First off, let me explain the title picture! It’s a genuine tracking marker available for use from openclipart.org and according to the creator ‘may look a little excessive/silly’. I’d agree with that statement but hope that it caught your eye and made you wonder what you were looking at. If so, it did it’s job perfectly. As for doing a perfect job as a tracking marker, try it and see. Now, on with the article…..
Sometimes called match moving or camera solving, motion tracking has been used as a visual effects tool for just over 30 years now. It was first used in 1985 for a series of adverts for National Geographic. If you want to read more about the history of it, you can read a comprehensive article on its development here:
It’s one of the basic building blocks of any film or TV show that uses digital visual effects and has started to make more regular appearances in smaller productions such as corporate films.
One of the main uses of motion tracking is to put things that weren’t captured in camera into filmed footage, making them look as if they were there on set when you hit the record button. This could be 2D or 3D animated objects, creatures, motion graphics, logos or even just basic text.
Here’s an example of some of our motion tracking work for corporate clients:
When it’s done well, it expands your creative palette, makes your films more memorable and gives an impressive way to get messages across to your audience. By following our tips below you can get impressive results without a dramatic increase in cost.
What I want to do today is to give you some concise tips on how to make your footage as trackable as possible, helping you achieve the best final results without too much hair pulling in post.
1. Plan it!
First off, plan your shoot with the tracking locations and content in mind rather than an as after thought. For example if you have a product on a table with the idea to add a floating animated label, think about where that label will fit in the shot, framing it as if the label was already there. This approach will make for a more balanced composition and also give the viewer time to read and take in what’s on screen.
2. Minimise Motion Blur
Motion blur is a killer. Tracking algorithms like crisp high contrast areas. Motion blur makes everything a bit smudgy and if there’s too much of it, the shot can become un-trackable. So nice steady movement, no swift turns and shooting at a high frame rate will help tremendously. There’s no reason you can’t have fast hectic movements in between areas that you want to track, just plan it out and consider the pace of the shot where you want the track to be included.
3. Shoot at High Resolution
Make sure you shoot full HD or 4K. This helps keep things crisp and gives more accurate information to extract the tracking information from.
4. Track unedited footage
Do fades and shot transitions after the CG elements have been added. Fading to black or white or other transitions can makes the faded sections very difficult to track to the end and colour grading can remove more of that valuable data that helps get a smooth track.
5. Use a professional
As with everything, an experienced professional is going to give you better, faster and in the long run, cheaper results. Motion tracking is an art and like anything else, takes practice to be good at. Novices are a lot less likely to know how to get the most out of their tools and are more likely to give poor quality, shaky results.
Distant Future has a lot of experience with motion tracking and we can tell you if your shot will track well even before you’ve shot it, as well as advising using extra tracking markers in your shot and removing them in post-production.
If you’re planning any kind of motion tracking shot, please do get in touch to find out more on how we can help. And if you come across a link to those early National Geographic adverts, please post a link to them in the comments below.