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Motion Tracking in Video Editing: Explained for Animation & Beyond

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views
4 min read
Posted:
January 30, 2024
Updated:
December 8, 2023
Author
Andrew Kozik
Reviewed by
Helena Raise
Posted:
January 30, 2024
Updated:
December 8, 2023

Contents

Motion tracking is an essential technique used across film, TV, commercials and online video to detect and analyze movement of objects within footage. This opens up endless creative possibilities.

This post explains what motion tracking is, how it works, key uses across animation and VFX, and top tools to apply it yourself. Read on to unlock this versatile production skill!

What is Motion Tracking in Video?

Motion tracking graphic image

Motion tracking, also called match moving or camera tracking, is the process of calculating the motion of objects within video or image sequences. It works by analyzing the positional changes of pixels across frames to identify and track movement of people, objects, backgrounds and cameras.

The motion data extracted can then be used to add visual effects (VFX), motion graphics, computer-generated imagery (CGI) and more. Motion tracking acts as a bridge between the real footage and digital elements.

It utilizes computer vision and machine learning techniques to automatically detect, analyze and monitor motion patterns. This automation eliminates tedious manual tracking.

Main Uses of Motion Tracking

Motion tracking enables remarkable visual effects by integrating graphics with real footage. Common uses include:

Object Tracking

Tracking object motion allows overlaying graphics like labels, logos and explosions that move realistically with the subject.

Face Tracking

Tracking facial movements enables altering expressions, applying filters and masks, or CGI face replacements.

Camera Tracking

Tracking how the camera moves allows adding CGI/3D elements that interact properly with live footage.

Rotoscoping

Tracking outlines of elements enables isolating subjects like people for seamless compositing.

Match Moving

Tracking static backgrounds allows accurately compositing moving foreground subjects into new scenes.

Types of Motion Tracking

Motion tracking techniques range from simple to highly complex:

Point Tracking

Tracks distinct feature points across frames like eyes, corners or logos. Limited to smaller objects.

Planar Tracking

Analyzes planes and surfaces. Ideal for tracking flat backgrounds, walls, roads etc.

Camera Tracking

Reconstructs camera movement and scene geometry. Allows inserting 3D objects into footage.

Facial Landmark Tracking

Precisely tracks facial features through machine learning for alterations, effects and overlays.

Full Body Tracking

Tracks entire bodies including multiple people for compositing and motion graphics.

Top Motion Tracking Software

Leading options include:

After Effects

After Effects Logo

Industry standard for motion graphics/VFX. Includes advanced tracking and data exporting.

Blender

Blender Logo

Open-source 3D tool with built-in motion tracking for animation and VFX.

Final Cut Pro

Final Cut Pro Logo

Apple's pro video editor has streamlined tracking tools optimized for editors.

iMovie

iMovie Logo

iMovie offers basic point-based motion tracking to apply effects to subjects on iPhone/iPad.

Step-by-Step Motion Tracking Workflow

Here is a typical VFX motion tracking process:

  1. Import footage into chosen software.
  2. Select tracking points on target subject like eyes, face, logos etc.
  3. Analyze footage to extract motion data.
  4. Create graphics/animations that adhere to tracked movement.
  5. Render with integrated graphics following tracked markers.
  6. Fine-tune tracking data and graphics positioning as needed.
  7. Export enhanced video with realistic motion-synced elements.

With practice, accurate seamless tracking is achievable!

Creative Examples of Motion Tracking

Motion tracking enables endless possibilities:

Overlaying Graphics on Moving Objects

Track objects to overlay animated labels, stats, logos and icons that move realistically with subjects.

Compositing CGI into Live Footage

Match move backgrounds to convincingly composite 3D elements like robots, UFOs or futuristic tech into scenes.

Augmented Reality Effects

Facial and body tracking lays the foundation for realistic augmented reality filters and effects.

Rotoscoping for VFX

Precisely track subjects to isolate them from backgrounds for seamless compositing in new environments.

Tips for Better Motion Tracking

Follow these tips:

  • Choose tracking points with clear visible features like eyes/corners.
  • Ensure adequate lighting and focus for tracker accuracy.
  • Pick tracking techniques suited for subject like point, camera or facial tracking.
  • Manually correct tracking drift by repositioning trackers.
  • Use tracking data to drive animations for integrated realistic motion.
  • Compare results across tools to utilize strengths of each for your needs.

With the right workflow, achieving professional motion tracking is within reach!

Enhance Videos with ScreenStory

While complex VFX motion tracking requires specialized tools, ScreenStory provides a quick automated solution for basic tracking suitable for tutorials, social media videos and more.

ScreenStory is innovative software that makes it easy to record high-quality screencasts and camera footage on Mac. Its AutoZoom feature automatically pans and zooms to follow your cursor movements - effectively motion tracking the cursor.

This creates engaging hands-free videos that dynamically guide viewer focus without laborious editing. Additional automated animations integrated into professional templates further enhance videos.

For creators looking to quickly incorporate dynamic motion without intensive tracking or compositing, ScreenStory provides a handy simplified solution.

Try now and see how ScreenStory can bring your videos to life. The automation empowers anyone to easily amplify their video presence.


FAQs

What is the best free motion tracking software?

Blender offers full motion tracking capabilities for free. iMovie provides basic tracking for Mac. VFX studio Nuke has a free non-commercial version.

Can you motion track in Premiere Pro?

Yes, Premiere Pro includes built-in point-based motion tracking under the Track tab. Mocha tracking data can also be dynamically linked with Premiere.

Is motion tracking hard to learn?

It involves a learning curve like any VFX skill. But starting with simple techniques like point tracking and using smart tools accelerates the process tremendously.

How accurate is motion tracking?

Accuracy depends on factors like tracking technique, video quality and complexity of motion. With smart workflows, precision down to pixels is achievable for realistic results.

Can motion tracking be used to blur backgrounds?

Yes, tracking enables separating foreground subjects from backgrounds for seamless blurring, replacement or compositing into new scenes.

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