Fireball Effect in After Effects (How to use Motion Tracking)

LEARN ABOUT MOTION TRACKING IN THIS AFTER EFFECTS TUTORIAL! | We’ll learn about auto tracking in After Effects and we’ll do some simple placement, scaling, and rotation as well as manually tracking where it’s needed to complete this effect.

Check out ProductionCrate for all the cool resources I used in this video.

In this After Effects tutorial, we will use a few keyed fireball clips from ProductionCrate to create a double fireball effect that explodes together into a massive fireball that overtakes the entire screen. We’ll learn about simple scaling and positioning and then build out two tracking points that follow my hands and then as I smash them together a fireball will explode from it and overtake the whole screen. I hope you love this tutorial! Thanks for watching!

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Site Exclusive Tutorial Recording Notes:

Disclaimer: these are the actual notes I used to record this video and are written in a language you may or may not understand. Hopefully, you find them useful or cool.

  1. The auto tracking tools are very powerful in After Effects. Today we’re going to talk about just one of those feature sets, the standard motion tracking in After Effects.
  2. For this motion tracking to work, you really will need something of a defined object in your footage, something for After Effects to latch onto and really track.
  3. Before you begin tracking, view the entire duration of the shot to determine the best features to track. What is clearly identifiable in the first frame may later blend into the background because the angle, lighting, or surrounding elements have changed. A tracked feature may disappear off the edge of the frame or be obscured by another element at some point in the scene.
  4. You want to find something that is visible for the entire shot, has enough contrast to stand out/get picked up by After Effects, has a shape that is distinct/sticks out when compared with the stuff around it, and is consistently the shape and color throughout the duration of the shot.
  5. NOTE: Sometimes you’ll see major production houses putting little ping pong looking balls on a person/object they’re going to be motion tracking to give the computer something to really bite onto.
  6. To get started, go Animation>Track Motion to pop open the Tracking panel and be ready to begin tracking.
  7. You’ll see a double box with a little plus point. That point is the attach point where the graphic that will be animated to track the object being tracked will latch onto it. I.e. if you wanted to have a cloud float above somebody’s head and follow their head movement, you’d place the two tracking boxes over the face, but you’d drag the little point up above their head.
  8. The outermost square is the search region. After Effect will search this entire region looking for matching pixels to create the perfect motion tracked path.
  9. The inner square is the feature box which is what After Effects will actively try to find over and over within that search area to determine the motion path of the object moving within the video.
  10. NOTE: the search region will always need to be a little bigger than the feature region because as the object moves in the video and as it moves around, After Effects needs to be able to rescan the search area looking for that object.
  11. Once you’ve set your region, hit the Analyze forward button to get this thing started.
  12. If you have a particularly difficult object to track, you can analyze frame by frame and make sure it’s making the changes that you need.
  13. Create a Null object and choose to “Edit Target” in the Tracker panel and attach this tracking info to the Null object and hit the “Apply” button and apply the X and Y.
  14. Take the flames that we’re attaching to my hand and drag and position is and rotate it as I want. Move the anchor point to an appropriate place (this is the exact point After Effects will snap to the attach point of that motion track that we did before.
  15. Pick whip to connect the layer to the Null Object containing the tracking data and the flames will flow around the video as they ought.
  16. Repeat this process on the other hand, add a few sound effects, maybe a big explosion when my hands come together, and you’ve got yourself a deal!