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Masking: The Black Art Of Video Making

Here is a simple ten step tutorial on making a mask By David Hague
Masking to many, is the black art of video making. It all sounds, well, too hard to bother with, with terms such as 'alpha channel', 'compositing' and 'overlay' to deal with.

But trust me gentle reader, knowing even the basics of masking and compositing will add a whole new dimension to your home videos, family documentaries, short films and so on.



We'll start with something simple. For the sake of the exercise I am using Sony Vegas Pro here, but the basics apply to any editing package (NLE) that dares call itself such.




Lower Third

We've all seen what in the biz are called 'lower thirds' yes? They are most often used in news bulletins to describe a scene or location, and appear in the bottom part of the screen - hence the term. Apart from being useful, they are really very easy to incorporate into your videos.

  • Step 1: Create a new project and add the main video to a track
  • Step 2: Create a new video track ABOVE the existing track
  • Step 3: From the Media Generators tab, choose 'Legacy Text', and from the options offered, select 'Default Text' and track it down on the new empty track.
  • Step 4: Change the text from 'Sample Text' (on the edit tab) to whatever you wish. On the 'Properties' tab and 'effects' tab, you can modify the text styles, colours, size and so on.
  • Step 5: On the 'Placement' tab, you can move the text around to the location you wish it to appear. You could also use the Pan and Crop tool on the video track if you wished, but we'll use that a little later to add a background.



See that was easy! Now to add a background 'strip' to the text.



  • Step 6: Add a new video track BELOW the text track and above the original video track
  • Step 7:  Choose the Solid Colour section from the Media Generators tab
  • Step 8: Select a colour and drag this onto the new track you have just created
  • Step 9:  Using the Pan and Crop tool, size and move the solid colour to make a strip behind the text
  • Step 10: The final step is to make the strip slightly translucent. On the clips track, at the very top of the frame is what is called the Opacity Slider. Simply drag this down to the desired level.



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And that's it!

Of course, you could further embellish this by adding track motion to make the text and strip slide in, stop for a while and then slide out (or some other motion type) and much more.

The best way to learn the possibilities, is simply to 'play' with the tools available and see how each affects the various tracks.

In the next tutorial, we'll cover a video the 'punches through' its overlaid text so that the image plays 'inside' the letters.


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David is the owner and publisher of Australian Videocamera. He has a background in media dating back to 1979 when he first got involved with photojournalism in motorsport, and went from there into technology via a 5 year stint with Tandy Computers.

Moving back to WA, David wrote scripts for Computer Television for video training for the just released Windows and Office 95 among others, and was then lured to Sydney to create web sites for the newly commercial Internet in 1995, building hundreds of sites under contract to OzEmail including Coates Hire, Hertz Queensland, John Williamson, the NSW Board of Studies and many, many more.

David can be contacted via  david@auscamonline.com


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