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How to Composite Multiple Videos Using Clean Plates in After Effects

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Read Time: 4 min
Final product imageFinal product imageFinal product image
What You'll Be Creating

In this tutorial, we'll be looking at how to composite multiple videos using clean plates in After Effects in order to get the best out of our lighting tools that we have on hand, when creating content on a budget.

composite footagecomposite footagecomposite footage

In a previous tutorial we talked about how we can create clean plates. These include:

  1. The actor footage
  2. Clean plate 1
  3. Clean plate 2

Now let's bring them all together. 

clean plate 1clean plate 1clean plate 1
clean plate 2clean plate 2clean plate 2

Compositing in After Effects

Now I've got three pieces of our footage for this demonstration. The top layer consists of the 'Actor Take'. The second layer is the 'Clean Plate' without the actor. And then the last layer is 'Clean Plate 2' which is the exposed plate.

three layers of footagethree layers of footagethree layers of footage

Now we need to paint out the light stands on both sides. Then we need to do a little bit of rotoscoping or masking depending on what footage you're actually working with.

And then the final phase is to do some masking around the windows to bring out the exposure and to finally tie it all together.

paint out and rotoscope elementspaint out and rotoscope elementspaint out and rotoscope elements

So the first thing to do is to start removing the light frames in the 'Actor' layer. Select the Pen Tool and mask around the light frames, starting with the one on the left.

mask the light on the leftmask the light on the leftmask the light on the left

This will remove the actor from the shot. So to bring the actor back, simply change the mask properties from Add to Subtract.

mask subtractmask subtractmask subtract

And you'll see now that the actor is back and that the light on the left has been removed from the scene. This is because what is showing 

light removedlight removedlight removed

However, you'll notice we've got a little bit of inconsistencies happening around the area. And this is because it is showing the clean plate underneath which is a slightly different exposure.


To fix this we can play with the mask properties a little bit by changing the values of the Mask Feather and Mask Expansion.

feather and expansionfeather and expansionfeather and expansion

Do the same with the other light on the right side of the composition.

mask the light on the rightmask the light on the rightmask the light on the right

Once you've played around with the Mask Feather and Mask Expansion values, your composition should now look like the image below, with the lights successfully removed.

removed lightsremoved lightsremoved lights

How to Add The Exposed Window

Now we want to bring in some of the details from the exposed window into our new shot. To do this, first let's pre-compose out top two layers and rename them 'Frames Removed'.

Then duplicate the layer and re-arrange them so that 'Clean Plate 2' is in-between them.

precomposed layersprecomposed layersprecomposed layers

Select the top layer and double click into it. Then use the Roto Brush Tool to draw inside the torso of the actor that is in front of the window. Then hit the Freeze button when you are done.

roto brush toolroto brush toolroto brush tool

When the process is completed, go back into the composition, you'll see that the actor has successfully been rotoscoped.

rotoscoped actorrotoscoped actorrotoscoped actor

Now depending on your footage, you may be able to get away with just one mask for the window. However because we hav e some cross bars, the lamp and other details in the scene, we'll need to do several individual masks (along with adjusting the feather and expansion values as we did before).

individual masks individual masks individual masks

Once you've done that, you should get the full details of the window showing in your scene. However it looks a bit weird because we've gone from a really overexposed section in the background to something that is kind of perfectly exposed. This just wouldn't appear like this in reality.

So let's bring the exposure back up a little by going to our Effects and Presets panel and then typing in Lumetri Color. And then place it onto the Clean Plate 2 layer.

lumetri colorlumetri colorlumetri color

Now play with the settings in the Effects Controls panel under Basic Correction to see if we can bring it back into the realms of reality.

effect controlseffect controlseffect controls

You can also grab a Gaussian Blur effect and add some blurriness to the window.

add bluradd bluradd blur

Now you can compare the shot before and after to compare the differences. 

before and afterbefore and afterbefore and after

So that's how to use some basic compositing tools and techniques in After Effects using just basic effects like masks and layers. 

compare the two lighting scenescompare the two lighting scenescompare the two lighting scenes

I hope you've enjoyed this tutorial on how to composite multiple videos using clean plates in After Effects. If you'd like to learn more cool After Effects skills, we've got some more tutorials for you:

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