December 31, 2010

BANG! The Anatomy of Explosions

The CGSociety was digging through its vault and goes back to 2005 for the basics with a study of the anatomy of the explosion in BANG! The Anatomy of Explosions by Kieron Helsdon.

For some snippets of info on explosions in After Effects, see Toward realistic explosions in After Effects.

The Breaking Bad website has a Q&A: Special F/X Coordinator Dennis Petersen on the importance of staging realistic explosions. There's also some decent info on explosions at Wikipedia, at How Stuff Works (underwater explosions), and maybe even on cable TV shows like Mythbusters that spend a lot time destroying things.

Here's a video of the physics of a blast wave; an article titled The Anatomy of an Explosion adds some comments:

We can end solar year 2010 on another bang:

AEtuts highlights of 2010

Topher Welsh is back with a roundup of his highlights of AEtuts from 2010, The Massive End of 2010 Aetuts+ Tutorial Roundup. The list is 90 tutorials, so there's bound to be something there you didn't have time to look into.

After Effects 101: Core After Effects

One basics training set overlooked here is After Effects 101: Core After Effects hosted by Richard Lainhart, a longtime user who ran the old AE NYC user group with Brian Maffitt. It was released in late October.

The training's host is, an online education community similar to though leaning more to audio. You have to register for previews, but there is easy access at their YouTube channel with 5 previews of this title:

PVC: Canon hacks + video is changing

Chris Meyer notes a few news items with 4 Ways Video Is Fundamentally Changing (from the head of Google’s “video monetization initiatives”) and a partial (6 second) breakthrough or hoax in 2k-4k @ 24fps on a Canon HDSLR? (with video from Philip Bloom).

The last bit has nothing to do with the Magic Lantern firmware hacks, though they should co-exist OK. Magic Lantern enables additional features on Canon cameras like onscreen audio meters, zebra stripes, crop marks, manual audio level controls, lower noise than stock firmware, etc. For the most recent release on those see Magic Lantern now on T2i/ 550D and 60D coming…no sign of 7D yet and the video below, also from Philip Bloom.

December 30, 2010

2010 In Review at PVC: expressions

PVC is reposting what they consider the best posts for 2010 In Review. There's no "After Effects" tag to check relevant posts easily, and there must have a been a flurry of info after the CS5 release, but what stands out in memory is the series on expressions by Chris and Trish Meyer.

Check out the linked index of the 12 installments at Deeper Modes of Expression: The Index.

Seamless: Pixel Bender filter for tileable textures

YY_Seamless is a new Pixel Bender plug-in ("Name Your Own Price") from Andrew Yang at AE Scripts:

"...which will create seamlessly-tileable textures for other plugins which require them like CC Sphere, CC Cylinder, Polar Coordinates, etc. or any 3D program. It works by creating a copy of the texture offset by 50%, and smoothly interpolating between the offset and the original texture."

It may be easier than using an Offset filter and Paint/Clone. By the way, Pixel Bender filters work in Photoshop and After Effects CS4 and above.

December 29, 2010

Some tutorials for removing logos and objects

A complete outline of the DVD training course Adobe After Effects CS5: Learn by Video can be found with the 20th free video, Removing a Logo from a Moving Image. (Streaming only on Video2Brain). A similar beginners' video is also available, Removing an Object with Clone Stamp (embedded below from a Peachpit podcast series).

For a resources of various difficulty levels, see Leak object removal tutorial and other AEP posts tagged roto like Roto: removing unwanted objects, Basic Footage Coloring And Object Removal, Simple Object Removal in AE, and Stabilization and object removal with AE CS5 +tracking.

Buena Depth Cue reviews

Two reviews of Buena Depth Cue v2 from Digieffects have appeared. Depth Cue filters make up for several missing 3D features in After Effects -- so much so that it seems like Adobe should license them or build them in (along with other filters from Zaxwerks and Mettle; or maybe instead add NLE-like playback).

