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On Vignettes

Alternate approaches to a core technique for drawing a viewer's focus.

By Chris and Trish Meyer | November 10, 2009

Often associated with very old footage where the brightness falls off as you near the corners of the frame, vignettes can also be used creatively to draw a viewer's focus to a particular area of the screen. In this article on, we discuss several different approaches to creating vignettes in a program such as Adobe After Effects and Apple Motion, including the use of masks, shape layers, paint tools, effects such as Circle, and 3D lights.

Click here to download the PDF of "Vignettes" from

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stephen v2: | November, 10, 2009

While I love After Effects as well of the many helpful books and tips you guys provide, I’m also a fan of using the right tool for the job. Magic Bullet Looks inside my NLE (Vegas which supports 32-bit compositing and linear light) is the right tool for vignettes on footage in nearly every case.

It’s many times faster with great UI and controls for tweaking the look plus combining with many other features gives you better choices in much faster time.

For most projects, doing this in the NLE makes more sense as the relationship of shots to each other etc. is critical.

Plus, I don’t think vignettes play to AE (or Motions) strengths as animation and compositing tools.

Chris Meyer: | November, 11, 2009

One person seems a large screwdriver; another person sees a small crowbar (smile).

I personally don’t use vignetting as an end in itself (i.e. just to treat footage); I typically use it as a means to an end to create better composites. A simple example is creating a friendlier space to add a text overlay. And in the next Artbeats article, we’re going to extend the technique to use it as a way to merge together multiple layers of footage.

Not that either of us is right or wrong; just that there’s more than one use for this basic tool.

- Chris

stephen v2: | November, 11, 2009

Valid point in creating effects within a composite but unless there were a specific visual advantage to doing it within an composite, I would still “render movie” and add the vignette in Vegas using Magic Bullet Looks for the UI, tools and controls.

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