Beginner’s guide to using motion tracking in VSDC

In February 2020 the VSDC team announced the release of motion tracking – a long-awaited tool that allows you to register object’s movements in a video and assign the same trajectory to other elements: texts, images, or filters. A common example that probably comes to mind is a pixelated censorship mask placed over a moving object – but motion tracking possibilities go way beyond that. For instance, you can make a text title move along with the object it belongs to. Or you can create an image that will be following an assigned object in a video.

To help you get the hand of motion tracking in VSDC faster, we’ve prepared a detailed tutorial. You’ll learn how the tool works, what a movement map is, how to create a trajectory and assign it to an object. We’ll also explain what to do if a tracked object changes its size or shape and gets “lost” by the tracking software.

Before getting started, we highly recommend downloading the latest version of VSDC.

1. How to activate Motion tracking in VSDC

Motion tracking is a paid feature available as a part of VSDC Pro edition. So, if you already have the VSDC Pro license, just download the latest version of the editor, and you’ll be able to access Motion tracking among the built-in tools.

Another option is available for those who want to use motion tracking without upgrading to VSDC Pro. To do that, you’ll need to download the Motion tracking plugin from the official website and install it on your PC. The plugin is paid, and it allows you for activating the Motion tracking tool right in the free version of VSDC Video Editor.

2. Getting started with motion tracking in VSDC: how to create a movement map

To get started, launch the program and import a video file with a moving object. Next, you’ll need to create a map based on the trajectory of this object’s movement. It’s called a movement map.

Here is how you do it:

  1. Make a click on the video using the right mouse button.
  2. From the context menu, select “Create movement map”.
  3. Now, select (or confirm) the folder on your PC to store the map. Hit “Save”.

    Adjustable frame to define the area where the tracked object is located in VSDC

  4. In the preview window, you’ll see a frame defining the tracked object. Resize and move it to ensure that the tracked object fits the frame and takes most of its space.
  5. Use the “Start analysis” button in the Motion tracker menu at the top to launch the tracking process.

  6. As the playback progresses, the movement map will be gradually appearing in the preview window, drawn in green. At the end of the video, check the trajectory and if it’s accurate, click the «Apply editing» button. This way, the movement map will be saved to your PC and VSDC will automatically switch to the regular video editing mode.

3. How to assign a movement map to another object

Once the movement map is ready, you can assign it to any object: an image, an icon, a title, or a mask. As an example, we’ll show you how to create a piece of text that will follow an object in a video.

Here is how to get started:

  1. First, use the left-hand side menu to add a text object to the scene.
  2. Make a double-click on the text layer.
  3. Open the “Add object” menu at the top and select “Movement” -> “Movement map”.
  4. In the Object’s position settings window, select the movement map you previously saved on your PC and hit OK.
  5. Notice that the settings window also allows you to change the starting point for the map. This means you can start applying the trajectory to the object from the beginning of the scene, from the cursor position, or manually.

4. What is a tracking loss region

Sometimes the software may “lose” the tracked object in the process. It typically happens if the object gets overlapped by the surroundings and stops being visible in the scene. Other scenarios include the object changing its size, color, shape, or appearance completely (a person turns into a car just like in Transformers, for instance).

As a result, you get a so-called “tracking loss region” – the gap between the moment when the program “loses” the object and registers it again.

In such cases, Motion tracker builds an approximate trajectory that the object is expected to take while moving through the tracking loss region. You can always manually adjust this trajectory by adding keyframes to the required areas.

Here is how it’s done:

  1. On the timeline, place the cursor at the moment when the program loses the object. Adjust and relocate the tracking frame according to the new object’s position.
  2. Now, click the “Continue analysis” button to launch tracking from that moment.
  3. If the object gets “lost” more than once during the playback, repeat these steps for each time.

What to do when a tracked object disappears from sight - tracking loss area in VSDC

If you need to select a piece of the trajectory on the movement map to delete it, you can do that manually, too. Place keyframes at the beginning and at the end of the piece you want to cut out, then select it and hit “Delete”.

Please note that sometimes tracking loss regions appear earlier than the object really disappears from sight. In this case, you might need to expand the tracking loss region to adjust it with more precision.

Follow these steps to modify the tracking loss region:

  1. First, place additional keyframes to specify the tracking loss region on the timeline.
  2. Make a double-click on the resulting piece of the map.
  3. Use the icon named “Invalidate area” to define the piece as a region where the object’s movement was tracked incorrectly.
  4. Finally, make manual adjustments using keyframes.

Once the map looks as expected, hit the “Apply editing” button to save it and switch VSDC to the video editing mode.

To quickly switch between keyframes in the Motion Tracker mode, use the “right” and “left” arrow keys on your keyboard.

5. Movement map settings: overview

Once you’ve assigned the movement map to an object, you can go ahead and fine-tune the available settings for higher movement precision. To access the settings, make a double-click on the object – this will open a new tab with a layer called “Movement map”. All the adjustments to the Movement map can be done in the Properties window on the right-hand side. If you can’t find the Properties window, click on the layer with the right mouse button and select “Properties” from the menu.

Movement map settings window in VSDC

Below, we’ll explain what each Properties window parameter means:

Coordinates (X/Y) – initial coordinates of the object in the preview window.

Object creation time (ms/frame) – the moment you want to assign the movement map to the added object.

Object duration time (ms/frame) – this parameter defines for how long you want to apply the movement map to that object. Just like the previous parameter, this one can be defined either by milliseconds or by frames.

The Movement map setup menu includes the following parameters:

  • Movement map – the map used in the project.
  • Mapped video – the video used for drawing the movement map. If you specify the video file here, its parameters and the parameters of the map will be automatically adjusted to each other. If you leave this field blank, the movement map will not adjust to the parameters of the video.
  • Lost process – the object’s movement mode in the tracking loss area. Using this parameter, you can decide how the object should be moving while in the tracking loss area. There are three options to choose from:
    1. Approximate trajectory – the object remains visible while the program draws its estimated movement trajectory.
    2. Hide object – when the object reaches the tracking loss area, it disappears.
    3. Do not process map – the object moves according to the trajectory you’ve drawn. To draw the missing piece of trajectory, you’ll need to use the “Movement” tool.

Please note that if you don’t draw the trajectory for the tracking loss area, the object will be moving according to the «Approximate trajectory».

Although it may seem complicated, the Motion tracking tool in VSDC is actually quite easy to use and requires zero special knowledge or experience. As long as you follow the instructions and use the preview window, you’ll be able to achieve the desired result.

 

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