Video Masking: Complete Guide for Creating Cool Effects

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Edited by Ben Jacklin
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Add interest, excitement, and polish to your videos with video masking techniques. Non-linear video masking software like Movavi Video Editor can help you leverage professional masking tools to help make your content shine.

Special pick: Movavi Video Editor

Movavi Video Editor is an easy-to-use video masking software that helps you dive right into professional video editing in the simplest way imaginable. Its extensive toolbox lets you repair shaky video, add brilliant effects, blur out faces, and make great edits easily. When your content is ready, you can upload it directly to social media platforms to get your views quicker than ever.

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What is masking editing?

What is masking in video editing? One great tool in the video-editing toolbox that often goes overlooked is masking editing. What this does is allow you to focus on a certain part of a video and mask the rest, or just the opposite. Think of someone wearing a mask. It blocks out part of their face, leading your eye to focus on the parts remaining. Or, an interesting mask itself can become the focus, causing you to pay less attention to what’s behind it. That’s essentially how a video mask works, too. And now, with intuitive and simple video masking software at your disposal, you can add masking effects to your videos like a pro!

So how is masking a video performed? You simply decide if there is something you want to block out in your video or something you want to make your audience focus on. Next, you create a mask, which is like cutting a shape out of a piece of paper and laying it over your screen. Except, of course, you do this digitally, with a different layer of footage. You then overlay the layers, and you can produce some excellent effects.

Types of video masks

There are different types of video masks out there, though their functions and forms, like layers of footage, overlap.

Clipping masks

A clipping mask is used to create a sort of window through which the viewer can see only a limited part of your video through. This type of mask can be thought of as a cut-out and is usually used this way. With a clipping mask, you normally decide on an interesting shape or shapes that would let your viewer peek at your video and create an opaque or even blurred layer to block out the rest. It could also be used to highlight a particular part of your video by giving it brighter lighting, more color, or even increased or decreased sharpness.

Inverted masks

An inverted mask does just the opposite. Rather than “cutting out a window” to watch the video through, this is like making a solid shape to block out one part of a video. Think of the big black rectangles used by censors in days gone by. You might want to keep parts of a video private by blurring faces, license plates, or other sensitive information while still giving an impression of these things in the video. You’d use an inverted mask for that. An inverted mask can also be used to conceal an unwanted object in your footage completely.

Text masks

Text masks are created very often in video masking programs. Essentially, a text mask is the opposite of putting opaque screen titles on your video. Instead, they’re normally clipping masks that use the shape of text as the mask. To create a text mask, many users create an opaque mask and then clip out bold/thick text to let the viewer see the video through only the letters. This has the effect of letting the viewer read a title and also focus on the moving footage within it at the same time.

Object masks

Object masks use objects instead of text to create the outlines or shapes for a masking video. You could create a mask of any shape to use as a focal point. This object could be used like a clipping mask to create an outline to see your footage within. Or it can be used as an inverted mask, where an object's shape is partially or completely blocked out. One example would be creating a rectangular mask to blur out a sign or license plate that you don’t want to show in your video.

Static masks

Quite simply, static masks don’t move. They’re designed to stay in one place while the other layer of video, your main footage, moves around behind it. If you’ve taken stationary footage and you want to get rid of a still object from your video, you can create a simple static mask to block it, for example. Static masks are also the simplest and easiest way to overlay scenes, create split screens, or even double yourself in your videos.

Dynamic masks

As you can imagine, dynamic masks are a whole other ballgame. These masks, usually inverted masks designed to block moving objects, have to move around through the course of the underlying video. Imagine making a static mask to blur the face of a whistleblower, only to have them move out of the masked area so their face can be seen!

A dynamic mask fixes that difficulty by tracking the object you intend to block out and moving in synch along with it. Imagine a car driving through your shot with a license plate you want to blur out. A dynamic mask can lock onto that license plate and keep it blurred, even as it moves through your shot and changes size and shape. AI video masking is a huge leap forward in creating dynamic masks and is completely revolutionizing how video masking is done.

Different ways to use masking videos

Now that you know what it is, you’re probably asking, What is video masking used for?” We’ve already looked at a few examples, but here are some of the use cases that you need to know about to make your videos really pop.

Removing objects

One of the most common uses of video masking is for removing unwanted objects from your footage. There could be several reasons for doing this. You may have a beautiful shot that somebody walked into, or you might have something proprietary that, for legal reasons, you’d rather just get rid of. The best way to do this is to create an inverted mask to block that object right out of your scene.