A few days David Basulto posted his review at Filmmaking Central, Beuna Depth Cue - Worth the Focus! and today Kevin P McAuliffe posted a meaty review at PVC, Ten Editing “Must Own’s” of 2010, #2.

Subclips in Premiere: What? Why? How?

Andrew Devis posted a new video tutorial on sunclips in Premiere, Subclips: What? Why? How?:

"Subclips are essential when you need to organise a long piece of footage into smaller, more manageable chunks so that you can keep track of your project... Andrew Devis explains what subclips are, why you may want to use them and how to create and edit them."

For more see Using Subclips in Premiere Pro by Franklin Mcmahon at Layers and Creating and playing clips in Premiere Help.

Devis also has a tutorial for new editors on a relatively new (CS4) feature in Premiere, Understanding Nesting: A Key to Efficient Editing. Nesting of course is one of the earliest features of After Effects (early on it was called "Compify").

December 28, 2010

Free Boris Fx Glitters

BorisFx is offering a Free Boris Continuum Glitters "unit" for After Effects, Premiere Pro, Final Cut Pro, Motion, Final Cut Express, and Vegas Pro, according to their most recent e-mail newsletter. You're supposed to "Like" them on Facebook to get it: "You will receive a Facebook "Update" on January 3rd with a free Boris Continuum Glitters Unit download link." There's nothing on their website; it seems like they want you to sign up for the newsletter.

For a closer look at these filters, go to the Glitter Unit page.

Feds sue Lucasfilm for 'undermining' VFX artists

Lee Stranahan has a new article on The Huffington Post, Feds Sues Lucasfilm for Undermining VFX Artists.

Update: there's a thread started on A Union for Visual Effects at CG Society, and a long thread on on Reddit, IAMA visual effects artist for the last 14 years on many major films, and don't give a...

December 26, 2010

Animating with the Puppet tool

Angie Taylor shares a free tutorial from the After Effects CS5: Learn By Video DVD on how to use the Puppet tool in After Effects, Animating Characters with the Puppet tools.

For more, see Puppet tools overview and resources in AE Help, Animate a character in After Effects (with 3 links to detailed posts by Todd Kopriva), and other posts tagged puppet.

For many other examples from this DVD, see Todd Kopriva's free samples from After Effects CS5: Learn By Video, the DVD and book training set "designed to bring you from the beginner level to the intermediate level, as well as to warn and educate you about all of the common pitfalls and gotchas in After Effects."

AfterFxIO: interchange between AE & Modo

Fredrik Stenson posted a free script for data interchange between After Effects and Modo, AfterFxIO:

"This is a script for importing and exporting After Effects key frame data, designed for Luxology modo 501 and above. You can export your 3D camera to After Effects as well as any other 3D item. It will also import any position and rotation data from After Effects. It's Designed to work with After Effects CS3, CS4, CS5 and above."

December 25, 2010

December 24, 2010

Leak object removal tutorial

Mathias Möhl of Mamoworld is full of cheer, seeing a growing market in leak object removal (spurred by Wikileaks) in his Tutorial: WikiLeak Removal, which shows you how to:
  • Verify the leak
  • Track the leak with Mocha
  • Remove the leak with After Effects
Stephen Colbert had a fun comment in December 15 show opening: "TIME's person of the year is Mark Zuckerberg. Sorry Julian Assange, I guess you didn't violate enough peoples' privacy." For some background, see Is What WikiLeaks Does Journalism? Good Question at GigaOM. [update: the NYT added interesting points aside from any politics in Banks and Wikileaks, and CBS News posted How WikiLeaks Enlightened Us in 2010 by Joshua Norman.]

For more info on object removal in AE, see Roto: removing unwanted objects, Rotoscoping tips, and other posts tagged roto. Here's Mathias:

December 23, 2010

'VFX and Compositing Studio Techniques' review + giveaway

After Effects CS5 Visual Effects and Compositing Studio Techniques was released in October and my review at AEtuts is just in time for Christmas returns.

Adam Everett Miller posted details on the book giveaway (just "Like" AEtuts on Facebook).

