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Vignettes in Premiere & After Effects

A plethora of resources [updated]

By Rich Young | December 27, 2012

Vignettes have become more popular, and perhaps heavy-handed, especially in After Effects since the release of the DV Rebel's Guide by Stu Maschwitz. Of course there's numerous ways to make vignettes, and it looks like the topic is quite well-covered now, thank you. Here are a few tools & tutorials on the various options.

In Premiere, some techniques will break the hardware acceleration chain, and force a longer software render, so be sure that any effects used are accelerated, if render time is a factor.

  • The 2014 NAB reveal showed a new feature for a new Premiere Pro CC 2014, Masking & Tracking, which has let users track a "power window," or basic feathered mask, on the Opacity property for every clip (even Adjustment Layers) and each effect applied. This could someday change how many will approach making vignettes in Premiere. Getting the right look may be tricky, as noted in an Adobe Forum thread, but using the Mask Expansion control may help you get to an acceptable look quickly. Using Opacity masks in an Adjustment Layers seems, let's say, unrefined in February 2015.
  • Bart also created new plug-in effects Vignette (tutorials) and Power Window (tutorials) for Premiere and After Effects, but they're not accelerated. See also "Masking in Premiere Pro and the Future of Creative Impatience", with initial thoughts by Bart on the NAB 2014 reveal. For some, using non-CUDA plug-ins is a no-go anyway.
  • Note also the Red Giant Magic Bullet resources for After Effects, which work for Premiere too. This family of tools is accelerated by Nvidia graphics cards. And in the 2015 version, Stu Maschwitz added a "how-did-I-ever-live-without-this Vignette slider."
  • There are various alternatives for plug-ins built into Final Cut and Motion; see more by Andy Mees and Alex Gollner (both free), or the fancier G_Vignette from Natresse.

In Depth: Vignettes, by Michelle Yamazaki, covers plug-ins that specialize in vignettes (especially Mac-oriented ones).
Many of the ideas mentioned in Premiere tutorials were predated by or derived from After Effects techniques, like these:
  • The 2014 NAB reveal showed a new feature for a After Effects CC 2014, Per mask effects, with individual composite mode. This also should change how some will approach making vignettes in After Effects.
  • Chris and Trish also have a one-stop shop of video tutorials on the topic, Extended Vignette Techniques, which shows "multiple approaches to guiding the viewer’s focus" -- as well as tips on masking, creating shape layers, editing gradients, painting in After Effects, lighting in 3D, motion stabilization, using filters like Circle, etc. (example embedded below).
  • ft-Vignetting Pro by François Tarlier, a now is a native AE filter that quickly adds a customizable vignette. (See the demo video below.)
  • You can also apply a postcrop vignette (under fx) in Camera Raw; see Vignetting in Camera Raw CS5 by Matt Kloskowski. You can use Camera RAW in AE; see Use JPEG files in Camera RAW at AE Portal. On an AdobeAE Facebook post, Chris Meyer commented that the Raw dialog cuts off the high and low color values at the import stage and noted a workaround to recover missing highlights. You can also use the Vignette feature in the Lens Correction filter of Photoshop to add, correct or remove vignetting (it doesn't effects highlights so much).


    Thumbnail photo by David Ball. Other photos by Joe Lencioni and Blending Ideas.pdf.

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