VFX – Jedi or Magician?

This week was one I’ve been waiting for, to hopefully give me some idea if I want to run with magical type effects in my final piece for the year (turns out I probably will). We had the choice of creating a Mandala effect from Doctor Strange or a force push from Star Wars (both effects would be layered on top of footage from Star Wars, specifically Yoda).


I opted to do the mandala from Doctor Strange, having seen other tutorials for the same effect online it was already an idea I had toyed with for a final project. I might as well see if its something I could bulk out into a quality piece.

We were given the option to get the mandala effect from footagecrate.com and then spend the time making it look good but I approached the tutorial from scratch and made my own. I won’t cover this part as it’s not really the point of the exercise, but it was cool and I’m happy with how it turned out. Animating some details clockwise and some counter clockwise really helped give it some visual interest. It would have been nice if I could have found a suitable font, but have no access


So first things first, I made a new composition out of the yoda footage, and brought in the mandala as a new pre-composition. The mandala was dragged to the correct place on the timeline where Yoda begins to raise his hand. I ticked the 3D space option for the mandala and was then presented with two choices, motion track Yoda’s hand for a few frames to align the mandala or key it by eye for a couple of frames. I did it by eye, it seemed quicker.

The next step was adding a Fractal Noise (love it, most useful effect) to the Mandala pre-comp and a Roughen Edges effect. These both helped to remove the pristine vector image look and ground the effect into the scene further. The individual settings were tinkered with until I achieved something that looked and felt right. I need to get in the habit of not posting every numerical setting when reviewing exercises, it will always differ from project to project.

Continuing the barrage of added effects, next was an Add Glow. A&B colours were added and set as the in-use colours. I chose an orange and a red and tinkered with the settings to mimic the colours of the original Doctor Strange mandala. To add to this new colour palette a new solid was created (in the colour of choice, orange), masked out roughly around the mandala and heavily feathered to simulate an area of glow. This had its opacity animated from 0-75% during the 5 frames it takes the mandala to fully materialise.


You may also notice a new eye has been added onto Yoda. I did this as a second exercise using existing tools and knowledge. To run through it briefly, his eye was tracked and then track points edited manually (as I couldn’t get a clean and correct track). As always this tracking information was pasted onto a new Null. A black solid was created, the eye masked around on frame 1 and parented to the null. The time consuming part was animating the mask frame by frame to match the eye.

The original footage was then duplicated, placed under the black solid and set to alpha matte. An exposure effect was applied to the duped footage, tinkered with, feathered and then the colour edited using a Hue/Saturation effect. Absolutely no new tools but all used for a totally different effect, proof that most tricks in AE build on top of a core knowledge.






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