December 22, 2010

Better Bouncing in After Effects

Ian Haigh posted EbbertBounce.ffx, a preset for basic bounces in Better Bouncing in After Effects. It's based on Dan Ebberts explanations on Motion Script, and is similar to Ian's Ease and Wizz -- but with sliders to adjust amplitude, decay, and frequency.

For some related resources, see the recent AEP post Gravity preset, Unpack Precomp script + more, which notes a similar preset and a tutorial and other resources.

Update: Ease and Wizz is now offered through AE Scripts.

3D or Real: 'Above Everything Else'

@AdobeAE notes Fxguide on Above Everything Else by Alex Roman (embedded below), 3D or Real: Above Everything Else.

It's a commercial almost completely done in CG. 3D renders were done in multiple passes. Roman and his partner used Frischluft's Lenscare plug-in to control of depth of field, and extra glows and flares, crushed blacks, and vignettes were done in 32-bit full-float with the standard AE color correction tools plus Magic Bullet Looks.

Creating snow in After Effects

Note: this post has been updated on PVC as Creating snow in After Effects.

You can use dedicated snow filters or particle systems to create snow that can be either stylized or realistic. There's filters built into After Effects like CC Snow, CC Particle World, and Particle Playground -- or you can use 3rd-party filters like Trapcode Particular (which is AE 3D camera-aware), Boris FX Snow, Cycore FX HD Snowfall, DigiEffects Delirium Snow, and GenArts Monsters GT.

Read the rest on PVC...

December 21, 2010

Omino Python: preview of AE Python interpreter

David Van Brink (@polyomino) posted a first demo of Omino Python, an After Effects plug-in that embeds a Python interpreter. Visit his blog for more AE filters and other resources.

It's not the first time Python scripting has appeared in After Effects -- Adobe once had a Python Plug-in demo in the SDK and Profound Effects had AE plug-in Useful Things that found fans in Trish and Chris Meyer, Jeff Almasol (with Profound Effects, now on the AE team), and others before it was sold to SONY.

December 20, 2010

The render pipeline in After Effects

Raymond Radet has written a handy new tutorial for AEtuts, Understanding The Render Order In After Effects, which introduces the rendering pipeline with links to more on AE Help.

The rendering pipeline is a lot more complicated now than Masks > Effects > Geometric PARTS, and it can no longer be visualized with a simple graphic. If you're looking for more, buy into Creating Motion Graphics in After Effects because you won’t see more clarity and graphic detail elsewhere (eyes glaze over at text-heavy resources like AE Help). See also How to Optimize Projects in Adobe After Effects CS5 or (CS4: Optimize the Pipeline), a project-oriented excerpt from Mark Christiansen's book.

Todd Kopriva has a newer video tutorial that's a good intro to the other pieces, Standard Render Order and the Transform Effect:

Vimeo Video School

Vimeo Video School provides bite-sized spoonfuls on video-making topics, organized in categories. Tutorials come from the staff and members of Vimeo; the discussions of Timelapse are good and come from familiar sources.

December 19, 2010

Toward realistic explosions in After Effects + bang!

BlueCast Studios posted a tutorial on YouTube, Realistic Explosions (but really, pedestrians in San Francisco aren't that jaded).

This one is good for those just learning After Effects (you know who you are), who might follow Todd's sage advice: "the best place to start is at the beginning." If you're at the beginning, try these then some of these and maybe these; then see Andrew Kramer's explosion compositing demo and his explosion tutorials).

Advice is not too different for those wanting to learn faking gun fire, muzzle flashes, and so forth; see Realistic Muzzle Flare Tutorial and Muzzle flash tutorials in After Effects.

Note: There are a number of stock footage resources that have footage. Video Copilot has a stock/training DVD Action Essentials 2 (see the compositing demo), and Forging Fire posted about free stock footage from Detonation Films in Free Explosions - Fire - Missile - Decapitation Footage.

