A toolset that simplifies simple tracks and match moves.
By Brady Betzel
Tracking has become a hobby/obsession of mine lately, mainly because it’s not easy to do it well. Personally, I’m a fan of Imagineer’s Mocha Pro, but for some Mocha is either too hard, too time consuming or too pricey. Luckily for them, there is a tool that is made for those looking to do simple planar tracking and image inserts: FayIN from Fayteq (@fayteq). Simply, FayIN is a planar tracking plug-in for Adobe After Effects that allows the user to easily insert objects onto surfaces or computer screens relatively quickly.
As many of you know, if you dive deep into products like Mocha, SynthEyes, Element 3D or Cineware, for example, it can take hours of tutorials and practice to understand how the plug-in works. I was expecting FayIN to take at least a day to learn, but to my surprise it only took about an hour of watching all of their tutorials and another 30 minutes to figure out how FayIN worked. After I got used to it, I was thinking to myself, “Is that it?” As in, it’s simple and it does one thing. So when reading this review, or trying FayIN for yourself with their 30-day free trial, keep in mind that this plug-in isn’t proclaiming to be a Mocha replacement, but instead a toolset that simplifies simple tracks and match moves.
FayIN is a planar tracker that builds its own 3D world to align a camera for proper placement and corner pinning. In my testing, I found that FayIN shines when the footage is free of quick pans and extreme zooms and is as simple of a shot as possible. Think of a computer screen or picture on a wall that you want to replace.
How to Track a Shot
In After Effects you will need to load footage you want to track into a new comp. Keep in mind you can either set your in and out points for the track in the FayIN tool panel or you will need to trim your footage, put that into a pre-comp and apply the FayIN plug-in. From there you will see your video in the FayIN tool panel, click on that and add a new track. A new dialogue box named Track Properties will open, and this is where you will either create a rectangle bounding box around the area you want to track or use the brush-like tool to paint over the surface you want to track. You will also choose whether the area you want to track is a static image (picture of a house) or a moving object (picture of moving truck). There are some more advanced options, but for the most part you probably won’t be using them. Then just click to start. You will see a progress bar in the Effect Properties panel, as well as the FayIN tool panel.
Once complete, FayIN will add a placeholder in your comp, labeled “FayIN Placeholder,” that is colored a nice blue. In your comp viewer you should see a slightly see-through blue object that, in theory, will match what you are tracking. From there, in the FayIN tool panel, you can right click on the FayIN Placeholder and click “Exchange Insert Footage.” It will ask if you want to reformat the footage to the aspect ratio of the track or if you want it to fill the object regardless of aspect ratio (which will look stretched, most likely). I would go with the first option, in most cases, and finally your object will be placed in FayIN’s track. Hopefully, it locks into place and all is well; if you use simple footage you may have to do some slight rotation or z-space fixing, but you should be in business.
If you do need to do some tweaking you are going to want to click on the footage you tracked in your comp timeline. Then in the Effect Controls panel find the track that corresponds to the item you want to fix, click “Active” and you should be ready to adjust your rotation, x-, y- or z-space, and even see a report with hints at how you can make your track more successful. The main corrections you will probably have to make are aligning your tracking plane in z-space and adjusting the proper rotation. Luckily, FayIN will tell you that in the report!
I do have to say that the ability to tweak things like size and rotation at anytime without affecting keyframes is a nice feature. If you want to really get down to the nitty-gritty you will want to watch some of the advanced tutorials Fayteq has created. They are typically around five to seven minutes, so not too long. Check them out here.
I tested FayIN using some low-light video I shot with my iPhone 6, mostly because I was lazy and I figured that would be the footage that would be hardest to track with all the noise and low level of detail. To my surprise, barring the panning, FayIN performed great, and I was able to replace a photo on my wall in a matter of minutes. You can check out my example on YouTube.
I also tried some footage where a model rolled her head from left to right, looking away from the camera and eventually toward the camera. I wanted to insert some of Rampant Design Tools (@rampantdesign) Monster Toolkit Eyes onto the model. It was pretty tricky to get it to stick properly. Also, keep in mind that you cannot add an erase mask on top of the inserted object. You would need to duplicate the footage and create a custom mask. I wanted to erase the insert where her eyelids opened up to reveal the monster-like eyes, but I had to do it the old-fashioned way.
So What Do I Think?
In the end, I think FayIN is a great planar tracker if used for simple tracks. I had some problems tracking anything with quick pans, zooms or even with stuff that might have rotated into frame. I do understand that tracking isn’t easy and takes a lot of work, most of the time, but I also think that if you are buying a plug-in whose sole purpose is to track easily and simply, it should do just that. While FayIN does do what it is supposed to, and does it very easily, it doesn’t work in all instances. Furthermore, FayIN does not do anything that you can’t do with After Effect’s built-in 3D tracker and/or even the free version of Mocha that comes bundled with After Effects — but it does do simple replacements very easily.
In the end, if you do a lot of simple sign, monitor or flat surface inserts and don’t want to reinvent the tracking wheel every time, then FayIN is the tool you want. It is moderately priced at around $330, but if you buy before NAB you can get it for around $250. At the very least you should download the free 30-day trial and see for yourself, because FayIN is definitely extremely easy to use if you follow the well-done tutorials.
I feel like the future of FayIN is going to be bright; they seemed to have built this plug-in with the future in mind. They have been teasing FayOUT for at least a year now offering the ability to easily do object removal. So who knows, it seems like 3D integration is only a matter of time away.
Brady Betzel is an online editor at Margarita Mix in Hollywood. Previously, he was editing The Real World at Bunim-Murray Productions. You can email Brady at email@example.com, and follow him on Twitter, @allbetzroff.