VFX – Skin Replace/Glow

This week Gary wanted to walk us through a visual effect for skin glowing, this effect has seen recent use in a number of big budget productions. Two of these are from the Marvel universe, very recently in the trailer for Netflix’s Iron Fist and to represent the Extremis virus in Iron Man 3 (both seen below).

Gary provided us with a number of free to use videos of faces, to be used as a base for this exercise. I picked the one that had the closest face as I knew once the exercise was over I wanted to try and replace the eye too, and I could get a pretty clean mask out of this footage.

We had to bring the video into a new composition and from there into Mocha – we’ve done this before but this time used the Bezier tool bezierto map out an area. In the past we’ve used the X-spline. I’m not too sure of the difference (unless I’ve missed the obvious) and will need to look into this for some clarification. The tracking area didn’t need to be where you planned to alter the face, this was purely for tracking the overall head motions.

As usual the tracking data was copied to bring back into AE, a new black solid was created, named Track Data and had this copied to it. As an extra step a grid overlay was applied.



Above the track data layer another black solid was created and a fractal noise effect applied to it. We used this before in Peter’s Magnetic North tutorial and is similar to difference clouds in Photoshop. I played around with the settings until I was happy with the general look and feel. Originally this was a static layer in the tutorial but skimming through old posts I remembered the time*(insert value) expression and used this on the fractal noises evolution to animate the noise. I was hoping it would make the effect seem far more alive and organic. The pen tool was then used to mask around the noise, creating the general shape we wanted the final effect to be, and then feathered.

Now was the time we looked at introducing whatever detail we wanted to show under the skin. Gary had already provided a variety of vein patterns, however on top of this I was hoping to show some musculature. I pulled the above image from google, pulled out the eyes in Photoshop and brought it into AE and masked around what I wanted to use. The veins were arranged where I wanted them (blend mode set to multiply) and all of the above details were pre-comped. Within this pre-comp, a white solid was placed on the bottom layer.


Back in the main composition, the noise layer was set to luma matte, looking above to the pre-comp. Now the Noise layer and the pre-comp were again pre-comped. Within this second pre-comp a new black solid was created and set as the bottom layer.


Returning to the main composition (again) the screen mode for this new comp was set to colour dodge. Getting close to finishing now, a curves effect was added to tint the facial details with a colour of choice and the tracking data was copied onto the second composition, matching it to the facial movements.

Oh nearly forgot to mention, I went back in later and added an expression to the veins that I found online to mimic a pulsing effect to bring some life to the still images. I think it worked out well for a first attempt.


With the time I had left I created another black solid with animated fractal noise and then masked this to cover the eye. A curves was again used to tint the grey colour into something more fitting. I had wanted to figure out if putting a mask inside a mask was possible as a means of bringing the iris of the girl back, however I never managed this and still need to ask about it.

If I ever did this again I’d have a tinker to try and bring more of the musculature out. Not much of the image I inserted ended up being visible in the end product, just a single cheek ligament shows through. Overall though I think this was a brilliant exercise, yet again demonstrating the ease of basic VFX.

Next week we’ll be looking at particle systems to simulate magic. I’m not sure what’ll be cooler, this or that! Many choices for what to do as a final VFX piece for the year.



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