Create Incredible Retro Video Effects from Scratch in After Effects

After Effects 12/01/2022 4 min read

Whether you’re creating a stylish retro feel or an accurate period film, giving your projects a vintage feel is fun and super easy. You can quickly create an 80’s feel with just a few layers and keyframes, so let’s jump into our After Effects tutorial.

Part 1: Create a Cool Retro Intro with Text in After Effects

After Effects is a fantastic tool for creating video looks, and many techniques you learn can be applied to other projects. We’ve divided this tutorial into 4 steps, each of which will give you a new method to add to your skillset.

Step 1: Create the Dust

The first task is to create a layer of dust to sit over your title. While we are using the dust to create a retro text effect, you can also use this method for adding dust to any assets.

  1. Create a New comp at 24fps for the duration you require.
  2. Create a New Solid and choose any color. This is to see the effect we create and will be deleted later.
  3. Create a second Solid layer and call it White Dust.
  4. Go to Effects > Fractal Noise and add to the White Dust layer.
  5. Go to Contrast in the Effects Control panel and change the setting to 490 and the Brightness setting to -260.
  6. Go to the Evolution settings in the Layer panel and Alt+Click the stopwatch icon.
  7. In the Expression box, type: wiggle(24,30000).
  8. Adjust the Brightness setting until you are happy with the look of your dust.
  9. In the Layer panel, change the Blend Mode to Screen.
  10. Select the layer and hit Cmd+D or Ctrl+D to duplicate it.
  11. Name the layer Black Dust.
  12. Change the Black Dust layer Blend Mode to Multiply.
  13. Go to the Brightness setting for the layer and remove them from the setting. Adjust the Brightness to create as much black dust as you’d like.
  14. Delete the bottom Solid layer in the timeline.

Step 2: Animate the Colors

Animating the Colors of your title is another technique you can use across your projects. Top tip: you can also use the Fill Keyframing technique for shape and solid layers.

  1. Grab the Type tool at the top of the screen and click on the media viewer. Type your title on the screen.
  2. In the Character panel, adjust the Font, Size, and Weight.
  3. Move the Title layer to the bottom of the timeline stack, sitting below the dust layers.
  4. Next, right-click on your timeline and choose New > Adjustment Layer. Position the layer between your title and dust layers.
  5. In the Effects Control panel, search for Glow and add the effect to the Adjustment layer.
  6. Increase the Glow Radius and decrease the Glow Intensity until you are happy with the look.
  7. Search for the Fill effect and add it to your Title layer.
  8. Adjust the Fill options to your start color, and move your playhead to the beginning of the timeline.
  9. Click the stopwatch alongside the Fill Color settings to create a keyframe.
  10. Move along your timeline 1 second and create a second keyframe. Adjust the color to a light grey color.
  11. Select both keyframes and hit Cmd+C or Ctrl+C to copy them. 
  12. Move toward the end of your clip and hit Cmd+V or Ctrl+V to paste the keyframes.
  13. Select the 2 pasted keyframes and right-click > Keyframe Assistant > Time Reverse Keyframe.
  14. Finally, adjust your keyframes to your preferred animation speed.

Step 3: Create the Retro Look

Jittering and drifting result from VHS technology and are vital to creating the retro look. In this step, you’ll be using wiggle expressions. Once you know how to use the expression, you’ll be able to make anything wiggle.

  1. Create 2 Null layers by right-clicking on the timeline and choosing New > Null. Name one Drift and the other Jitter.
  2. Using the Pick Whip, pair the Title layer to the Jitter layer, and the Jitter layer to the Drift layer.
  3. Select both Null layers in the timeline and press P on your keyboard to access the Position settings.
  4. Alt + Click the stopwatch alongside the Jitter Position settings. In the expression box type: wiggle(24,0.5).
  5. Alt + Click the Drift Position stopwatch and type: wiggle(0.5,5).
  6. Go through and play with the individual settings to create bolder retro looks.

Step 4: Animate the Title

We’re going to finish off the text effect with some typical 80’s title animation, but you can choose to animate your text however you want.

  1. Select the Title layer and while holding Shift + hit R, T, and S on your keyboard.
  2. Create a keyframe for the Rotation, Opacity, and Scale properties at the start of the timeline.
  3. Move along the timeline in line with your Color keyframes and create a second set of Transform keyframes.
  4. Go back to the first set of keyframes. Increase the Scale until the title takes over the screen. Adjust the Rotation to -45 and reduce the Opacity to 0.
  5. Check you are happy with your animation and adjust the settings as required.
  6. Select the Title layer and hit Cmd+D 3-5 times, depending on the look you want to create.
  7. Go through each layer, adjusting the Color settings to other muted tones.
  8. Finally, drag each of the Title layers down the timeline to offset each animation, creating a pile of fun retro-style titles.

Part 2: 5 Easy-to-Use Retro Presets & Templates for After Effects

If you don’t have the time to create your retro looks from scratch, you can always download one of our easy-to-use presets or templates. 

1. Retro Presets

The Retro Presets pack includes 5 stunning LUTs ready to load to your 80’s projects. Ideal for recreating an authentic 80’s feel or creating stylish new looks for your music, events, and creative videos.

Download Retro Presets Now

2. VHS Presets

The VHS presets pack turns your footage into a warping, grainy recording with a distinctly retro feel. Mix and match from scanlines, warp, grain, and flicker effects to build your own unique retro feel.

Download VHS Presets Now

3. Retro 80s Titles

The Retro 80s Title pack includes 5 badge-style graphics with 8 title placeholders and color controllers. The unique designs include 80’s feeling graphical flourishes and glowing neon light effects.

Download Retro 80s Titles Now

4. Vivid Neon Titles

Straight from the 80’s club scene, the Vivid Neon Titles pack features 6 bold, full-screen titles. The glowing text offers plenty of space for simple messaging, while the bright strobing patterns create a focal point with retro style.

Download Vivid Neon Titles Now

5. Stylish VHS Opener

The Stylish VHS Opener is a versatile retro sequence featuring 12 media and title placeholders. With bold scanlines and glitch effects, the viewer is moved through your clips as if jumping between recordings on a VHS tape.

Download Stylish VHS Opener Now

Retro effects can create a realistic period piece and create a stylistic look to your films. There are hundreds of retro plugins, presets, and templates available on Motion Array, but now you know how easy it is to create retro effects in After Effects, you can have complete control over your compositions.