What After Effects Can Do? TOP 5 Things You Can Use After Effects For As A Filmmaker

Jul 15, 2021


After Effects is a workhorse and possibilities are virtually endless. We can all agree about that. You may get confused about what the program is actually good for, especially if you’re new to it. So in this blog post, I’m going to show you what your options are as filmmakers when having the AE skill up your sleeves.


1. Remove things from your footage

I think you can easily imagine a situation where you missed something in the background of your shot, right? Or maybe you couldn’t do anything about graffiti on a wall and have to remove everything in post. 


There are at least 4 ways of removing unwanted things from your footage, but let’s explore two cases:


  1. You filmed a model walking on a street, but the street itself was painted with graffiti.
  2. You filmed a client who had a blemish on their face and you couldn’t fix it on set.


In all of the cases you have to remember, After Effects isn’t the ultimate magic software that fixes everything. You have to keep certain things in mind.


In both of these cases, remember that changing light will be your enemy, so if you notice it on set and plan on removing things in post, film in such a way that the light will not change in the part of the shot you need to fix. It makes things 10 times harder


Case no 1

The Mocha AE tracker is great for such situations. You have to track the plane on which the graffiti is painted on, so in this case - the wall. This works great, because it’s all in one, single plane, and that’s what mocha is perfect for. All you have to do is track the wall first, make a screenshot, bring that frame to Photoshop, erase the graffiti in that one single frame and now, you can ‘stick it’ on the wall. 


And now it doesn’t matter that the wall is moving throughout the frame - you still are covering the graffiti. Bam - there you go, a shot saved. No more cold sweats when you notice that in one of the main shots you took there was a competitor’s logo in frame. 



I’ve personally made, easily, at least $2k on removing really simple things from other people’s footage, just because they had no idea how Mocha works.


Case no 2 

Take a different situation - let’s say you’re filming an interview for a client. She has a single pimple on her face but it’s really apparent. What are you going to do? Even if you have a makeup artist, there’s not always a lot she can do. 


You could change the light a bit, and yes, that helps SOMETIMES. You could bring that up to MUA to cover it, but do you really want to embarrass your client and make her feel self conscious and even more uncomfortable in front of the camera?


If you manage to cover it on set, that’s ideal, but if you don’t, you can do it in AE. And there are more than a few ways to do it. 


Like I’ve mentioned before - if the light’s changing on your subject’s face or if they are moving their head a LOT your task will get exponentially harder, so this is something to keep in mind when you film it.


You can use, for example, After Effects’ built in Content aware fill. It doesn’ always work perfectly, but when it does, it’s great. The main premise is just like in photoshop, you delete a part of the footage you don’t want and AE works its magic, uses surrounding pixels and fills out that gap.


This is super handy - our subjects often are not paid models with perfect skin. AE brings some great tools for us to use in cases like these.


Happy client is a client that comes back. If you make your client look their best - you will stay in their mind next time they’re looking for a videographer.


2. Making effects react to audio

One of the cool features of After Effects is the ability to convert audio to keyframes. So in other words - we can take levels of the audio, convert them to numbers and then use these numbers to drive intensity of an effect. That gives us the option to not rely on hand animating and keyframing our effects to the beat. 


I’m sure the first use case that came to your mind was a music video, right? 


And it’s a great effect for videos like these. You can displace things, scale them, change colors, brightness - virtually any property can be driven by audio.


We can create not only fancy effects in our video but also motion graphics that react to audio. I’m sure you’ve seen audio visualizers that are often played instead of the music video on YouTube. A great way to make a music video that does not have any actual music video recorded, something more than just a static image. You can easily create them in After Effects. 


3. Face tracking 

If you need your effects to stick to your subject’s face, I’ve got you covered!


For example we can change our character’s irises so make him look like a monster. Not a lot of people are aware that After Effects has a GREAT tool for quite detailed tracking of facial features. The way we access it, we draw a mask, right click on our mask and select TRACK MASK. Then we select track facial features, detailed. 


And if you liked these 5 examples, here’s 5 MORE. Sign up for the free 35 mins webinar to learn them.


Now After Effects does its magic - so not only it automatically can track masks but it has a face detection built in! 


From there we can select to only have keyframes of the thing we want to have tracking information on and delete the rest. For example we might be wanting to replace our subject’s irises to make him look like a demon. Or maybe a dragon or a vampire.


After you have all the tracking data, all that’s left is to overlay our new image, set a blending mode, so the way the layers blend with each other to get a better effect and this is how our final image would look!


It’s a simple effect, but it’s useful when we have a client that dreams of becoming a superhero, or if we’re working on a horror movie and we want to create a scary character. 



4. Motion graphics

One of the major uses, especially by the motion graphics artists is creating just that - motion graphics, logo animations, call out titles and lower 3rds.


I’m sure you had a client asking to animate his logo for him, create lower 3rds, right? Or maybe you needed to create call out titles (these small texts with lines pointing to things). 


You can do it all by yourself in After Effects and it’s quite easy. Especially if you prefer cleaner and less cluttered animations, like I do. You don’t need to pay for fancy presets, just pay attention, this one's for you!


Logo animation is a really common use case. So much so that we had a mini-contest in our course to encourage people to get out of their comfort zone and learn something new. 



 Almost any project I did had a logo animation in some shape or form if the client didn’t already have animation pre-made. I can’t even count how many people asked me if I could animate their logo. And not for free, of course. 


Animations can range from super complex to really simple. There are of course people who made whole careers out of animating logos, but the basic premise is usually - you either use a source file and export layers separately so you have control over certain parts of the logo, or, just separate parts of the logo right there in After Effects and you can manipulate them easily.


This simple skill goes a LONG way with your clients. And it’s a great way to make extra money on the side.


Same goes for lower 3rds. So these small titles under the interviewee. By using existing shape tools we can fully customize it to our needs. They can be as simple or as complicated as you wish them to be.


Again - if you’re doing some kind of commercial work / corporate video - these are almost a guarantee. And if you don’t want to pay for templates - it’s a really useful skill to have.



Same as call out titles. A high end real estate video or a product video - this is the way to boost your production value. The basic principles are the same - you use shapes to create and drive your animation, throw tracking on top of it and you’re done. Another simple skill but makes a great impression and lets you charge extra for your work.



5. Enhancing your scene

Many people know about secondary color correction, which is when you boost colors or brightness of a part of an image to give it an emphasis on a subject. But with 3d tracking, you can add things that weren’t really there like for example light rays. And make it look like there’s a real haze or a hazer on set.


You can create almost magical scenes only using AE.


Let’s say we have a shot like this one, after I use a camera tracker and use a simple solid, put it in 3D space, use some noise effect, blur it and colorize it a little bit and there you go. 


But you don’t have to use it just to create a fantasy world, you can simply add a HINT of rays in a dark room and it will look SO much nicer.




Now I’m guessing for a lot of you this is probably not your first attempt to learn After Effects. If you tried AE before and failed - this is NOT your fault. I know what you’re feeling, I’ve been there! The software is not really beginner-friendly.


But as soon as you get to know it, it starts getting interesting and you start to notice its value.


There are TOP 5 things you can use After Effects for as a filmmaker:

  • Remove things from your footage,
  • Making effects react to audio,
  • Create a face tracking,
  • Motion graphics,
  • Enhancing your scene.

And if you liked these 5 examples, here’s 5 MORE. Sign up for the free 35 mins webinar to learn them.


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