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Tutorial: Using Text to Mask Video in Adobe After Effects CC

This tutorial demonstrates how to use an After Effects alpha matte to make your video "shine through" your text.

In this tutorial, we'll look at how to have video or other objects shine through your text--otherwise known as masking. This widely used effect really gives your online video a stylized look. You can see a familiar example from HBO (one frame of which is shown in Figure 1, below) at the 0:29 mark of the video above. This tutorial will demonstrate how to achieve this effect in Adobe After Effects CC.

Figure 1. An example of the type of text mask effect we'll create in this tutorial.

To create the type of mask effect shown in this example, I was working on a MacBook Pro running OS X Mavericks and Adobe After Effects CC.

Creating a Solid-Color Background Layer

To begin, create a new After Effects composition. Then add video of your choice to the After Effects project timeline. In this example I'll use some footage of the New York City skyline that I've already trimmed in After Effects. I'll also add a solid background layer to my timeline, but this is entirely optional. If you do want to add this layer, go to Layer > New > Solid (Figure 2, below).

Figure 2. Opening the Solid Settings dialog.

In the Solid Settings dialog box that opens (Figure 3, below), select a color matte to complete the layer.

Figure 3. Choosing a matte color.

Finally, rearrange the order of the layers in your timeline so that the video is on top (Figure 4, below).

Figure 4. Layers re-ordered with the video layer on top.

Adding Text

Next, add some text by choosing the Horizontal Type Tool at the top of the window (Figure 5, below).

Figure 5. Choosing the Horizontal Type Tool.

Then you can type your text directly into the Composition, and resize it to your liking by dragging the bounding box as shown in Figure 6 (below), as well as choose fonts and make other precise adjustments in the window to the right highlighted in Figure 7 (below Figure 6).

Figure 6. Resizing the text.

Figure 7. Make further customizations here.

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