Having worked on multiple video projects as a motion graphics artist and editor, I can say this with sheer confidence that a lot of times, clips in those projects need some form of clean-up or object removal. Often it's pretty straightforward; however, it gets complicated when there's a lot of camera movement or the thing being removed has a lot of motion.

Nonetheless, clean plates have now become much easier to achieve than ever before. All thanks to After Effects' latest and perhaps one of the most incredible features, Content-Aware Fill for video.

Content-Aware Fill takes care of eliminating and tracking the object in your shot for you while also filling in the missing pixels. Keep reading to find out more on how to use Content-Aware Fill in After Effects CC, and start removing elements in your clips and making your shots look better than ever before.

What is Content-Aware Fill?

Content-Aware Fill in After Effects allows you to remove undesired areas or objects in a video while consequently filling in the area of the removal. It examines frames over time to fill in the missing pixels by extracting them from other frames in the video.

It's indeed a profitable tool that can help you accomplish a flawless look in your videos while drastically decreasing your video editing time! 

Ready to have your mind blown with fantastic video quality? Let's get started with Content-Aware Fill in After Effects CC and find out what the buzz is all about.

Getting Started

We’ll use this clip of a truck moving on a dessert. Here, I will reveal how to remove the entire truck from the shot.

getting started with content aware fill after effects
  • Go to Window > Content-Aware Fill to launch the Content-Aware Fill panel. 
launch content aware pannel
  • Add a rough mask, making sure it’s large enough to cover the entire truck.
add a mask around the object
  • Then you need to track or add keyframes to the mask to follow the truck’s movement. 
  • Finally, you need to change the mask mode to “Subtract,” else it won’t work.

Disappearing Act

  • You'll now notice a preview of your mask in the “Fill Target” segment of the Content-Aware Panel. The Fill Target shows you the region that will be analyzed. You can likewise see that the empty area has a red outline.
disappearing act in content aware fill
  • Under the Fill Target is the “Alpha Expansion,” which enables you to extend the area to be analyzed.
  • You have three different “Fill Method” options. “Object” is the default one and is exceptional at removing moving objects. The next one is “Surface,” used for static shots and flat surfaces. “Edge Blur” is the last one and works excellently on stationary objects and surfaces that lack textures.
select a fill method
  • “Range” allows you to specify if you want the Content-Aware Fill to work on the whole composition or just the selected area.
  • In this example, we'll apply the Object method, and the range will be the entire composition since the shot is of short duration. 
  • Click on “Generate Fill Layer” to begin the process of object removal. 
  • After Effects will examine the shot, render a fill layer, consequently place a PNG sequence in the composition, and fill up the missing areas in your shot.
  • Once you have followed all these steps, you would no longer see the unwanted objects in your scene. 

Simple, isn't it?

Watch this video to see the Content Aware Fill in action.

Reference Frames

At times, when Content-Aware Fill isn't giving you the kind of results you desire, perhaps using a Reference Frame will provide you with better results. Creating a reference frame will help the algorithm learn how the shot should look like. 

  • When you select Create Reference Frame, After Effects directly exports a frame from your video to Photoshop
  • You would then be able to use the Clone-Stamp tool to fill in the removed area. Save and close the image in Photoshop. This reference image will then be imported back into After Effects and into your composition automatically. 
  • Content-Aware Fill will now consider that reference image while creating the fill throughout the video.

Watch this video to see the Reference Frames in action.

Bonus Tips

  • It is always ideal to remove intricate objects using different masks. For instance, separate a person walking and his shadow — mainly if the shadow movement is quite different.
  • Smaller masks are quicker to render.
  • Fill layers are PNG sequences that may take substantial drive space, so make sure to remove the ones you won't use.
  • Feather the mask if you see borders in your fill layer. The subsequent mask will provide you with a fill layer with softer edges.
  • You can make selections using a mask, roto brush, eraser tool, or keyframing.
  • High-resolution files such as UHD or 4K take more time to render than HD or SD. So, if your clip is longer than 10 to 15 seconds, I suggest splitting the clip into shorter clips and then applying the content-aware fill.
  • The higher RAM you install, the greater the performance.

Wrapping Up

The introduction of Content-Aware Fill in After Effects CC is perhaps one of the most innovative features to be included. Not only can you quickly navigate the process within After Effects itself, but there's also a definite emphasis on speed and precision.

Now that you understand how to use Content Aware Fill After Effects, what are you waiting for? Have a video clip you wish to remove an object from? Follow the steps mentioned above, and voila, magic!

In case you have any questions, do let us know, and we will get back to you. Till then, experiment with your videos to get better results!

Editor: Richa Sharma

Frequently Asked Questions

Utilizing the Content Aware Fill tool in After Effects involves several steps. First, create a composition with your video clip, then select the layer you want to apply Content Aware Fill to. Next, go to the “Window” menu and choose “Content-Aware Fill.” In the Content-Aware Fill panel, use the brush tool to paint over the area you want to remove or replace. After Effects will analyze the surrounding frames and attempt to intelligently fill in the area. Fine-tune the results as needed, and once satisfied, apply the fill to your composition.

Content Aware Fill is a feature available in Adobe After Effects, primarily used for video editing and compositing. To use it, you'll need to open After Effects and follow the steps outlined in the previous answer. Adobe Photoshop also has a similar feature called Content-Aware Fill for images, which is used differently and can automatically remove unwanted elements from a photo.

The Content Aware Fill plugin in After Effects is a powerful tool for removing unwanted objects or elements from video footage. It leverages machine learning algorithms to intelligently analyze the surrounding frames and replace the selected area with content that seamlessly blends into the scene. This plugin is especially valuable for video editors and compositors seeking to clean up their footage or create visual effects.

Generative fill, as of my last knowledge update in September 2021, is not a built-in feature or tool in Adobe After Effects. It's possible that new features or plugins have been introduced since then, but I recommend checking the most recent After Effects documentation or community resources for any updates regarding generative fill or similar capabilities.