Rotoscoping: Vector Paint Usage in Maya

The vector paint tool in Maya can be used for more realistic rotoscoping. Rotoscoping basically paints a digital image over a live film. The newest technology for rotoscoping today is motion capture analysis, in which the motion is captured and not the actor or object. The name arose from the equipment needed that used frosted glass panes. Vector paint can be used to create mattes on existing layers and on solid layers.


The paint vector is best used on new layers over the existing footage. This way, the edit can be made without altering the original footage.  Most of the time, these new layers will be transparent accept for the paint vector area. It is also possible to paint directly onto the solid footage layers, though once this change is saved, the original footage will forever be altered.


The paint vector is just like painting in photo editing programs. There are brush settings for the brush type, feathering, opacity, radius and color. The pain vector also uses an eye dropper and eraser tool. The paint strokes can be tracked per frame or in a sequence. This can also be used to create real data or clone it across a complete sequence of frames.


The light source is also important for compositing the 3D image. Once the image has been painted over, see about casting light in the same way. Besides the new image, it is also important to cast the correct shadows. The depth map shadows can be used to help create the proper shadows. Try to match the digital lights with those that were used in the actual footage. To begin painting, a Maya scene will be built with 3D geometric objects in place of the item in order to get the proper lighting.


Some of the advantages of this feature within MAYA are that it is possible to create these digital images faster and more realistically. All of the dynamic action and motion is very realistic. Editing is easier as is the ability to view the changes through previews. The interface and menus have been updated to ease eye strain and improve productivity. This new feature can be used across all different platforms and has plug ins for different editing software. In particular, rotoscoping is needed to establish the base of rhythm and movement within a scene.

Basic Procedure

Rotoscoping requires the creation of a basic character. This can be created from scratch and build the character skeleton. The first time you use this function, try to keep things simple. This image can then be turned off, or displayed in color or black and white. It will be necessary to then take the footage and type on the frames within the animated sequence. This is done using the frame extension. Drop the base image onto the footage and use the placement selection down into place.

There are 2 options within the function: best or fill. Position the character as much as possible and use the x-ray function when positioning. This makes it a lot easier to match the 2 figures. Run an initial blocking pass. The figure may not match every single frame, but it is now possible to scrub the sequence and make adjustments until the user is satisfied.