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Silhouette Essentials

Rotoscoping Series with Katie Morris




Katie Morris is an experienced VFX digital paint and roto artist, and trainer. She has been involved in many high profile films and shows during her career. For a list of her current credits, see her IMBD profile here and watch her project showreel.






Top VFX artists rely on Boris FX Silhouette to tackle rotoscoping on the biggest blockbusters and streaming projects. Take your skills from beginner to advanced with this comprehensive training course broken into easy-to-digest chapters. Includes 43 videos and over 6 hours of tutorials.

Want to follow along? You can purchase the project files to help hone your skills.
01A: Starting a Project

Course instructor Katie Morris guides you through the basics of starting up a new Silhouette project, including loading footage, creating a new session to work in, and the UI.

01B: Working in the Viewer

Continue to learn the Silhouette UI with a focus on the Viewer, which includes non-destructive display options and an intro to the Regional of Interest tool, and important options for roto work.

01C: Matte & Shape Types

Shot analysis is arguably the most important roto phase. Learn about different matte types, including core, garbage, or full articulate. Plus, a peek at the two most used roto spline types.

01D: Extended Tools & Shape Types

Open shapes are vital for hair roto/other thin objects before refining the spline. Get to know more automated methods to create shapes — Magnetic Freehand and Shape Primitive tools.

01E: Hard Edge Manual Roto

Start rotoscoping the shot by analyzing the task beforehand and how to make the right decisions when drawing your initial shape. Plus, Shape Preferences and organization.

01F: Moving Shapes

The initial shape is created. Animate things into places as the shot moves using the Transform tool on the shape (or part of it) and Reshape tool for more fine control over points.

01G: Intro to Motion Tracking

Manual roto often isn't the most time-efficient way to create your shapes. Get started with one of Silhouette’s tracking options — the Point Tracker. Minimize manual animation!

01H: More Tracking Tips

Get to know the limitations of the simple Point Tracker and move on to Mocha’s planar tracker as Katie guides you through the process of defining shapes and the advantages of Mocha.

01I: Hard Edge Finishing

Continue to focus on motion tracking with Mocha’s planar tracker, compare the results between manual tracking & planar-tracked shapes, and see which one gives the better result.

02A: Hard Object Roto

Roto a mountain bike! Get tips on setup, approaching the shot, shape creation, and layer organization. Plus, Session setups to protect yourself from client changes later in the process, and why you should use Note nodes for your own sake and your team’s.

02B: Track Before Roto

Will tracking help you get the job done faster? How do you remove bad track data if it goes wrong? And a look at working most efficiently with manual shapes, manual animation, and the Split Shape tool.

02C: Manual Animation

Get tips on how to roto cloth and wrinkles to avoid rippling or chattering matte edges. How to add Point Groups to complex shapes to speed up roto in different areas of an object plus learn how to customize the groups and use keyboard shortcuts.

02D: Wire & Cable Roto

Wire roto requires different techniques, but there are some similarities. You’ll look at the role of using multiple-point trackers and Katie demos essential Silhouette shortcuts to move around the timeline when working with mobile shapes.

02E: More Cable Roto

Now you’ll need to add some width to the open splines. Without width, these splines are invisible and won't contribute to the rendered output. Then you’ll roto some more difficult wires and analyze the differences from the previous lesson.

02F: Organize & Export

Output your shapes on the bike roto shot making sure that your objects are organized and laid out in a logical way. Taking a little time here can save a huge amount later. You’ll take out shapes as pure data files as shape info, Silhouette node data, and as rendered files.

03A: Planar Tracker

You’ll be working on a mountain ridge on your next shot. Discover the differences between the Silhouette planar tracking and the Mocha planar tracker. There are different motion models and tracking feature options. See which combination gives you the best tracking data.

03B: Detailed Shapes

Using the Silhouette Planar Tracker you’ll use multiple shapes to give yourself a more accurate track. After that use the Magnetic Shape tool to quickly trace the complex contours of the mountain ridge. An important trick is to change all point types to the same type before editing.

03C: Export Elements

Finish the mountain shot by exploring layer blend modes for internal and external QC combinations and export the various layers with colors and outlines for external review and approval. Render out multiple files simultaneously and jump into Preferences again to set up default filenames.

04A: Organic Roto

It’s time to create fully articulated roto-splines for the body and hair. Prior to any tracking, Katie shows how to change a couple of preferences to better match Silhouette's workflow. Next, you’ll break the body up into smaller sections after the first analysis. Finally, you’ll jump into the Mocha Pro node to do more complex planar tracking.

