The New Rigid Mask Tracker in After Effects CC

I like to think of After Effects as an animated version of Photoshop – many of the same general techniques apply: selection, masks, blend modes etc… The primary difference being that the content changes over time when working with video. In general, masks work exactly the same as they do in Photoshop – you use the mask to determine which part of the image/video should be a part of the composition, and which parts should be hidden from the final output. Using masks you can selectively determine which parts of the video should get special effects, or you can use them to composite clips from multiple videos together. You can animate these masks on the timeline, and that mask will be animated in the video.

Note: Not to be confused with Keying or Rotoscoping, which I’ll be covering in subsequent blog posts in the very near future. 

In the latest video tools release on Adobe Creative Cloud, more than 150 new features were introduced. One of those features is the new Rigid Mask Tracker in After Effects CC. The Rigid Mask Tracker makes it incredibly easy to create masks that automatically track motion in your video compositions. Using the Rigid Mask Tracker boils down to just a few simple steps:

  1. Draw your mask on the target video
  2. Analyze the video to track motion
  3. Done! The mask will automatically track the motion in the video, based on the content underneath the mask

You don’t have to use the Rigid Mask Tracker, you can still animate things manually, but this new feature makes applying motion to masks incredibly easy.

Let’s take look at a simple use case… I have a color video, and I want to make *most* of the video black and white, but leave color in certain places to add drama and focused emphasis on certain parts of the video. Take a look at the screen grabs below to get an idea what I mean:

Video Effects Applied Using the Rigid Mask Tracker
Video Effects Applied Using the Rigid Mask Tracker

Pay attention to the fire truck in the screen capture above (and the video below). I’ve made the fire truck stand out from the rest of the video using a mask that was drawn over the fire truck, and employed the Rigid Mask Tracker to automatically track motion of the fire truck in the video. The top (masked) video layer has increased saturation to make the reds brighter, and the bottom video layer has decreased saturation to remove colors.

Now, take a look at the video below to see how this was done and see the final output! It really was as simple as the steps I mentioned above. Just draw the mask, analyze/track motion, apply effects, and you’ve got it!

Now, go get out there and create great things! If you aren’t already a member of Creative Cloud, lean more and join now at


One reply on “The New Rigid Mask Tracker in After Effects CC”