How To Create A 3D Shallow Depth Of Field In After Effects


Hi Guys! This is Jordan with Motion Array and today we’re going to be adding a little bit of flare to your screencapture elements.  When you capture something you’re doing on your computer, like browsing a web page for example, it can get really boring really quickly to just show it normally or zoom in.   We’re going to go over a couple ways you can make your shot a little more interesting and pleasing to the eye.  

3D shallow depth of field in After Efects

This first effect is something you may have seen floating around for website presentations.  It’s where the web page is made to look 3 dimensional and like it’s being viewed through a camera with a shallow depth of field.  This effect is actually quite easy.  To start, you want to zoom in your clip so that it’s actually larger than your composition.  This will give you room to twist it in 3D space without it cutting off early in the frame a distracting way.  It’s really helpful if you record your elements in a higher resolution than your composition settings.  I recorded this shot at 1440p, so let’s go to composition, settings, and drop the overall size to 1920x1080.

Now we’re going to add a camera.  It’s really easy.  Just right click in your composition and select new > camera.  From here choose a focal length that will give you the effect that you’re trying to achieve.  If you’re not sure, just stick with 50mm.  But if you’re looking to have something a little more exagerated, you can go as low as 15mm.

Now click the 3D box here for your clip layer and you can now select the shortcut key W to rotate your footage to orient how you want. You can also hit the V key to get your normal selection tool back and move your clip around like normal.  Keep in mind that now that you’ve created a camera, as long as it’s active, everything you see is going to be as if it was being viewed through your imaginary camera.  

If you want to see a layout of where your camera is in 3D space, simply go here to the dropdown that says, 1 View.  What this does is control how many perspective you’re able to see of your scene at once.  There’s a lot of different options, but let’s try 2 views horizontal.  

The view that you can see here is from the top down, and the lines here shooting out from this small rectangle is the field of view of your theoretical camera.   It might be tough to understand what this is showing, but it can help to take the rotation tool and move it around on your main screen so that you can see what it does on the top down view.   

Now that we have our camera, we can see that we can move our image around and give it perspective, but there’s a big thing missing.  We need to make it look like there is a realistic depth of field.  Thankfully again, this process is incredibly simple.  Drop down your camera settings here and go down to camera options.  Creating a real depth of field is as simple as clicking it from off to on.   But you won’t really see a crazy difference right away.   To finesse this depth of field, you want to control two specific parameters: aperture and focus distance.  

Unlike a normal aperture, this setting works by increasing the value to make the depth of field more shallow.  So lets bump it up a large amount and we can start to see that the image get’s pretty blurry.   That’s great, but we need to focus it again to actually see the effect.  What we need to do is look at our panel to the left here from the top down and see that there’s a pink line here within the field of view of the camera.  This is actually displaying where the focus is.  So we just need to get it to intersect with our image here.  And we’re going to actually get really specific and get the after effects logo here in focus.  

Drag the focus distance amount here back and forth and see how it interacts with your top down view.  Or, use your scroll wheel to zoom in on the point you want to focus on and you should be left with a field of view that more accurately represents what you would see if you filmed up close with a camera.   From here with your point in focus you can play around again with the aperture amount to see how intense you want it to look.  Nice!

From here, you can use keyframes with either your image, or your camera, to move around your frame and watch how the area in focus changes, just like it would on a real camera.   With this in mind we can keyframe some motion into our shot so that as we pan by the image, the focus naturally moves along with it.

We hope you found this video helpful.  If you did, we’ve got lots of other tutorials for Premiere Pro, After Effects, and filmmaking in general! If you have any questions, let us know in the comment section below.  

You can also check out these great website presentation presets, many of which feature the effect we just went over:

Thank you so much for watching and we hope to see you in the next video!

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