How to Make a Realistic Levitation Effect in Premiere Pro

Premiere Pro February 8, 2019 4 min read

Have you ever wanted to use a levitation effect in your videos to float a subject or object above the ground? This effect is definitely impressive, but fortunately, it’s not as difficult as you might think to achieve! In this tutorial, you’ll learn exactly how to make a levitation look real using only Premiere Pro CC (no After Effects help at all). Let’s get started!

Part 1: How to Shoot a Levitation Effect

Step 1: Set Up Your Shot & Green Screen

The key to this effect isn’t in the editing. It’s in the preparation and filming. The best way to pull this off is by green screening. 

The reason that this effect uses a green screen is very simple. It looks more realistic, especially if you shoot in the same place where you want to place your subject. If you want, you can also create this floating effect without a green screen; just be aware that it will look less like levitating and more like something is being suspended in mid-air. 

With your green screen in hand, the first step is to get your subject elevated somehow above the ground. Something really stable is necessary so that your subject feels safe, won’t fall over, and focuses solely on their lines and their motion.

Now set up a green screen behind your subject. A few things to remember: 

  • Try and position it so that it’s not directly behind your subject. You don’t have to go very far back. But it should be enough so that there’s at least a bit of a gap between the camera and the subject. More is better here. 
  • Be sure that your subject isn’t casting any shadows across the green screen. 
  • Shoot a little bit more out of focus. The more blurry your green screen is, the more uniform in color it will be, and the easier it will be to key out.

Step 2: Filming the Scene

Now grab your subject and have them go through the course of their lines. Keep in mind that this will be the easiest to pull off if your camera isn’t in motion. Locking it off on a tripod will make the work a lot easier and will prevent you from having to jump into After Effects.

Have your subject run through their lines until you’re confident they’ve nailed it. Then don’t touch your camera, and keep it rolling. Take down everything else — the green screen, your rig, and anything else in the shot. 

The goal here is that you want a clean plate with no subject in the frame. You want your shots with and without your subject to be as close to identical as possible. Same framing, same lighting, same everything. 

Once you’ve gotten a clean plate for at least as long as your final take length, you’re good to go!

Part 2: How to Edit a Levitation Effect in Premiere Pro

Step 1: Mask Your Subject

  1. Now, get all your footage into Premiere Pro. 
  2. Put your blank take (clean plate) underneath the take with your subject in it. 
  3. Create a Mask around your subject, being sure to keep every moving part of your subject within the mask and that you don’t cut off any limbs. Keep it tight! Then, drop the Feather down to about 3 or 4

Step 2: Remove the Green Screen

Now, you’re going to work with your green screen. You can also brush up on how to edit footage with a green screen in this tutorial first.

  1. Use the Ultrakey Effect on your green screen layer. Drop the effect onto your top layer. 
  2. Take the Eyedropper tool and identify the most average shade of green in your greenscreen. 
  3. Key your greenscreen out and voila! You have a floating, levitating subject! 
  4. You can move your subject up and down as you like to get the look that you want and can play around with your subject as well. For the best effects and the most realism, only move it one degree at a time so that he, she, or it is not bouncing about. 

Step 3: Add a Shadow Under Your Subject

Finally, to really sell this effect, you can add a shadow below your subject. It’s very simple. 

  1. With your subject keyed out from your green screen, duplicate that layer and place it directly below, and make it completely black. Whenever your subject moves, your shadow will move since it is the same image duplicated. 
  2. For best results, shrink your shadow layer down and place it on the ground. 
  3. Unlock your vertical and horizontal scaling to spread your shadow out. Aim to have the shadow look like it’s being cast from the sun. 
  4. If you want to fuzz your shadow some, add a Gaussian Blur effect and drop the Opacity to make it look more realistic. 

Step 4: Add a Heatwave Effect

If you would like to take you levitating subject to the next level, you can add a heatwave effect in a few simple steps. The proper name for this effect is a “turbulence displacing effect” and here’s how to make it happen.

  1. Add an Adjustment Layer over the top of your footage. 
  2. Place the Turbulence Displacing Effect on the adjustment area. 
  3. Adjust your effect settings to your preference. Remember that you want a heatwave, so it’s good to keep it minimal. 
  4. Create a Mask for your displacing effect in order to centralize the effect under your subject. 

There you have it! That’s how to hone your Premiere Pro levitation editing skills! Green screen techniques, using the ultrakey, creating a realistic looking shadow, and selling the effect with a heatwave under your subject can all be used for other applications as well as this floating effect. Now that you know how to levitate, see where else your creativity takes you!