Rotoscoping & Sound Effects


Video production can be very time consuming.

It is hoped that this will give you a brief introduction of some of the ways that video effects are made. Several other articles on lighting, Vocaloids MMD, 3D character animator software, blue/green screen techniques are mentioned in other places. Since a lot of people deal with video production, podcasts, game review, and Vlogs: this information could be quite useful for making that show stand out.

Rotoscoping is a more detailed look at how to produce green/blue screen videos, but it goes beyond this to produce effects, and even cartoons based on real actors. A cartoon like video and Vocaloids fighting with light-sabers are shown below. Rotoscoping could be used to produce MMD dance videos based on actual moves made by live dancers, animals, machinery, plants (speeded up), or natural phenomena for example. The walking through walls might be simulated for example by shining a bar of light on a actor—and then using “mats (Rotoscoped shapes)” that change shape to reveal more of an actor as they move though the solid object. Rotoscoped effects could also be created to make a human turn into smoke or water for example (distortion and transparency would play a part in such transformations).

Probably there are a lot of videos we could choose from that might show Rotoscoping in use. The author has chosen Star Wars, as the Rotoscoping effect was used on the light-sabers, and the cartoon effects was not really noticed by most of the audience—so it’s a very interesting way to use this technique of video and film production. An effect that seemed to fit in with the real actors and real backgrounds. Later on for Star Wars models probably gave way to 3D models and computer generated 3D backgrounds. Probably actors and any nearby objects (props[1]) could still Rotoscoped onto such computer generated backgrounds and nearby 3D models.

The following video is about the light-sabre and many fans probably have no idea how that effect was produced as it seemed so real to the audiences. Certainly the sound effect guy found this out that when audiences didn’t comments on his effects–and that is actually a good thing–as the audience actually thought the sound effect actually a real part of the equipment’s properties (for example the light-sabre’s hum) and needed no comments.

Star Wars Featurette: The Birth of the Light-saber

✎ Star Wars Featurette: The Birth of the Light-saber [ video ]:

Another method of animation to produce vocaloid animation is explained in my other articles. Rotoscoping is also interesting because it allows you to use green/blue screen effects without the use of such a screen—by using cut and paste methods on each frame.

One of the most interesting things about Rotoscoping: is that when you use a computer, the steps to make a image over your film or video can be automated. This is quite useful for the light-sabre, as you can get the computer to fill in the visual effects (and possibly even a drawing) into a area that you have selected; by using a tool like a lasso, or wand for example. In the case of a light-sabre: this is just filling in a color and adding a glow to each of the (shapes) areas you have selected, which in a lot of cases is a rectangle or cylinder like shape.


Once you have added an Rotoscoped picture over your video or film, you may wish to add sound effects. For a light-sabre that is a humming sound, and a clashing sound (described as dry ice being smashed together by the film makers) as the light sabers strike something or other blades. Additional sound effects may be added to light-effects or Rotoscoped effects of sparks and explosions for example.

Green/Blue Screen

This method makes the background one color—green or blue being as far as possible from the skin color. Programs often can easily take out the background, and leave a transparent background instead. This “new” picture can be  overlaid onto any background. You may have to resize things, and do other alterations, but the end result is a video that looks quite interesting. Rotoscoping can be used in combination with blue/green screen techniques as explained in the videos below.

3D tracking, to make rotoscoping seem more real

Essentially the actor is filmed on site, then another film is made without the actor in the same lighting conditions. The green screen is removed from the actors background, leaving the actor in front of a transparent background. Then the actor frames are merged with the frames of the second film frames. Because the frames of one film/video need not match the other film/video, the actor could be placed in and accelerated world, or a slowed down world. This is a very interesting video technique. The camera filming the actor is also moved, and a program (3D tracking) to make positions of both cameras lock, so that it looks like the same camera (complete with movement) is making the film/video.

☆ Slo-Mo World – Behind the Glasses

☆ Slo-Mo World – Behind the Glasses [ video ]:

While 3D tacking was not used in the below (combat) video–as far as the author knows–it did make use of a montage of video shots that were combined to make it look like a single shot. Miss-alignments were not considered critical, or were rotated manually to lock views to make it seem like the same camera had filmed the set/location.

☆ Here a still picture of a scope is overlaid onto montage of videos that form the background

☆ Here a still picture of a scope is overlaid onto montage of videos that form the background [ video ]:

Rotoscope and Sound Effects

Rotoscope Basics

A simple example of using the Rotoscope technique to produce a video.

Rotoscope Tutorial

✎ Rotoscope Tutorial [ video ]: #rotoscope #technique

The following is a longer example of the rotoscope technique being used in a video, that has cartoon like characters.