Blurring faces

Some of the most compelling videos in the world are interviewers with whistleblowers or other people who need their identities protected. Their faces can be blurred for this purpose so that the viewer still gets the impression of a person being there. Using a motion-based blurred mask is the best way to get this effect while still keeping identities secret.

Focusing on faces

While blurring is necessary in some cases, faces are usually what you really want your viewers to see. So what do you do if faces are too dimly lit in your footage? You could go through a costly re-shoot or simply create a mask to focus on the faces. With video masking software, you can brighten a whole video layer, then create a clipping mask to focus only on a face. Overlay that layer with your original darker footage, and the face will stand out more brightly.

Creating inspired title sequences

A title sequence can make or break a video, so adding an incredible effect to your titles is one way to grab attention and hold it. A text mask or other interesting clipping mask can help your audience focus on the title while also getting a peek at what’s behind it. It’s psychology 101 – that which you can only glimpse is more compelling than what you can see in its entirety.

Double up

Have you ever wondered how an actor can play two characters at once in the same scene? The answer, of course, is video masking software. The actor plays out the same scene twice, then opposite halves of the footage are masked and overlain to that the two halves make a whole scene. Simple yet brilliant! If you’re an on-screen presenter, you can use this technique to talk to yourself.

Creating transitions

Everyone loves a star wipe, but for more interesting transitions between scenes, you can use a mask. The mask can follow a character walking across the scene, for example, leaving the next scene in their wake. It’s also how almost all split-screen scenes are produced.

What you need for masking in video editing

Now that you understand how to mask a video, it’s time to consider the tools you’ll need to get it done. First off, you need some video footage that you want to modify. This can be footage that you’ve shot with something in it that you want to blur, partially block out, or remove entirely. Or this can be footage with some feature or object that you want to really focus on. Whatever it is, you need an idea of how to modify this footage to make it more interesting and really draw your viewer’s eye. 

Pro tip: try looking at TV shows and Hollywood movie intros/opening sequences to see how professionals use masking to add interest and create stunning effects.

The next thing you may need is a second layer to base your video mask on. If all you need is a simple geometric shape like a rectangular frame or an ellipse, these can be found in most editing programs. If, on the other hand, you want to use an image to create an object mask, you will need another layer of video or a simple still picture. If you want to create a text mask, you may pre-prepare the text as a still image that you can change into a mask. In cases where you want to overlay footage, create transitions, or even duplicate yourself on the screen, you will need a second layer of video to play around with.

Finally, but crucially, you’ll need video-editing software that includes video masking features. All professional editing suites have masking capabilities. However, if you’re just starting out with masking videos, using a simple video masking software like Movavi Video Editor is going to help you learn the ropes quickly and easily. This program includes pre-set masks in different shapes. You can instantly use these with blurring, pixelated, or solid backgrounds to either highlight or conceal parts of your footage. You can also leverage machine learning by using the AI-powered motion tool to track objects and create dynamic masks for them.

A final word on video masking

We’ve answered the question of what masking is, and hopefully given you some great ideas on how to add incredible effects to your videos. Now all that’s left is for you to get hold of a great video masking app like Movavi Video Editor and get started.

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Frequently asked questions

What is masking used for in video editing?

These days, lots! Masking can be used to create a frame through which to see your footage, blur or cut out unwanted objects, create transitions, combine clips, let an actor play two characters at once, and much more.

What is the best video masking software?

Here are some of the best video masking software you can try:

  • Movavi Video Editor – best video masking tool for amateurs

  • Adobe® Premiere® Pro – best custom masking tools for professional editors

  • Vimeo – best online template-based video editor

  • Final Cut Pro – best assortment of ready-made mask shapes

  • VEGAS Pro – best video masking software for smart masks

Is masking a VFX?

Yes, masking is a video effect, or VFX, used for all sorts of applications. While this technique used to be very time-consuming and technical, a modern video masking software can help you add great effects to your videos in minutes.

Is masking the same as clipping?

Clipping is a type of masking. A simple clipping tool lets you completely cut out an object, creating hard edges with no overlap. More sophisticated masking tools let you control transparency to see two layers at once and/or to soften edges between objects.

What is the difference between masking and rotoscoping?

Masking involves blocking out areas to isolate them using fixed masks like geometric shapes. Rotoscoping is a technique used to create a matte around a live-action object so it can be added to a different background. Rotoscoping is far more difficult to perform but gives more precise results.

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