Steve Holmes has several tutorials on integrating fire and smoke into environments in his Artbeats videos. Todd Kopriva summarizes these in a kind of course outline in Steve Holmes Artbeats podcast.

Also, Mark Christiansen's book After Effects Studio Techniques explores best practices of common creative VFX tasks, including those involving light, environment matching, heat, and explosions. One of the chapters is free on the Peachpit Press website: Pyrotechnics: Creating Fire, Explosions, and Energy Phenomena in After Effects. See especially his advice on modes and luma mattes.

Update: The CGSociety was digging through its vault and goes back to 2005 for the basics with a study of the anatomy of the explosion by Kieron Helsdon; see BANG! The Anatomy of Explosions.

Update: see also the roundup Burn Through Some Fire Tutorials.

Rotoscoping Depth Mattes With CameraTracker

Jorrit Schulte posted Rotoscoping Depth Mattes With CameraTracker last month on AEtuts:

"In this tutorial, we’re going to look at creating a 3D depth matte from Real footage. We’ll matchmove the footage with The Foundry’s plug-in CameraTracker, and create 3D layers that match the Footage to get a '3D model' of the scene. Then you will learn what you can do with this depth matte after you create it; create realistic fog, fake DOF and a rotoscoped matte."

Related techniques can be found in After Effects Rack Focus: tutorial and preset and with the Digieffects Depth Cue plug-ins and tutorials noted in Sharpen Depth of Field with One Click (there's many more at Digieffects). Here's a preview Jorrit's work:

Basic 'Predator' style camouflage effect

Jack Grundy posted AE Basics - 11. 'Predator' Style Camouflage Effect. It uses displacement of course; background is described on Vimeo:

December 17, 2010

SSA Karaoke Animator: new After Effects script

"Paul Tuersley week" ends with a new After Effects script, pt_SSAKaraokeAnimator:

"Imports karaoke subtitles from Substation Alpha files (.ssa/.ass) and creates new text layers with user designed text animation. In this new version you can also add a bouncing ball to your karaoke."

December 16, 2010

Gadget Stereoscopic Preview for After Effects CS5

Gadget Stereoscopic Preview is a new plug-in for After Effects CS 5 (Windows-only) that provides real-time 3D preview on a capable 3D display (NVIDIA® 3D Vision; Over/Under render on a 3D TV).

For more on stereo 3D, see Stereoscopic 3D resources for After Effects and some current but fragmented solutions on Adobe Forums (for example Stereoscopic Monitoring).

Crop Precomps, a new After Effects script

"Paul Tuersley week" continues with a new After Effects script, Crop Precomps:

"This script can crop nested compositions to fit the image contents. Useful in cases like Photoshop imports where precomps are created as document size. It makes precomp layers easier to work with as their bounding boxes fit the images, and can speed up rendering by reducing the areas being processed.

Written on request for screen graphics designer Mark Coleran, whose work can be seen on the computer screens in movies such as The Bourne Identity and Tomb Raider. Mark designs complex user interfaces in Photoshop made up of many layers nested into groups, before importing them into After Effects to animate."

December 15, 2010

Cord Cutters: turn Mac or PC into media center

NewTeeVee has a web video series Cord Cutters, on turning your Mac or PC into a media center. Cutting the cord of cable TV providers is probably why there's a fight over a tiered Internet leading to Snow Crash or Blade Runner style ghettos. The show is introductory at the moment but they're gaining steam with 9 episodes; here's the holiday buying guide:

Alien Attack! with Mocha and Camera Tracker

Harry Frank has a new After Effects tutorial video on Red Giant TV, Alien Attack!, that shows:

"how to destroy the city of Los Angeles through an alien attack. He’ll explore compositing, both 2D and 3D tracking, color correction and visual effects techniques that will blow your mind. In addition to After Effects, Harry will be using Mocha for AE (which ships with AE CS4+) and Camera Tracker, the new 3D camera matching software from the The Foundry. [plus Trapcode Horizon]"

Even better Dynamic Slide Shows in Premiere

Adobe has a new tutorial for Premiere, Dynamic Slide Shows (embedded below). It's useful for the most part for setting up the "Ken Burns effect," but undersells Premiere a bit by ignoring drifting issues with changing position and scale that are solved by using the Anchor Point property instead of Postion (in both AE and Premiere).

