LIBRARY: Tutorials Reviews Interviews Editorials Features Business Authors RSS Feed

Moving Layer Masks on Glass

Moving Layer Masks on Glass

A CreativeCOW Zaxwerks Invigorator Tutorial

Moving Layer Masks on Glass
Kurt Murphy Kurt Murphy
Art Director, WIVB-TV, Buffalo, New York, USA
email: Kurt Murphy

Article Focus:
Kurt Murphy demonstrates the technique of moving layer masks on 2 sides of a glass cross in Zaxwerks Invigorator. This tutorial assumes that you have some previous exposure to the plug-in. If you don't have the plug-in, download the demo so that you can follow along. Kurt also completes the project by using Photoshop to reveal a 'handwritten script", Trapcode Shine and Lens Flare.

Download Movie Project file Download Stuffit Expander for Windows

After downloading the AE and support files you may want to replace the "clouds_proxy", "pope_proxy" & "steph_proxy" with quicktime movies (it looks much cooler with moving video). You'll also need Trapcode Shine for the backgrounds. I had used a Quicktime movie for the original, but decided to use this great plug-in, due to size limitations.

I've replaced all the instances of Boris Gaussian Blur with AE's Gaussian Blur. On a couple occasions I had used Boris's ability to blur the horizontal and vertical pixels at different amounts. I've also replaced Boris Tri-tint (which offers more settings) with AE's Tint.

Okay, let's get started: The Invig cross is vertical (fig. 01), so the Layer Maps also need to be vertical to map correctly. Invigorator will stretch a map to fit an object. As long as the Layer Map is large enough and the correct aspect ratio, this isn't be a problem (comp Side 1 - fig. 02). On this project, I needed to make sure to place the main subject matter in the center of the cross - this can be adjusted at any point though (fig. 03).

Fig. 01

Fig. 02

Fig. 03

Shine on.

The backgrounds for the Layer map were created using Shine, the incredible plug-in from Trapcode. It's applied to a Solid the same size as the comp - 640 x 800 (fig. 04).

Fig. 04

The comp is fairly large because I zoom into the cross a bit at the end of the animation and I don't want my image to soften. I wanted to have the bands running straight up and down to somewhat resemble satin cloth. The bands move by animating the Phase parameter over time. Shine works from a source point and spreads outwards from that point - I couldn't find a setting to make the bands run parallel, straight up and down with each other (fig. 05).

Fig. 05

This was accomplished by adding a Corner Pin (Effects>Distort>Corner Pin) after the Shine effect (fig. 07).

Fig. 07

I find it easiest to just scrub the pin parameters than to place them by hand. A new Solid was added and dragged to the bottom and the color was sampled from the previous Shine layer, then adjusted slightly. The Shine layer is duplicated and the Phase parameter keyframes changed to interact with the previous Shine layer. After toggling through the Transfer Modes (fig. 08), I settled on a Classic Color Burn on one layer and a Difference on the top Shine layer.

Fig. 08

This whole comp (Pope shine) is brought into the 'Side 1' comp and moved below the Pope video. An airbrushed matte was created in Photoshop (fig. 09) and used as a matte to blend the Pope video into the Shine background (fig. 10).

Fig. 09

Fig. 10

Fig. 11

A Tint (Effect>Image Control>Tint) is applied to the Shine layer by sampling colors in the Pope video and then a slight vertical Directional Blur is added (Effect>Blur & Sharpen>Directional Blur) (fig. 11-- above).

The 'Side 1' comp is duplicated from the Project Window (Command-D), opened up and renamed 'Side 2'. The Pope video is replaced by the Stephanie video (Option-drag from Project Window) and the Tint color is altered on the Shine background (fig. 12).

Fig. 12

The 2 'Side 1' and 'Side 2' comps are brought into a final comp that has a Solid for the Invig cross (fig. 13).

Fig. 13

The video layer's 'eye' is turned off on both the 'Side 1' and 'Side 2' comps - they will be used as the Layer Maps in Invig. Invigorator is applied to the Solid, and the Illustrator cross opened. In the invigorator setup window the Layer map twirly is opened up and the ‘Side 1’ and ‘Side 2’ comps are assigned as a Layer Map (also fig. 13). An edge style is selected for the cross by selecting an edge style from the menu and then using the arrow keys to scroll up or down through each one - finally deciding upon the Round, Mushroom Cap. The cross is split into various sections, so that I can apply different edge styles to each section (fig. 14). For the face of the cross, a texture is selected which has a reflection map, then the Pope Layer map is selected for the face (fig. 15). You won’t be able to view the Layer Map video in the setup window; but you will see it update in the comp screen when the Invig layer is set at Best quality.

Fig. 14

Fig. 15

The transparency setting is turned up to give the cross more of a 'glass' look (fig. 16), but naturally by doing so, the image becomes more transparent and less vibrant (Fig. 17).

