Masking & Tracking In Premiere Pro

Masking & Tracking In Premiere Pro

April 27, 2014

Learn techniques for masking and tracking in Premiere Pro CC in this color correction tutorial from a professional colorist.

New Features Add More Secondary Control

As they have done the past few years at NAB, Adobe once again announced new features, updates and functionality of their pro video tools at this years show.

There was a lot to love with Premiere Pro, After Effects, SpeedGrade, and Media Encoder.

However, there was one feature that I’m super excited about, and if you use Premiere Pro to edit, and do some color work I think you’ll be too!

Finally! Masking & Tracking in Premiere Pro CC!

The color grading tools in Premiere Pro have always been good for basic primary corrections, but when it came to secondary corrections unless you were using a 3rd party plugin you pretty much had to settle for keying to isolate a portion of a shot.

While keying works well in many situations, its not perfect and often you’ll run into a shot that just doesn’t key. And if it does key, you might end up with a poor selection resulting in chatter and noise in the image.

That’s why seasoned colorists using dedicated color grading applications have come to love using shapes, windows, vignettes, or whatever you want to call them – they let you isolate a portion of a shot to apply a grade or an effect inside or outside of that shape.

Now in Premiere Pro we have the ability (finally!) to use two different mask shapes – an ellipse mask and a 4- point polygon mask.  We can even track the masks!

The really cool thing is that every single effect in Premiere Pro now has this functionality.

So for example, lets say you need to blur a logo – that’s simple. Add the blur effect, then limit it with a mask – and then if you need to, track it.

I can’t tell you how excited I am by this functionality – it’s going to make the life of editors, online editors and folks who do color inside of Premiere Pro much better.

Some Things To Like, Some Things Not To Like

I’m glad this functionality has made its way into Premiere, but like any toolset there are some things to like and some things not to like.

The things I like:

  • Every effect can have a mask applied.
  • It’s simple to change the size, rotation and aspect of mask.
  • In the case of the 4-point polygon mask it’s actually more then 4 points!  Cmd/Ctrl click on the mask shape to add as many control points as you need.
  • You can rename masks if you have multiple masks on an effect to keep them straight.
  • You can copy and paste masks from clip to clip speeding up workflow

The things I don’t like:

  • When using the softening parameter for a mask there isn’t a visual indictor (outside mask line) indicating how much softness you have.  While workable it would seem like this could be added to a future release.
  • The Tracker isn’t particularly fast and it makes a keyframe on every single frame.  I’d love to see some interpolation done to speed up a track.

If past history is any indicator, I’m positive Adobe will move quickly to improve and update mask and tracking functionality in future releases. Something that is easier for them to do thanks to Creative Cloud.

Wait! My Version Of Premiere Pro CC Doesn’t Do This!

If you’re sitting there watching this Insight and scratching your head wondering where all this functionality is – don’t worry!  You might not have it yet.

Depending on when you watch this Insight, Adobe may have not yet pushed out the update to Creative Cloud users although I’ve been told that update will be coming soon.

I’m using the build of Premiere featured at NAB – I presented on Premiere and SpeedGrade heavily at Post | Production World this year.

So, if you don’t yet have the latest version of Premiere with mask and tracking abilities hold tight – the wait will be worth it!

– Robbie

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