How to Create a Custom Glitch Effect in After Effects

After Effects October 11, 2019 5 min read

In today’s tutorial I’m going to show you how to make a glitch effect. There’s a lot of ways to achieve these types of effects but the great thing about this technique is that it’s all driven by things in After Effects so you don’t need to source footage. Alright, let’s get started. 

The Glitch Effect

I’m going make a new composition and I’ll call it “Glitch Effect”. Then, I’m going to make a text layer and I’ll just type in “Glitch”. I’ll center this text to my composition with the options in the “Align” panel and now I’ll precompose my text layer by going to Layer > Precompose. I’ll name this “Type” and then I’ll hit okay. 

Now I’m going to set up my RGB channels so that I can separate them out while glitching. So with the pre comp selected I’ll go to Effect > Channel > Shift Channels. Then I’m going to duplicate my “Type” pre-comp twice so that I have three copies of it. You can duplicate with Command + D on the keyboard. Now I just need to go into the Shift Channels effect on each layer and change some settings. On my top layer in the “Take Red From” drop down I’ll select “Red”. Then for the Green and Blue drop downs I’ll select “Full Off”. This leaves just the red channel. Now I’m going to repeat the process on the other two layers but one will be green and the other blue. The last thing I need to do is set the blending mode to Add on all three layers. 

Okay, so rather than hand keyframe the position of these three layers to simulate the RGB separation, I’m going to add an expression. To set this up I’m going to create a new Null by going to Layer > New > Null Object. I’m going to change the name to “Wiggle CNTRL”. And then I’m going to go to Effect > Expression Controls > Slider Control. Now you’ll see I have this effect with a single value in it. If I change the value, nothing happens because I still need to link the position of my three layers to it. So I’ll lock the Effect Controls panel so that when I deselect my null it’s effects are still accessible. Then I’ll go to on of my type layers and pull up it’s position with P on the keyboard. Then I’m going to “Option” click on the stop watch so I can add in an expression. I’ll type “wiggle(20,” and then I’ll grab the pick whip and drag it up to the Slider Control value. That adds that value into my expression. Now I’ll close my parentheses. So to explain this a little more clearly, the wiggle expression randomly changes your values. The first value I typed, 20, is how many times per second it changes your value. The second value, which in our case is linked to the slider control, is how much it will change your value. So right now the slider control’s value is 0 so nothing is happening. But if I change that slider’s value you’ll start to see some separation. Now I need to add the wiggle expression to my other two type layers. To do this I’ll highlight the Position property on my layer that already has the expression, then I’ll go to Edit > Copy Expression Only. Then, I’ll pull up the position of my other two type layers, highlight their position, and then I’ll paste with Command + V. 

Now let’s place a few keyframes on our “Wiggle CNTRL”. I’ll move my playhead to 1 second, set the value of the slider to 1, and I’ll click the stopwatch to set a key frame. I’m also going to unlock my effects control panel so it’s not stuck on my slider control. I’m going to add the rest of my keyframes in the timeline. To access all the keyframes on a selected layer you can hit U on the keyboard. So I’ll do that, and now I have access to my slider control in my timeline. I’ll move my playhead 5 frames ahead and change my slider’s value to let’s say 40. Yeah, that looks good. I’ll go 5 more frames ahead and bring the value back down to one. With these keyframes our separation will animate in and out. 

Now I’ll add in some distortion. I’ll start by creating a new adjustment layer by going to Layer > New > Adjustment Layer. I’ll change the name to Glitch. Then, with that layer selected I’ll go to Effect > Distort > Wave Warp. In my Wave Warp effect I’m going to change the Wave Type to Noise. Then I’ll change my direction to 0 to get the distortion to be horizontal. I’m also going to crank up my wave width to 4000. This will give me some bigger pieces in the distortion. With all that adjusted, I’m going to add some keyframes to the Wave Height. I’m going to place them in the same spots as the “Wiggle CNTRL” keyframes. My first keyframe I’ll set to 0. Then 5 frames later I’ll bump it up to 300 and for my last keyframe I’ll end back at 0. The last thing I’m going to do is add a wiggle to this Wave Height. That way, I’ll always have a little bit of movement in my type. So I’ll option click my stopwatch, and type “wiggle(10,” and then I’ll pick whip to the wiggle control slider and close the parentheses. 

What I want to do now is transition my text to say something else. To do that, I’m just going to cut to a different text layer when my distortion is at its peak. The peak of my distortion is at 1 second and 5 frames. So I’ll move my playhead there and go into my Type pre-comp by double clicking on it. Inside my pre-comp I’m going to select my type layer. Making sure that my playhead is in the correct spot, I’ll go to Edit > Split Layer. This splits the selected layer into two separate layers where the playhead is. So I’ll double click on the new text layer to highlight the text and then I’ll type in something else. Alright now I’m going to head back in to the main comp. 

When I RAM preview now, it’s look pretty much done. We could stop here but I want to show you a few more techniques to really elevate the effect. The first thing I’m going to do is duplicate my Glitch adjustment layer. With the duplicated layer selected I’ll go into the Wave Warp controls and change the Wave Width to 1500. This will give me some variance in width in my distortion, rather than all of it being the same size. Next, I’ll add a new adjustment layer. I’ll change its name to Noise. Then I’ll go to Effect > Noise and Grain > Noise. In the effect controls I’ll change the amount of noise to 30%. With the added noise, the look is really coming together. The last thing I’m going to do is add in some tiny black lines to make it feel like we’re looking at the type through a screen. So I’ll create a new solid by going to Layer > New > Solid. I’m going to make it black and make sure it’s Comp Sized  then hit okay. Then I’ll go to Effect > Transition > Venetian Blinds. In the effect controls I’ll change the transition completion to 95% the direction to 90 degrees and the width to 5. This will give me some nice, thin lines. In the layer toggles I’ll check this little box that has a T over it. This is the “Preserve Underlying Transparency” toggle. This means my black lines will only show up where the layers below it are. And with that, I think we’re done with the glitch effect. 

Before we wrap this thing up I want to mention that this effect isn’t just for text. You can apply this to footage or anything really. Over in this other comp I have the exact same set up, I just put images in my pre comp, rather than text and it’s working great. So you can see this is a really versatile effect. 

Well that concludes this tutorial. I hope you guys found it helpful.  If you did, we’ve got lots of other tutorials for Premiere ProAfter Effects, and filmmaking in general!   

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