Back in the ‘old’ days – around 1997 – there used to be a piece of software called Commotion from a mob in the US, Puffin Software, that as one of its party pieces, allowed the removal of objects from video.
It was expensive. Very expensive. Over USD$1500 as I recall. And complicated. In fact, there was a whole suite of video training tapes for it.
But it was also ground breaking at the time (along with AVID’s Elastic Reality but that’s a whole another story).
Today, we have ERAZR V1 from proDAD, who also make four of our favourite utility applications, Heroglyph, Mercalli, Vitascene and ProDRENALIN. It’s a stand-alone Windows application, not a plugin, and boy, is it effective! And you can learn it from only a couple of online 7-minute YouTube tutorials, not 3 hours of video training!
There are a few caveats I must admit, not the least being that you do need to sit down and come to grips with how the program works. There are some serious technologies at work here folks (including AI), but once you master them, the usage of ERAZR comes very quickly and easily to you. At first it can seem a little daunting as quite probably, you have never quite had to do something like this before. But the effort is worth it.
Simply put, ERAZR allows you to track an object in a scene – including any extraneous bits such as shadows – and remove them completely. A lot of what ERAZR does is performed automatically by the system, but when, for example, objects get too small for the program to track accurately such as a vehicle coming from or going to a distance, you may need to step in and perform some manual tracking and keyframing to get the very best results.
The example used way back when in Puffin’s Commotion removed a seagull flying (off memory), through a scene. With the computing power available back then, pre- multicore days and we are thinking Adobe Premiere version 4.2 or 5 – whilst it worked, it was slow as, as each frame was painstakingly calculated and rendered.
No such issue with ERAZR, and even on a modest i5, it honked along quite nicely thank you! ERAZR supports a multitude of frame rates (24p / 25p / 30p / 50p and 60p and then some more) and resolution up to 8K.
Unlike other applications that do object removal by clone stamping from previous scenes that can be very work intensive and time consuming, once you have the workflow of ERAZR sorted, you can rip through creating a sequence very quickly.
Wazzit NOT Do?
Yes, there are limitations, but these are hardly ERAZR’s fault; for example, a vehicle moving from left to right across your scene (or a seagull!) is easily extracted as the program ‘knows’ what the scene should look like without the object there. But if the vehicle is coming towards you for example, then ERAZR has no idea what is behind it, and so cannot do its thing under those circumstances. Similarly, an object must be moving.
The workflow is quite straight forward, as mentioned, just different to perhaps your norm. First off, the object to be removed has to be tracked and ERZR provides the tools to create different types of masks for doing this along with keyframing any changes.
So HOW Do You Do It?
First you define the in and out points of the completed clip. ERAZR calls this the Work Area.
Next you find a good position in the clip that allows you to define by the mask the whole object to be removed. You can adjust the mask using supplied tools to get the exact fit you need. The mask is then adjusted during the clip work area to create the required key frames. The mouse and keyboard arrow keys are used to fine tune this as needed.
Once you have completed the tracking and are happy with the result (you can check through frame by frame and adjust the automatic selections of the masking as needed), then you switch to the Result View of ERAZR to make sure there are no errors.
If you want to be really clever, ERAZR even lets you fade in a removed object and then fade it out again. This is a neat trick for those “ghost images that appear to show people walking through walls for example.
The end result of removing our scooter guy as can be seen from this video (click the icon below):
What Does It Cost?
I won’t pretend ERAZR is a $49 product as it’s not. It is USD$499. But if you have been on location and got the exact shot you want and then back in post see that there is a glitch that should not be there – that blasted seagull again – then it is a damn sight cheaper and a lot more convenient than a re-shoot.
Another opportunity is where you have clips that are totally unrelated to a current project, but with a bit of tweaking by removing a moving object, they can fit in. This may save having to do a specific shoot, and therefore save budget.
I for one can think of many areas I can use it in the latter case alone!
Anyway, proDAD as always, let you have a play to see what you think. I suggest you download the trial and have a play; I suspect ERAZR might just become another very useful tool in your video editing toolbox!
To get the best, you can also get a downloadable PDF manual, Quickstart and Workflow documents, and proDAD has kindly put together a number of tutorials to help in the learning curve. All this stuff including the Trial version can be had from www.prodad.com.
More than likely we’ll create a few ourselves as this is a fun program to play with!
I’ll keep you posted on that.