We recently came across an interesting post on Reddit that asked for help achieving a particular effect in Adobe After Effects. In a nutshell, the effect is a type of scanning or bad television effect that distorts and stretches an image as a white line wipes across the frame.
Like many of the other commenters on Reddit, we first thought it was created using the Pixel Sorter plugin available from aescripts + aeplugins, but upon further inspection, it looked like something that could be accomplished without the use of a third-party plug-in.
Being the curious folks we are, we decided to take a stab at recreating the effect and I think we got pretty close.
Step 1: Transform Effect
We began by looking closely at the effect. The distorted area of the image looked like it was simply being scaled vertically. Ah ha! Let’s apply the Transform effect to an adjustment layer, uncheck the Uniform Scale, and scale the mess out of it vertically. Say, somewhere around 10,000.
Here’s what happened to our cloud image.
Step 2: Matte It
Next, we took an original version of the image and put it on top of the adjustment layer in the layer stack. We also added a solid to the composition above the original image and used it as an alpha matte for the original non-blurred image. We moved the solid up in the frame to reveal the blurred image beneath. Now we’re getting somewhere. Here’s how it looked.
Step 3: Make It Move
The next step was to put everything into motion. At first, we tried to animate the Position parameter on the Transform effect. This made the blurred layer move, but it wasn’t exactly what we were after. Next, we tried animating the Anchor Point on the Transform effect. Boom. This worked.
Now that the blurred image was moving vertically, we needed the matte to move with it. To do this, we moved the anchor point of the matte to its bottom edge. We then pick whipped its position to the Anchor Point of the Transform effect on the adjustment layer. Now when we moved the Anchor Point vertically, the matte moved with it revealing and hiding the original cloud image.
Step 4: Add A Line
The last step was to add the white line that formed the border of the effect. To do this, we simply added a solid to the composition and scaled it down to .5 on its Y axis. As we did with the matte, we pick whipped the position of the line to the Anchor Point of the Transform effect so that it would move in unison with everything else.
And there you have it. Check out the final result below, as well as, what happens when the effect is applied to people and text.
You can download this After Effects project for free. If you make something cool with it, please let us know and show us. Oh, and don’t forget to let your friends know about it. Maybe your grandmother too, if she’s into this kind of thing.