Fig. 16

Fig. 17

Instead I decide to keep the transparency at 0 and to add another cross edge to the inside of the current cross. This gives the appearance that the cross is transparent, but my video would stay sharp. The Cross layer is duplicated (command-D) and the top duplicated layer is renamed to ‘3D cross edge’ and the Invig setting opened up. The edge style is changed to a Small Bevel and all the faces are turned off except the outside edges (fig. 18). The transparency setting is turned up to 90. A quick fly-through with the Transfer Modes (shift/+ with the layer selected) shows that Screen gives the results that I'm looking for (fig. 19).

Fig. 18

Fig. 19

Different edge styles have been added for the bevel, the side of the cross, and for the backside (fig. 20). For the backside a texture is selected and the ‘Side 2’ Layer map is applied (fig. 21). Now when the cross rotates around, we'll see the girl’s face on the flip side.

Fig. 20

Fig. 21

The cross is then animated - the camera parameters are animated to slowly zoom into the cross and the cross itself is animated to spin around 180 degrees (fig. 22). I find it much easier to animate both the camera and the object instead of trying to accomplish everything with one. The Invig keyframes are then copied and pasted into the ‘3D Cross edge’ layer.

Fig. 22
Click image above to view larger image.

The Invig cross layer was duped AGAIN (hence the large file size), dragged below the other Invig layer and used as a Shine layer. The Invig parameters were opened up and stripped of any lighting and texture settings (fig. 23) - Shines’ only going to use the alpha information.

Fig. 23

Write on!

The handwriting text (which is Cezanne, by P22) was written on the same way that I used to do it from my old Vidifont days. I tried Vector Paint to reveal it, but the text was a bit too complex; so the text was done in Photoshop and saved out as a pict sequence. The first full image is saved as "00" (fig. 24).

Fig. 24

If there's going to be more than 100 images, save the first as "000" - where the computer is capable of computing complex algorithms to the nth degree, it does have a hard time counting to 10. Each subsequent frame is slightly erased backwards and saved in sequential order (fig. 25).

Fig. 25

Erase as you would normally write the text - dot your "i's" and cross your "t's" last; erase larger area's where you would normally write faster (the bottom of the 'p' for instance). I've done it this way for years and it goes by rather quickly.

In Photoshop the alpha channel is created black over white because when erasing the text it's easier to see missed areas (it's much easier to see a missed light gray area over white than dark gray over black). When all the erasing is completed, the folder is dragged to After Effects where it’s converted to a pict sequence. The alpha channel is inverted back in the Interpret Footage dialogue box (fig. 26).

Fig. 26

A new 8:00 second comp is created the same size as the other Layer Map comps (640 x 800) and the signature sequence is dragged into place - about where the horizontal bar of the cross would be (fig. 27).

Fig. 27

When pressing the spacebar and running the sequence, we see that the handwriting runs backwards - because it was erased that way -the sequence needs to be reversed. Click the double triangles on the bottom of the Time Layout Window (fig. 28) and place a minus in front of the 100% in the Stretch column.

Fig. 28

This reverses the sequence causing the handwriting to write on correctly, but it ends after it writes out - we'll need to extend the last (actually, first) frame. With the layer selected, enable Time Remapping (command/option-T). Time remapping automatically extends the file the length of the comp; but because we've reversed the layer, it's added it to the front of the file. Drag the file to the end of the comp and drag out the trimmed area back to the front of the comp (fig. 29).

Fig. 29

Type “u” to view the Time Remap keyframes, the sequence animation happens between the keyrames. Drag both keyframes together to the front of the comp (fig. 30); the last frame will now “hold” for the duration of the comp. This comp is brought into the final comp, and the “eye” turned off - it will be used as a Layer map for Invig.

Fig. 30

In the Time Layout Window duplicate the ‘3D cross’ layer, one last time; rename it ‘3D cross signature’ (command/shift-Y) and drag it above all the other layers. Open up the Invig menu (F3) and select the ‘3D cross signature’ layer for a Layer map. Open up the Options (click the red ball) and turn off all faces, except the back face (fig. 31).

Fig. 31

Select the material Options and remove all the materials except number 1. Double-click it to open its properties. For both the Layer and the Transparency map, select the ‘3D cross signature’ Layer map for both, and delete any Reflection maps (fig. 32).

Fig. 32

As the cross spins around in the final comp I want the writing to start, so I move the ‘3D cross signature’ comp up to the 3:00 second mark in the Time Layout Window. A slight Drop Shadow (Effects>Perspective>Drop Shadow) is added on the 3D cross signature’ layer (fig. 33) and a Gaussian Blur (Effects>Blur & Sharpen>Guassian Blur) is added to the girl’s face inside the ‘Side 2’ layer as the writing scripts on (fig. 34) to help the writing stand out against the background.

Fig. 33

Fig. 34

Pieces of flare

A Lens Flare is added to ride along the edge of the cross as the cross moves. A black Solid (command-Y) is created the size of the comp and a Lens Flare is applied to it (fig. 35).

Fig. 35

Switch the Transfer Mode from Normal to Add to drop out the black, leaving only the flare (fig. 36).

Fig. 36

The flare is moved to its beginning point using the Light Source Location and a keyframe is added (fig. 37).

Fig. 37

I move down the timeline 4 seconds and change the Light Source Location to its end point (fig. 38).

