After Effects CS4 truly went from worst to first in one specific area: corner pin tracking. The old method of tracking and applying four individual points was so miserable I recall an entire class of my Academy of Art students unable to replace a billboard on the first try.
CS4, however, includes MochaAE, the planar tracker that analyzes regions instead of points. Any unified object can be a “plane,” even some whose contents are not perfectly co-planar; the output that is sent to After Effects is a Corner Pin track which can be pasted right to a layer.
And that’s where the ancient Corner Pin effect in After Effects falls short. Specifically:
- There’s no way to import the MochaAE data via Corner Pin – the best method is literally to open a text file and paste it in
- The layer receiving the Corner Pin track must fit perfectly into its four corners already
- There is no scale or offset control if the corners don’t align perfectly
- Scaling up via a warp is not always pretty, especially because…
- Corner Pin animation data does not generate motion blur
Each of these points is amply addressed by Red Giant’s Warp plug-in, which is the key to geting the most out of MochaAE. This first video example shows the following benefits of the effect; in it, I take moving footage from a handheld shot of one screen and apply it to another, which would be a real pain without Warp.
That’s a straightforward way to use Warp’s bells and whistles, but there’s another approach you might have missed that comes in handy if you ever want to offset a track result within the same shot, and the camera is moving. By applying the data to both the From and To pins and cropping and offsetting the result, you can pull off a trick like this one, an instant set extension in which I grow a skyscraper.
Without Warp, and despite that MochaAE can easily generate these tracks, these results would not only be more difficult to create, the quality of the output would be inferior, making this plugin a solid must-have for heavy users of MochaAE. Throw in the fact that you also get two other effects to generate reflections and shadows respectively (one of which was called out in a previous article), and the $199 price becomes all that much easier to take.