Pan & scan techniques have been best described by Chris and Trish Meyer; see their article on pan & scan at Artbeats and More Motion, Less Control (on adding a human touch) at PVC for good results. For examples of taking the effect to the next level with camera mapping & multiplane animation, see another article by Trish & Chris at Artbeats, Bob Donlon's example in Son of Ken Burns, a Richard Harrington video in 'Motion Control' with After Effects. There's much more in posts tagged slideshow, multiplane animation, camera mapping, and the AE camera.

See The Ken Burns Effect — and beyond for more backround from Burns himself.

Stabilize motion without zoom

Mathias Möhl has a new After Effects tutorial video (and project) on his Mamoworld website, Stabilize Motion Without the Need to Zoom, which reconstructs missing parts of the image from other frames (with the freedom to tweak and adjust not found in one-click solutions):

"In this tutorial you learn how to stabilize a shaky shot with the Mocha tracker and the MochaImport script. After stabilization, you usually need to zoom in a bit to get rid of empty areas that show up at the borders of the image. Instead of this, we use a clever technique to fill the missing parts at the borders such that there is no need for zooming any more. The technique uses frames before and after the current frame to fill in parts of the image that are missing in the current frame. Sounds complicated but works very well and is done with a few clicks using MochaImport.

Things to learn in this After Effects tutoria
  • Learn how to track in Mocha (I use Mocha Pro, but it also works with any other variant)
  • Learn how to stabilize a shot with the MochaImport script.
  • Learn how to smooth the camera movement with a simple expression.
  • Learn how to fill in missing parts at the borders of the stabilized footage by inserting appropriate material from the frames before and after the current point in time."

A comment on the tutorial mentions an alternate method using the Echo effect to reconstruct missing areas; another option for minor adjustments is the YY_MorphShake plug-in by Andrew Yang, which stretches the edges of the layer to fill in empty spaces. See also Content-Aware Fill for clean plates + extending edges at AE Portal.

Here's Mathias:

30% off Digieffects Megasuite + Toolfarm

The Red Giant sale is over but Digieffects' 30% off holiday sale on their Megasuite is good through Friday. The Megasuite is Damage v2 (7 filters), Delirium v2 (45 filters), and Buena Depth Cue v2 (6 filters extending 3D functions of After Effects). On Monday, some individual Digieffects filters will start to become available ala carte.

Note: Toolfarm is also having sales this month, for example Video Copilot stuff is 25% off through Friday!

Here's an example tutorial for Falloff Lighting, part of the Depth Cue package:

LayerMarkers: split at markers or add markers

"Paul Tuersley week" continues with a new After Effects script, pt_LayerMarkers, which splits selected layers at their layer markers, or add markers at the cut points of any layers in a comp.

December 14, 2010

ContactSheet: AE script for contact sheets, storyboards

"Paul Tuersley week" continues with a new After Effects script, pt_ContactSheet, which creates contact sheets or storyboards from a precomp or footage layer.

December 14: 40% OFF Red Giant plug-ins

If you were thinking of buying something from Red Giant Software, today is a pretty good day. For today only, December 14, every item in the Red Giant store is 40% OFF, including individual plug-in sets, (Trapcode, Magic Bullet, keying) suites, and presets.

December 13, 2010

Basketball interstitial walkthrough

Steve Holmes wrote a new After Effects tutorial for Artbeats, Game On:

Follow along as After Effects guru Steve Holmes creates a visually strong and photo realistic interstitial for a Basketball Championship League. This step-by-step tutorial incorporates footage from Artbeats with textures and interesting 3D tricks and camera moves in After Effects.

Go to Graphics Mafia for sports graphics inspiration and news. Motionworks
has a few similar things too, for example After Effects: Boxing Promo Walkthrough.