Fig. 38

But as we move to the midpoint of the flare animation (2 seconds after the first keyframe), we can see that the flare is now completely off its mark (fig. 39).

Fig. 39

To remedy this, the Light Source Location is moved to the corner of the cross, which automatically adds another keyframe. But when we move the timeline between the first and the middle keyframes, we see that the flare has drifted once again (fig. 40).

Fig. 40

Instead of moving the Light Source Location again and adding another keyframe, double-click the Flare layer; this opens up the Layer Window. Inside the Layer Window (click the triangle at the upper right hand corner), there's the masking, anchor point, and the somewhat hidden Filter path information (fig. 41). By adjusting the bezier path, you can conform the flare to the cross.


The Brightness and Scale of the flare were animated over time, along with Opacity... For some reason the minimum value of the flare scale is 3 instead of 0; so the Opacity must also be animated to blend the flare in or out from nothing. The midpoint keyframe for the Light Source Location was moved closer to the first keyframe (fig. 42) because it had a shorter distance to travel. The flare was a bit too fast before it made its turn.

Fig. 42

Following a curved object is generally much easier; you only have to place a keyframe at the beginning and end points of the animation. You can usually use the flare path bezier to follow the arc completely without having to add a midpoint keyframe. Rule of thumb: The fewer the keyframes, the better.

After the animation is complete, I select all the unused textures in each of the Invig layers and delete them. This drops my file size from 7.8 megs to 4.9 megs.

This project took about 3 hours to create and another 9 to render on a 1 gig Mac with 300 megs allotted to AE. This tutorial however, took about three #@!!?&% weeks.

Any questions? Feel free to e-mail me at

Kurt Murphy

Discuss this technique in the Zaxwerks forum at CreativeCOW.

Please visit our forums and view other articles at if you found this page from a direct link.


Moving Layer Masks on Glass
by Adam Lewen
The windows-zip project file is no longer active.

Related Articles / Tutorials:
Adobe After Effects
Create an Arrow or Pointer preset for After Effects

Create an Arrow or Pointer preset for After Effects

In this video tutorial, Graham reveals a really quick way to use Shape Layers to make an arrow preset that you can use to point to anything in Adobe After Effects.

Graham Quince
Adobe After Effects
Realistic Water Movement with Fractal Noise

Realistic Water Movement with Fractal Noise

In this tutorial video, Andy Ford shows you how to use the Fractal Noise effect in After Effects to add movement to water in a still photo

Andy Ford
Adobe After Effects
Adobe Creative Cloud September 2020 Update: Streamlined workflows that make storytelling easier

Adobe Creative Cloud September 2020 Update: Streamlined workflows that make storytelling easier

The current environment is forcing us to rethink and reimagine so much. Content creators, from broadcasters to streaming services to social video creators, are finding new ways of working that prove creativity and resourcefulness are inherent to the video industry. Adobe's Eric Philpott explores Adobe's developments in response to the ever evolving challenges we face today.

Eric Philpott
Adobe After Effects
Makin' Planets! Saturn (with rings and shadows)

Makin' Planets! Saturn (with rings and shadows)

In this video, Graham shows how to make Saturn's rings using Polar Coordinates, then use an Alpha Invert Matte along with a simple expression to cut the rings out.

Graham Quince
Adobe After Effects
Text Box Background Preset in After Effects

Text Box Background Preset in After Effects

Graham's latest tutorial shows you how to combine several effects to generate a background for any text layer you add to an After Effects comp.

Graham Quince
Adobe After Effects
Makin' An Eclipse

Makin' An Eclipse

In this tutorial for Adobe After Effects, I use the Circle effect, Fractal Noise, Polar Coordinates and CC Light Rays to create a 2D solar eclipse.

Graham Quince
Adobe After Effects
How To Put Yourself In Any Movie Part 3: Keying Greenscreen

How To Put Yourself In Any Movie Part 3: Keying Greenscreen

Following the huge response to parts one and two of independent filmmaker Cody Pyper's Adobe Photoshop and After Effects tutorial series, "Put Yourself In Any Movie!", here is the truly EPIC series finale, which is the most complete single keying tutorial we've ever seen. It's all here, including Red Giant's Primatte Keyer, Premiere Pro's Lumetri Color Panel, AE's Keylight filter, everything you need to know about curves and levels, realistic blurs, shadows and VFX, and more! Did we mention that this is epic? EPIC!

Cody Pyper
Adobe After Effects
Makin' a 3D Nebula in Photoshop, Cinema4DLite, and After Effects

Makin' a 3D Nebula in Photoshop, Cinema4DLite, and After Effects

Graham continues his space tutorial series, featuring the Orion Nebula

Graham Quince
Adobe After Effects
Motion Tracking in After Effects

Motion Tracking in After Effects

During this short video tutorial, Andy Ford shows you how to apply Track Motion to aerial drone footage

Andy Ford
Adobe After Effects
Free Tablet and Phone Screen Replacement Tracking Images

Free Tablet and Phone Screen Replacement Tracking Images

Here's a giveaway for anyone interested in trying to do a screen replacement for their iPad, iPhone, Tablet or phone.

Graham Quince
© 2020 All Rights Reserved