Tutorial: Using the New Mask Filter in Grass Valley EDIUS 6
Posted Jun 22, 2011

Grass Valley EDIUS 6 on EventDV.tvEDIUS users looked forward to the release of version 6 with great anticipation. Major-level upgrades had come slowly over the last few years, while beta testers and many in the online forums speculated about what would be included in the next big release. Version 6 shipped in late 2010 with a number of new features that added great functionality to an already great NLE. For more on those new features, check out my review in the January/February issue. I will be creating a few tutorials over the coming months, including a six-part video tutorial series on EventDV.tv, explaining some functionality of these new features. The series kicks off with this video/print tutorial on the new Mask filter. You can see the video component just below; read on for the text tutorial. (The video tutorial covers aspects of the filter not included in the print component, so be sure to study both if you really want to learn about this filter and how you can use it to enhance your productions.)

Step 1: Creating Custom Masks in the EDIUS Timeline
The Mask filter isn’t a new filter per se; it’s a much-enhanced version of the old Region filter that users of previous versions of EDIUS are familiar with. The old Region filter could be used a few different ways if you got creative with your skills, but it was limited; the new Mask filter adds a whole new level of creative functionality. The new Mask filter adds keyframes, the ability to create custom-shaped masks, and the ability to animate them.

In the past, when I needed an animated mask function, I would create the footage in After Effects. This was often cumbersome because of the need to export to After Effects and then import the clip back into EDIUS. With the new Mask filter introduced in EDIUS 6, much of the mask functionality that I used to get from After Effects can be accomplished right on the EDIUS timeline. This means you also get real-time playback with no rendering needed, assuming your system specs are sufficient.

The Region filter has a new look as you can see in Figure 1, below.

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Figure 1. The new look of the Region filter, reconstituted as the more capable Mask filter

Step 2: Blurring Faces
The old Region filter had only a rectangular mask tool and an ellipse mask tool, but, as you can see, on top of the palette window there are many new settings. Not to worry, though; the original rectangle and ellipse are still there. These are my favorite tools for blurring
a face in a crowd or fixing what I call a "wardrobe malfunction." In Figure 2 (below), you can see I have blurred the face of the guest in the beige coat (maybe he was in the witness protection program).

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Figure 2. Blurring a face in a crowd using the Ellipse tool in the Mask filter

Step 3: Creating Custom-Shaped Masks
One big addition to EDIUS' functionality in the Mask filter is the ability to create a custom-shaped mask. To illustrate its functionality, I'll use the establishing shot from a recent wedding edit shown in Figure 3 (below). As you can see, it's a nice and somewhat wide shot of the church showing the church sign and building in the background.

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Figure 3. Creating a custom-shaped mask

For the sake of this tutorial, let's assume we need to add a sense of location to the establishing shot. To do so, I have a moving shot with an address sign and town name on it that will help the viewer realize this is a small country church in a very small town. I've added a layer on top of my establishing shot, as seen in Figure 4 (below). It's a shot from a similar position but with the sign in the foreground. We're going to mask out all but the sign in this tutorial.

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Figure 4. Adding another layer to create the mask

Now, to mask out all but the sign, we'll use the Draw Path feature of the new Mask filter. Before creating your shape, don't forget to activate the keyframes
by clicking on the check box for the keyframes at the bottom. After opening the information properties of the Mask filter (instead of using the Rectangle or Ellipse tool at the top of the palette), click on the small arrow just to the right of the Ellipse mask (or use the shortcut key P). This will activate the Draw Path feature.

Then use the Pen tool to draw your mask around the sign by clicking to add a vertex as shown in Figure 5 (below). For rounded sections, you also have access to a bezier curve tool so your mask will be smooth and clean. To activate the bezier curve, hold the mouse button down on the new point for a second or so and you'll be able to bend the line as needed. In this example, I also set the Edge to Soft and assigned 10 pixels to the setting. This will take the harshness off the edge and make it look a little cleaner.