“Roto-mation” Major Work

✎ “Roto-mation” Major Work [ video ]: #rotoscope #technique

 How To Do A Light-Sabre Animation Using Rotoscope

Light Saber Rotoscoping in Photoshop Part 1

The thing to note here is that some of the button pressing (actions) have been recorded to reduce the time it takes to draw things over and over again for each frame of the video. A typical video could have something like 60 frames per second, so even a short video might need a real lot of work.

Also some software (as mentioned above in “Rotoscope Tutorial “) does allow you to select key frames to work on, and the computer software (applications or apps on today’s mobile telephones & iPads) will draw in the details on the frames that sit between the key frames you chose—and this saves quite a lot of time.

✎ Light Saber Rotoscoping in Photoshop Part 1 [ video ]: #rotoscope #technique

Light Saber Rotoscoping in Photoshop Part 2

✎ Light Saber Rotoscoping in Photoshop Part 2 [ video ]: #rotoscope #technique

☆ LightSaber_Effect-Test3

☆ LightSaber_Effect-Test3 [short video with music]:  #rotoscope #technique #Vocaloid #UTAU #CeVio

☆ Rotoscope Animation for RvB.

Remember: with Rotoscoping you can add to existing videos or backgrounds. That means you can use things like MMD and 3D character model animation software to produce action, and then put those character into the scene and the light-sabre (as described above) could also be added in by the use of different layers for each frame that will eventually be merged into a single frame.

The interesting thing about this video is that MMD was used without motion capture. The author could easily imagine that this project took months to complete.

☆ Rotoscope Animation for RvB. [ video ]: #rotoscope #technique #Vocaloid #UTAU #CeVio


A few people have read my other article on blue/green screens and seem not to use them, even though they do form a back ground for the video. This video gives away some details on how to get rid of issues with blue/green screens, and in more intense situation, you can spend a lot of time taking any character actor out of one scenery and place them into another scene—but using MMD or 3D character animation software might be easier in such cases, as you can simply move the character into a pose that matches the live actor, and then then place the 3D character onto the image or stage that you want.

An interesting use of “mats” is the copy of one character and make it seem as if that a single character were several individual people. This is used in various ways in music videos (with sound also being combined to form a full band like product) and dance videos where it seems a whole group of dancers exist.


✎ Rotoscoping-1 [ video tutorial ]: #rotoscope #technique

Rotoscoping – 2 [ video ]

In this part of the video, Rotoscoping is used by sectioning of the object of interest into several separate shapes (a person in this case) and moving those parts between key points.

The separate shapes can be combined later on into a single shape by merging the layers; or whatever you film editing software uses.

The computer software then interpolates between the key points. Because the computer doesn’t always end up doing a perfect job, more key points can be added in later to make sure the object stays inside the Rotoscoped shapes. Fast moving parts of an object may need a lot more key points; such as the foot on a human that might not only move fast, change shape, but also blur on occasions. In the case of fast light-sabers, you may be forced to Rotoscope each frame—but this video is made for slower action where you can use the interpolation between the frames techniques to save you a lot of time.

This video also discusses how to handle edges: using feathering, blurring and that may including that some pixels becomes transparent. Also a end effect is motion blurring.

✎ Rotoscoping – 2 [ video ]: #rotoscope #technique

End Notes

1. Props: the objects used by actors, decorations, and the set decorations. The set, is short for the setting, and defines and area that often consists of a background or scenery. In the smaller theaters, the set is built onto the stage. In film, sets can be a little more complex as sets can be built using miniature models or 3D scenery that is then scaled up to look life sized; the actors and props are then added to this setting. This definition is loosely correct, but another full article would have to be produced to explain all this properly. However, this article does go into some of the ideas and concepts here.

2. Stroboscope vs Rotoscope. These two words have nothing to do with each other.  However if you film an object that moves very fast and in a repetitive way (a wheel, propeller of an aircraft, flickering lighting, florescent lighting, fast repetitively moving machinery parts or robots), your video could change the motion to make it look like it’s moving slower or is standing still (Stroboscope effect). If this happens, you might want to re-shoot that scene at a different rate (frames per second). If you can’t re-shoot the scene again, then you could get rid of the Stobocope effects by Rotoscoping it out—you might for instance add a motion blurr effect to specific parts of the frames (pictures) that are of concern. In some cases, the Stroboscope effect on repetitive motion could be a video effect you might want to encourage.



Last edited in Apr 2014

Shortened link to article: ☆ Video Production, Special Effects, Rotoscoping & Adding Sound Effects [article]: #Vocaloid #MMD

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