I don’t know why I got the urge to make something like this; It’s kind of a form popularized by the Borderlands game series whenever a new character is introduced. I don’t have as much control over the characters as the developers of Borderlands do, so I had to hack out some animation recorded from the game itself to get the layers needed to make the effect work.

Looking at it in retrospect, I could add some additional depth to the words and I was contemplating doing something with the character model in freeze-frame, like snapping it to black and white until the animation resumes or something. Maybe I’ll try that some other time.

Relevant Websites

You’d think that for editing motion there’d be an easy way to freeze a video clip and then start it up again, but no. You have to play around with keyframes for time remapping, which I learned from Creative Cow.

Relevant Resources

Aside from the obvious use of my character in Guild Wars 2, I downloaded a community-made GW2 font from the Band of Brothers guild site (which came up in a Google search and is no way affiliated with me or this site). The background reveal is a comp made from some concept art from ArenaNet, and an ink-spill video from MotionArray.com. Finally, the red and orange coloring on the text was found in a Google image search for “red flames”.

Technical Details

Now the good stuff. I had to record a bunch of action shots from the Guild Wars 2 game. I’m sad that more games don’t give you a cinematic camera; I had to use the orbital features of the cam and then hide the UI. I did this in our guild instance so I wouldn’t get attacked. Originally, I wanted an action shot, but the weapons all have effects bursts on them which made the isolation of the figure kind of difficult. I opted for the /point emote because it looked good and was relatively quick.

Bringing the video into AE, I had to dupe the layer. On the top layer (foreground), I used the pen tool to draw masks around the character. There are three masks because the bow and the outstretched arm isolates some space that can’t be covered in an outline. The first mask (the outline) is set to ADD, while the other two (internal to the figure) are set to SUBTRACT because they need to subtract from the mask in which they already reside. When playing the comp, nothing seems amiss because the lower layer (background) is playing in sync with the foreground. Turning off the background layer, though, shows the masked areas…but they’re static since the mask was taken at a point in the video I wanted to use as the ‘freeze frame” (about 2 seconds in).

Now comes the tricky part: freezing the video. I added time remapping to both the fore and background layers because if either plays during the freeze period, the masks look all crappy. Time remapping adds 2 keyframes at the start and end of the timeline. I had to add a third keyframe where I wanted the freeze, and then select that and the last keyframe and move them further down the timeline (the video clips were only about 5s, while the comp was 10s, so I had space). Then, I copied the middle keyframe and duplicated it at the point I wanted the video to freeze. While the section between this freeze frame and the frame I copied is stopped, when the video resumes it plays at normal speed; we’ve basically just hit PAUSE on the video with no actual time foolery (!) being enacted.

The background reveal sits between the fore and background layers and is a precomp of the character’s name, the ink spill movie, and the city watercolor image, top-down in that order. The city watercolor uses the inverse luma mat of the ink spill so that the city is revealed by black of the video and not the usual white. The name text simply shows up 3 frames into the precomp, just before the ink spill video starts to reveal the city image.

Finally, the “Ranger” text is scaled down from 1300 to 100, with opacity set from 0 to 100 over the course of just a few frames. Easy Ease In has been applied to give it that “rushed, then slowed” feeling, although I think I should have goosed it to be a little more obvious using the graph.

In the end, the video resumes playing and all the excess content is removed. I had considered doing something to the frozen figure, like adding an obvious drop-shadow or desaturating it. I’ve seen freeze-frame effects added to similar compositions, but I had to go “do stuff” after I had rendered this video and didn’t have the time.


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