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Figure 5. Drawing a mask around the sign using the Pen tool by adding a vertex

The next thing you need to do is get rid of everything in this layer except the sign. To do so, set the opacity of the "Outside" to 0%. In your playback overlay, you'll see that the sign is now displayed on top of the previous layer with a better shot of the church in the background as shown in Figure 6 (below). Note that the Mask palette window will not show the transparency. You can see the transparency results in the playback overlay window on your timeline.

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Figure 6. The sign is now on top of the previous layer.

To blur the face, use the Ellipse tool at the top. Then, in the upper-right corner of the interface, select the check box for the Inside filter. Over to the right, click the Select Filter icon that looks like a folder with an arrow coming out of it. This allows you to select the filter that will be applied inside the ellipse.

In this example, I chose the Mosaic filter and increased the blockiness until the guest's face was indistinguishable. I also set the Edge to Soft with about 40 pixels so it wouldn't appear as harsh. You can add keyframes more easily than was possible when working with the Region filter in previous versions, and you can move your region mask around the screen. If you're an experienced editor, you're familiar with keyframe functionality, so I won't delve into how to set keyframes now (see the video tutorial above for more detail on that).

Step 4: Animating the Mask
To animate the sign movement across the image, drag the cursor in your Mask palette and set keyframes along the way. To edit any changes in the shape of your top layer, use the first arrow on the far left of the palette. The small drop-down menu for the arrow will show edit options for selecting the object, editing the object, adding a vertex, deleting a vertex, and editing a control point. Each of those options has a keyboard shortcut assigned. Once you’ve built a few animated masks, you’ll learn the shortcuts quickly as it will speed up the process.

The shortcut assignments can be seen next to the function name of the drop-down menu. In Figure 7 (below) you can see that I’ve added a number of keyframes. I’ve also had to modify the shape slightly at a few keyframe locations.

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Figure 7. The mask has been modified slightly at a few of the keyframe locations.

Step 5: Cleansing the Palette
One other nice feature in the Mask filter is the small set of icons on the very bottom left of the Mask palette. If you click on the solid icon, all the keyframes and other information go away. You get just your footage in a larger screen to make detailed mask work much easier. Figure 8 (below) shows this functionality. To return to the main Mask palette screen, just click the other icon.

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Figure 8. Working with the mask enlarged, in a less cluttered screen

Step 6: Other Uses
If you use your imagination, you’ll find that you can use EDIUS’ new Mask filter for many different purposes. Just think creatively. For instance, let’s say you have a shot set up on a tripod and there is a parking lot behind you with a few stains on the pavement. You could use the Mask filter to select those stained sections and use color correction on the “inside” of the mask to clean up the look of the parking lot. Or, in our example above, we could have used a color correction filter inside the Mask filter to make the sign change colors as we moved across the screen.

Experiment with the new Mask filter in EDIUS 6; you’ll save yourself a few steps in the postproduction process to create “wow” effects in your productions. If you’re an EDIUS user and you haven’t upgraded to EDIUS 6 yet, the new Mask filter could be the incentive you need to make the upgrade. (If you are currently considering an upgrade, note that NX hardware drivers for version 6 had not yet been completed as of this writing but are rumored to be available mid-2011. If you have an NX card for output, you’ll have to stick with EDIUS 5 for now.)

With today’s current generation of i7 processors, everything we’ve discussed here can easily be accomplished with real-time, full-resolution output, even with native AVCHD or DSLR footage. The new Mask filter is a powerful addition to EDIUS. The new EDIUS slogan is “Edit Anything” and, thanks to new features such as the Mask filter, now you can do more with anything you edit.

To view the Mask Video Tutorial along with others in EventDV.tv's "Six Steps to Stronger Edits" series as they go live, go to EventDV.tv's Grass Valley EDIUS channel on Vimeo.

Philip Hinkle (philip at frogmanproductions.com) runs Madison, Wis.-area video production company Frogman Productions. A 2008 EventDV 25 honoree and nationally recognized EDIUS instructor, he won a 2008 WEVA CEA Gold in the Social Event category and a 2006 4EVER Group AAA Diamond. He was a 2009 WEVA CEA judge and a featured speaker at WEVA Expo 2009. He is co-founder and vice-president of the Wisconsin Digital Media Group.