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Blending Objects

Normally when objects overlap each other in the Canvas, the top object completely obscures the object(s) below it (Figure 4.30). Blending objects is the process of changing how the pixels of objects that are stacked on top of each other interact. By changing the opacity or the blend mode of an object, you can dramatically alter the look of your composition (Figure 4.31).

Figure 4.30. When objects overlap in the Canvas, the top object obscures those beneath it. Here the text obscures the cloth, and the cloth obscures the clouds.

Figure 4.31. If you apply a blend mode, overlapping objects can take on a completely new look.

Blending with opacity

Opacity refers to how opaque or transparent the pixels in an object are: 100-percent opacity is fully opaque (visible) and 0-percent opacity is fully transparent (invisible). Values between 0 percent and 100 percent are partially visible. You can adjust opacity on the Properties tab or in the Dashboard.

To change an objects’ opacity:

Select the object(s).

Do one of the following:

  • In the Properties tab (press F1 to reveal it), drag the Opacity slider or enter a value in the value field.

  • In the Dashboard (press D to reveal it), drag the Opacity slider (Figure 4.32).

    Figure 4.32. To change an objects’ opacity in the Dashboard, just drag the Opacity slider.

  • In the Layers tab of the Project pane (press F5 to reveal it), first reveal the Opacity sliders by clicking the small arrow in the top right (Figure 4.33), select Opacity, and then drag the slider in the object row.

    Figure 4.33. To reveal the Opacity property in the Layers tab, click the small arrow in the top right.

✓ Tips

  • Because layers are also objects, you can adjust the opacity of a layer. All objects in the layer inherit the new opacity setting. Note that the opacity level for individual objects remains at 100 percent.

  • Decreasing opacity can improve the effect of a blend mode (discussed momentarily) by decreasing the intensity of the result.

Using blend modes

Although lowering the opacity of an object allows objects below it to show through, blend modes perform different mathematical operations that impact how pixels on a selected object interact with pixels on objects below it. How the pixels interact depends on the color and brightness of each pixel. Results can be surprising, so it’s useful to experiment. You can apply blend modes to objects, layers, or both at the same time. With Motion’s real-time capabilities, you can immediately view the impact of blend modes on video and animations without rendering.

To apply a blend mode to an object:

Select an object that has at least one object beneath it.

Do one of the following:

  • In the Properties tab (press F1 to reveal it), choose a blend mode from the pop-up menu.

  • In the Dashboard (press D or F7 to reveal it), choose a blend mode from the pop-up menu.

  • Go to Object > Blend Mode and choose an option from the submenu.

  • In the Layers tab of the Project pane (press Command-4 to reveal it), use the Blend Mode pop-up menu located on the object row (Figure 4.34).

    Figure 4.34. The Blend Mode pop-up menu in the Layers tab displays a variety of options.

    If the menu isn’t available, make it visible by selecting Blend from the pop-up list at the top right of the Layers tab (Figure 4.35).

    Figure 4.35. Choose Blend from the pop-up list at the top of the Layers tab to reveal the blend property.

  • Control-click the object in the Canvas and select a blend mode from the drop-down list.

✓ Tips

  • Applying a blend mode to an object affects all the overlapping layers below it but not any of the layers above.

  • Blend modes have no impact on the background color of the Canvas defined in Edit > Project Properties.

  • Depending on the blend mode, the stacking order of the objects may or may not change the result.

  • If you apply blend modes to multiple overlapping objects, Motion first determines the result of blending the bottom-most two objects. It then combines that result with the blend mode of the next-higher object and keeps progressing up the object stack until it reaches the top.

  • By default, the layer on which an object is located does not impact the results of the blend mode. Two objects could be on the same layer or different layers—as long as one object is below the other, applying a blend mode directly to objects yields the same result either way. This behavior changes if the Layer blend mode is changed from the default Combine (see “Blend modes and layers,” on the next page).

  • Using the Opacity parameter in conjunction with blend modes gives you great creative flexibility in controlling the intensity of the blend.

Blend modes and layers

Because layers are also objects, you can apply blend modes directly to them. One additional blend mode is available for layers—the default mode called Combine.

When a layer has the Combine blend mode applied, every object in the layer that has a blend mode applied is combined with objects in all lower layers (Figure 4.36).

Figure 4.36. Combine allows blend modes to pass through to lower layers. Notice how the clouds in the lower layer blend through the rectangle in the upper layer.

If the layer blend mode is set to Normal, objects in the layer blend with each other as you apply blend modes, but they do not blend with any lower layers.

To apply a blend mode to a layer:

Select the layer.

Do one of the following:

  • Use the Blend drop-down menu in the Layers tab.

  • Control-click the layer in the Canvas and select the blend mode from the Blend Mode submenu. Note that if the layer isn’t already selected, you need to first select it by clicking the layer row in the Layer tab.

  • Select a blend mode from the Properties tab of the Inspector.

  • Choose Object > Blend Mode and select a blend mode.

  • In the Dashboard, select a blend mode from the drop-down list.

What’s an Alpha Channel and Can I Get It on Cable?

Certain graphics formats, like pict, tiff, and psd, as well as video formats like Animation or Motion JPEG, have the capability of storing four channels of information about the contents of the image. Each channel is a grayscale representation of the image.

The first three channels are the RGB (red, green, blue) channels that store information on how much of each primary color is contained in each pixel of the image. The fourth channel stores information on the level of opacity, or transparency, of each pixel. For instance, a graphic file of some text with a drop shadow on an empty background would have an alpha channel with the text pixels all white (100-percent opaque), the drop shadow pixels mostly white but fading to gray and then black at the very edges, and the rest of the pixels all black (100-percent transparent) (Figure 4.37).

Figure 4.37. An alpha channel stores information on the opacity of each pixel. Here the text, drop shadow, and background pixels all have different levels of opacity.

Certain blend modes use the alpha channel of one object to determine the areas of transparency of another object. For example, you can use the transparency of a text object on a video object to place the video inside the text (Figure 4.38). See Chapter 12 for more information.

Figure 4.38. This video in text effect takes advantage of an alpha channel to determine the areas that should be transparent.

Alpha channel blend modes

A subset of the blend modes uses the alpha channel information of an object to determine how objects blend together.

Preserving opacity

The Preserve Opacity check box in the middle of the Properties tab tells a selected object to only be visible in areas determined by the object(s) beneath it (Figure 4.39). It essentially uses the lower object(s) as a mask on the selected objects. For more on masks, see Chapter 12.

Figure 4.39. Preserve Opacity turned on for the text layer makes the leaves below the text act as a mask.

To enable Preserve Opacity:

Select an object or objects.

In the Properties tab, click the Preserve Opacity check box.

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