How to Create a HUD Eye Effect in After Effects

After Effects 18/06/2019 3 min read

Working on a sci-fi film? Take some inspiration from some of the greats and learn how to build a cool HUD eye effect in After Effects CC. You know, the kind made famous in movies like Minority Report, Terminator, and Iron Man. It may look like a complicated, expensive special effect, but there’s a lot you can do in After Effects alone. The longer you spend on it, the more refined the results will be! 

The three main skills you’ll learn for this effect are: 

  1. How to composite a bionic spinning circle
  2. Creating a scanning grid effect
  3. Building a flat HUD in front of a subject’s eye

We’ll give you an overview of what will be covered for each section, but as a heads up, this is a longer tutorial. The steps are pretty detailed, so you’ll want to watch the video for a full breakdown of how to achieve the effect. We made sure you have all of the assets you need if you want to follow along, with links at the bottom of this article. Time to dive in!

How to Make a Realistic HUD Eye Effect

1: Compositing the Bionic Spinning Circle

Okay, let’s jump straight into the first part that’s covered in the video. This one’s a great bionic eye effect that involves flickering lights, lens flares, and very cool computer graphics. It would make a brilliant addition to your sci-fi film.

During this process, you’ll compositing graphics onto live-action footage. The footage you’ll use is a pretty simple shot of an eye, but the important thing here is to make sure the iris is always in focus. The video tutorial will show you how to take footage of an eye and composite it with circular graphics. 

Graphics like the elements featured in this tutorial can be downloaded from Motion Array. We’ve got a link to those down below. The process involves using null layers, tracking, and masking to create a seamless result.

2: Creating a Scanning Grid Effect

The next section in the video tutorial, you’ll take what you built in the first section and enhance it. Essentially, you’ll make it look like there’s a grid scanning across the iris of the eye. Imagine a robot scanning an area for something, or someone… it’s an awesome effect and once you have the foundation of the robot eye it is fairly straightforward to expand on it.

There’s a grid effect built into After Effects, and you’ll learn how to combine this with mask paths and keyframes to create a smooth animation.

3: Incorporating the Flat HUD Look

Finally, let’s build something that looks a little more 3D, like the famous floating HUD effects from the Iron Man movies. 

For this, you can grab some cool elements from Motion Array like this HUD Display. Combine the robotic eye you’ve already created with this animated Heads-Up Display. Learn to work with null layers, parenting, and scale keyframes to make a convincing futuristic effect.

You can add different effects to create glow and shadows to finish it off, making the image appear 3D.

HUD Element Downloads

If you want to follow along with this tutorial, check out the elements we used in the links below: 

You can even add some of the following sound effects and music to complete the futuristic, robotic effect. Follow the links to download these audio files.

There you have it! Starting with just a simple open eye clip, and combining some easily downloadable HUD Effects from Motion Array, you can create a slick robotic eye effect. Spend a bit of time on it to refine the tracking and the masking and get a finish that would be right at home in any big-budget superhero movie just by using After Effects.

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