04B: Mocha Pro Data

Getting data from Mocha Pro into Silhouette is a breeze. Complete tracking the arm in Mocha Pro and see a couple of ways to use that data back in your roto session. Plus, use that tracking same data to drive Silhouette spline shapes to continue your roto and finish up your first arm.

04C: Hand Roto

Micro-movements in organic shapes can be tough to manage cleanly. Katie demonstrates the correct way to roto fingers to avoid the ugly sausage look. Getting reliable tracking data isn’t always a straightforward task with moving hands. Continue to roto the hand, paying close attention to how the full shape is going to look with the arm.

04D: Leg Roto

Now it's time to work on the leg — and make a decision about how to create the main leg shape. Once you start to animate this, Katie shows how to use the Magnetic Reshape and Reshape Brush tools to make seamless tweening across the entire leg.

04E: Finish the Leg

At certain times, there's no other choice but to use manual animation. But how can you smoothly transition between tracked shapes and non-tracked ones? Katie revisits point groups and gives you some more advanced techniques for working across the ranges.

04F: Notes & Viewers

Let’s pause and look at Notes for QC or adding in reminders about a project. Silhouette allows you to add several viewers to make fixes and review without additional UI distractions. Plus, Katie shares her fundamental strategies for roto-ing hair and the all-important analysis stage.

04G: Hair Roto

When working on hair, layer organization is absolutely critical. The next step is to add in open shapes for smaller strands. Once the strands have been made, it is time to add some arcs to avoid helmet head. You’ll re-use work you’ve already done to make this go smoother.

04H: Manual Hair Roto

Tackle some finishing tricks to make your hair mattes look realistic. Venture back into Multiframe again and turn on a tool that allows you to interactively taper open shapes. Plus, add motion blur to see how accurate your final hair roto actually is.

04I: Organic Roto Shot Review

You’ve finished your first organic roto shot! Learn about potential final challenges and how to render out a slap comp for QC. Get a first glimpse of Katie's approach to the three stages of hair roto and why it is important to not do everything in one node.

05A: Focus on Hair

In this new shot, we will be focusing on hair roto. But before we start that we begin to customize the tree, changing colors and connection types.

05B: Hair Approaches

What is the best way to tackle hair? You’ll start with three key steps: core roto for the opaque area, continue with larger strands, and finally add in thinner strands. The structure for hundreds of strokes is vital, and you’ll look at the layer layout, followed by the staggered node process.

05C: Feathering Hair

Realistic blur is the secret to proper hair mattes. Silhouette gives you per-point feathering, stroke blur, layer blur, and motion blur. Plus, add top hair details with fine arcs so you don’t end up with a hard helmet look.

05D: Filling in Hair

Add more arcs to the left side of the head by using the multi-frame tool to double and quadruple shapes in larger closed shapes for opaque strands recycling.

05E: Tracking Failures

The track didn’t capture the hair’s full motion, now what? Find out how to build upon existing data to adjust the track when a rotating head reveals and hides part of the object in the shot.

05F: More Hand Roto

The combination of tracked shapes and manual keyframing is the winning strategy for the toughest shots. Learn how to change your nudge factor down to 1/16th of a pixel accuracy.

05G: Motion Blur

Dive straight into motion blurred roto including where to roto and how to effectively roto. Explore the Roto Overlay tool and how to visualize motion blur without any heavy CPU overhead.

06A: Short Hair Roto

Tackling roto on shorter hair strands requires modified techniques. You’ll need to start by creating core shapes with tracking-assisted roto and build from there.

06B: Hair Tufts

What’s the best way to roto hair tufts? Discover a new technique for how to deal with micro-movements when spline shapes and control point weighting is different.

06C: Upper body

Roto out clothing with automated tools like Magentic Freehand and motion tracking to take all the potential pain out of the process.

06D: Final review

You’re almost done! Learn some final open spline tweaking techniques and a new method to take multiple segments out as separate areas to a simple color-rendered file.

07A: Breaking Apart a Shot

Analyze a new shot with a focus on the different skills it takes to roto foreground and background objects.

07B: Foreground Focus

Perspective changes require you to remain vigilant to maintain subpixel-perfect accuracy. Reuse and refine the same tracking and shape data to make multiple roto'ed elements.

07C: Roto for Humans

Take a look at failed approaches, reinforce good habits, and turn your attention back to motion blur and how to add realistic blur to the first and last frames in a shot.

07D: Background Roto

Rotoscoping out background elements can be tough because many elements are often occluded by foreground objects. Efficiently breaking up shapes is the key to this exercise.

07E: Cryptomattes

Learn how to take out rotospline elements as a Crytomatte to use in Nuke. The process in Silhouette is straightforward and the resulting files give you or your compositing team an exceptionally flexible shot to extract different mattes from the same source.

Ready for more tutorials?