3D motion tracking

Effective use of motion tracking can transform your live-action footage. Motion graphics pro JJ Johnstone reveals how to use motion tracking when undertaking complex 3D compositing in Cinema 4D and After Effects.

Motion tracking, or match-moving, is the term used to describe the simulation of live-action camera moves and perspective inside compositing software such as After Effects, Combustion, Shake or Flame for 2D, and Boujou, PF Track, SynthEyes or Matchmover for 3D. It's commonly used to apply special effects to feature films and commercials, but it's becoming more common within type and character animation in motion graphics.

There are several types of motion tracking in both 2D and 3D. In the 2D environment your options range from tracking the X and Y-axis along with zooms and rotation on the Z-axis. You can also use motion tracking to stabilise a shaky or unstable shot. Motion tracking in 3D is for complex camera moves across all three axes. Three-dimensional tracks allow for dimensional objects created in 3D software, such as extruded type or character models. Though 3D tracks definitely have their advantages, they shouldn't be used unless necessary, because they add a new level of complexity and more work.

Whether you're tracking in two or three dimensions the principles are the same; the only real variable is the software and method for setting it up. In this tutorial I'll touch on a few methods of 3D motion tracking. Tracking in 2D can be handled entirely in After Effects Professional.

For 3D tracking I will use Boujou Bullet, a trial of which can be found here. With Boujou you can export straight into a 3D package, such as Maya or Cinema 4D, or export into After Effects. I will cover some of these options, because each one has unique advantages.

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