Setting Up After Effects for Optimum Performance

@AdobeAE notes a Learn by Video tutorial (embedded below) about setting up After Effects CS5 for optimum performance. It's more detailed than the previous free FAQ video (also from Todd Kopriva), but not sure here how it differs from other recent blog, Adobe FAQ, and forum guidance noted previously in AE CS5 memory settings & feedback.

A favorite Todd Kopriva quote is, "Because compositions and computer systems vary greatly, there is no one right answer to this question."

Additional project considerations were discussed by Mark Christiansen in How to Optimize Projects in After Effects CS5. Here's Setting Up After Effects for Optimum Performance with 64-Bit Systems by Todd Kopriva:

Really quick dynamic slideshow in after Effects

@aescripts RT @Oddernod:

Combining Trajectory script [by Mike Cardeiro] from @aescripts + @videocopilot's 3D Falloff preset makes for some really quick dynamic slideshow.

See also other AEP notes on Trajectory, more posts on slideshows, and this demo:

Frame Restorer script uses Timewarp

The week of Paul Tuersley at AE Scripts (one new script a day) begins now with the new After Effects script: pt_FrameRestorer:

This script can quickly restore damaged or missing frames. Use layer markers to specify which frames to restore, or get the script to search for color bars and restore any missing frames. The script uses the Timewarp effect to create new in between frames.

Aligning Particular motion paths

Red Giant posted QuickTip #25: Aligning Particular Motion Paths:

Motion paths in Particular can be tricky. Harry Frank brings you this overview of how to set them up, and a foolproof way to align the spline in 3D space with a simple expression. ...There's also a preset for AE CS4+, to use (with a try/catch thing so it doesn't error). Expressions used in this tutorial:

Particular Emitter Position XY:
pos = thisComp.layer("Motion Path 1").position.valueAtTime(0);[pos[0], pos[1]]

Particular Emitter Position Z:
thisComp.layer("Motion Path 1").position.valueAtTime(0)[2]

December 12, 2010

Combining Multiple DSLR Exposures in AE

No Film School noted Combining Multiple Exposures for HDR with DSLR Video by Robin Schmidt, who writes further on his blog El Skid. A few simple masks in After Effects can make for some much better shots, though of course motion may add difficult wrinkles.


Soviet Montage posted some nice demos earlier without details, except that the image was fed via a beam splitter. Richard van den Boogaard says that Soviet Montage worked with E3D Creative, who have rigs for Motion HDR (their demos used AE CS4 for "some tricky luma key"); see Exploring HDR Video – The Real Future of 3D Video.

HDR Video Demonstration Using Two Canon 5D mark II's from Soviet Montage on Vimeo.

Update: FilmmakerIQ notes a video in which "MiLapse shows you how to setup a HDR timelapse shot using the Dynamic Perception Stage Zero Dolly, MX2 DollyShield and Pentax K7."

How to shoot HDR Timelapse from Dynamic Perception on Vimeo.

Obscuring a face in After Effects

@AdobeAE notes a tutorial from AE CS5: Learn By Video on obscuring a face in After Effects by isolating it with Roto Brush & selectively applying a Mosaic effect (embedded below). There's more on the Roto Brush in AE Help and in posts tagged roto.

For other ways to do the same thing, and with earlier versions of AE, see for example Bob Donlon's The Mask of Shame and Obscure a logo, a face, or a license plate in After Effects at Toolfarm. Another example clip from AE CS5: Learn By Video shows a related technique-- how to combine motion tracking and rotoscoping to isolate and selectively color-correct an actor's face:

December 11, 2010

21 free videos from 'AE CS5: Learn By Video'

Todd Kopriva notes that Peachpit just posted 13 free samples from After Effects CS5: Learn By Video, a DVD and book training set "designed to bring you from the beginner level to the intermediate level, as well as to warn and educate you about all of the common pitfalls and gotchas in After Effects." There's more on this title in earlier posts; see Blending Modes from 'AE CS5: Learn by Video' for 14th sample. [update: the count is up to 21 from Todd, and more from Angie Taylor.]

