How to Create a Quick Change Effect in After Effects

After Effects 21/06/2019 3 min read

Want to change someone’s outfit in the sweep of a hand? This is a classic effect that’s seen a lot of variations pulled off over the years and is a really fun touch to add to your videos. Creating a successful quick change effect in After Effects CC all comes down to a few key principles.

Essentially, what you’ll be doing is combining two different takes into one shot. You’ll need to match up your filming techniques with some After Effects tricks. But where to start?

How to Film & Edit a Quick Change Effect

Step 1: Use a Tripod to Lock Off Your Shot

Make sure that you like the way that your subject looks. More importantly, make sure the lighting won’t change at all from take to take. So filming outdoors, or using a window as a light source which is changeable, will give you some problems.

Step 2: Maintain a Consistent Body Position

Now that you’ve locked off your shot, decide what you want to change about your subject. This effect isn’t just for clothing, for example. It can be for any visual element of your subject, even changing the subject entirely.

Find a motion or object to cover the portion of your subject you want to change. You can go to the extreme and completely cover your subject with a blanket or large object, but it might be more impressive to just use hands. Whatever you use, make sure it covers the whole area you want to change so you can’t see behind it.

Step 3: Distract with Motion or Blocks

The goal is to have three parts: a beginning where you start in one state, a middle where you cross over between these two states, and an end where you reveal your change. 

The priority is keeping your body consistent between takes. As long as there’s a motion to follow through from one state to the other, you can seamlessly cut between the two states. You can really get creative with what this is. 

So your filming process will look something like this:

  1. Set up the background which will be consistent throughout the whole sequence.
  2. Find a movement that covers up the area you want to change.
  3. Film the first sequence. Record plenty of takes, so you have lots of options in the edit.
  4. Make the change. This could be a change of clothes, a haircut, anything you like.
  5. Film the sequence again, keeping the movement identical to what you filmed earlier. Film lots of takes again.

Step 4: Use After Effects to Create the Quick Change Effect

Look through the takes that you did for both the beginning and the end. Your goal isn’t necessarily to find your favorite take of each, but the two takes that match as closely as possible.

Line them up and trim them, so they cut between one to the other as flawlessly as possible. What can really help is to overlap them slightly and drop the opacity of the top clip.

Now, if you just have a distracting motion, you can simply cut between one to the other at the most dynamic part of the shot. But if you have something covering the subject, you’re going to need to do some masking. 

  1. Start with the top clip as the clip that comes first in the sequence. 
  2. Use the Pen tool to Mask around whatever is covering frame at the point at which the transition begins.
  3. Keyframe your mask to reveal your new subject as it wipes across and passes over different parts of your subject. 
  4. The more motion your object has, the greater the likelihood that you can feather your mask to cover up any mistakes.

And you should be left with an effect that makes you look like a magician! Because that’s what editing is really. It’s magic. It’s making your audience see something that’s not real, but looks so real, that you have no choice but to believe it.  

Perfecting this effect will take a few attempts at the beginning. Again, your goal is to get the most convincing combination of filmed shots and careful masking. The more time you invest in this, the better the effect will be. Thanks to After Effects, the quick change effect will be a fun addition to any of your videos!