far better than any of the video editing apps. It requires a fair amount of RAM to really take advantage of, but it can run very fast. If it’s possible, we recommend doing the Beauty Box pass in AE, and then bring the intermediary file into your editing app to cut.

Final Cut Pro 7 & X: If you’re using FCP X, turn off background rendering. Background rendering works great with basic filters, but when you have something that’s render intensive like Beauty Box background rendering will bring FCP X to it’s knees. Also, turn off scrubbing. FCP will start caching frames and, again, start rendering multiple frames in the background which will really make FCP sluggish. Generally, we recommend either applying BB first, and then turning it off as you’re editing, OR applying it last. Applying it last is the preferred way. You can take your edit, create a compound clip, and then apply Beauty Box to the compound clip. In FCP 7, a compound clip is called ‘Nest’.

Premiere Pro: Similar in some respects to what happens in Final Cut Pro. It’s not a real-time effects, so it’ll prevent the Mercury engine from rendering in real-time. So, again, you want to apply Beauty Box either before you start editing (and turn it off while you edit) or apply it as the last step after editing and color correction (recommended).

Video Cards: Beauty Box is accelerated using OpenCL. This means it’ll get a massive speed boost from newer Nvidia and AMD video cards. In practice, this speed boost can vary quite a bit. We’ve run into more problems with AMD cards than Nvidia, so we recommend Nvidia cards if possible. Although, usually AMD cards are fine, so it’s not a huge deal. It does tend to be a bit more of a problem on the Mac where Apple creates the drivers. The AMD drivers tend to be more problematic than Nvidia’s. Regardless of which video card you have, we recommend getting the most recent Mac OS (and staying current with updates). Apple rolls driver fixes into the latest OS, so if you’re using an older OS, it’s potentially a problem. If you’re on Windows, you can just download the latest drivers, so it’s less of an issue.

What video card to get?

We still like the Nvidia GeForce GTX 570 as being the best price/performance option out there. For video applications, the Quadro cards don’t offer a lot of benefits. They tend to be slower and you’re paying for features that are more applicable to engineering/3D apps. If you do a lot of 3D work, the Quadro might be a better choice (I don’t do much 3D, so I can’t comment on that). The newer GeForce cards like the GTX 680 and GTX Titan are great, but don’t necessarily offer the speed boost to justify the extra cost. They are faster, so if you’re looking for the absolute fastest card then the Titan or GTX 690 is a great choice. Both cards require a ton of power, so make sure you’ve got a small nuclear power plant as your power supply.

OpenCL Configuration File

Beauty Box creates a special configuration file for the video cards in your system. This makes a file that you can send us that helps us troubleshoot any problems and it also keeps track of whether a given video card is crashing when used with BB. If the video card is always crashing this is a good thing. However, sometimes you’ll have a random one-off crash and BB will disable OpenCL. This will cause a dramatic slowdown in rendering. The solution is to delete the configuration file. BB will then recreate a default file next time it starts and rendering speeds will be back to normal. But you need to know where it is to delete it, so here are the locations:

Windows: Documents\Digital Anarchy\DA_OpenCL_Devices.txt

Mac: Users\Shared\Digital Anarchy\DA_OpenCL_Devices.txt

Happy rendering… :-)