Todd lists the free sample videos with links to pages in After Effects Help and related documents for more details on each subject. Here's an example, Removing an Object with Clone Stamp:

Golden Ratio preset for After Effects

James Chiny is offering a free Golden Ratio preset for After Effects at HYPOLY. It generates an overlay of a Golden spiral and rectangles using a Stroke effect. Be sure to check out his other downloadables, like his Ellipse Tool Plus preset (noted in Ellipse Tool Plus from Hypoly).

See also Lightroom's Golden Ratio & Spiral guides, an earlier AEP post with some related resources.

December 10, 2010

CMG Hidden Gems: comp window tips

Chris & Trish Meyer have started a series of tips, tricks, gotchas, factoids, and shortcuts from each chapter of Creating Motion Graphics with After Effects 5th Edition for both new and experienced users. The 2st installment is Creating Motion Graphics Hidden Gems: Chapter 2 - Creating a Composition, covering:
  • Get Snapping
  • Add Layer Power Drag
  • Side-by-Side View
  • RAM Preview Options
  • Option/Alt Button Clicks
For similar recent efforts, see After Effects Leftovers: 40 tips better the next day, A few quick tips for After Effects, and Keyboard shortcuts you (maybe) don't use.

December 9, 2010

Which Video DSLR?

On the AE-List, Jim Feeley recommended Philip Bloom's post Which… “Video DSLR” to buy?

Chris Meyer noted that digital video guru Adam Wilt recently ran tests on the Nikon D90, Canon 5D mkII & 7D, and Pansonic DMC-GH1, and "dropped a LOT of wisdom about using HDSLRs for real video work" in Overview: Several First-Generation Versacams.

See also last month's HDSLR Shopping? for some other round-ups.

December 8, 2010

Separating elements in AE with Mocha

Andrew Devis has a new After Effects tutorial video, Separating Elements using Mocha 2 Tracking:

"In this video tutorial Andrew Devis will show you how to separate out different elements in your footage to layers so that you can apply color correction or effects in completely different ways on each layer for that unique look you're looking for. Firstly, Andrew will show you how hard it is to separate elements natively using AE native tracker and then how easy it is to do using Mocha 2 tracking for AE."

Using Mocha and CS5 also seems much easier than experimenting with the TrackerViz (tips by Mark Christiansen and Sean Kennedy) or Tracker2Mask scripts.

More writing text in After Effects

Write-on text (or stroke or unmasked) has been a very common task in After Effects, and here's 3 more tutorials.

QuickTip – Fast And Easy Text Writing With Particular by Antwan at AEtuts shows:

"the quickest technique for typing words with Particular. Its really handy and easy to setup and it will save you tons of time especially when you want to write a longer word or even a sentence."

Shortformvideo also has a new one, similar to one long out-of-print from Total Training, AE Tutorial – Laser-etched metal title (part 1 embedded below):
"Here’s a new two-part tute on how to create a laser effect that burns your text into a sheet of metal. While this can be achieved using CS3, it’s a lot easier with the Convert Text to Masks option in CS4 and CS5, so I’m using CS5 for this one.
I ran over a bit on part two and had to butcher it to fit into the 15-minute limit – so it’s a bit choppy, and I cut out the parts where I added a flicker to the laser highlight, masked the smoke layers, and re-adjusted the keyframe positions on the Opacity values."

See also Animated Handwriting in After Effects by Corey Barker (uses a stroke effect), Mattrunks' Light Painting Tuto After Effects: Light Effects without plugins, QubaHQ's resurrected Efficient Method for Text Reveal in After Effects, and [later] another tutorial yielding a common look, Laser Writing in After Effects, by Rob Mize.

There's more in the mists of the past and on YouTube, depending on search terms, but here's 1 more related resource, Light graffiti in AE on demos by Aharon Rabinowitz and Andrew Kramer.

Here's Mr. Grayson: