After Effects: Going beyond video – Shadow Tool

After Effects: Going beyond video - Shadow Tool

After Effects: Going beyond video – Shadow Tool

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After Effects-shadow tool

My use of After Effects has changed over the years, I started using the software beyond it’s traditional use–video/motion graphics. I now use it for things like tool creation, corner cutters and image manipulation as well as various other time saving hacks.

My latest tool creates shadows on studio images. I was realizing that we spend a lot of time hand painting shadows into a 360 degree image sequence. Not only is it time consuming but almost impossible to have a perfects distortion between frames. I developed a simple tool to help with this issue.

The client usually delivers an image sequence of a product that is shot on a large Lazy Susan. Each image is the product that’s rotated a few degrees from the previous. Then in After Effects the images are placed in a sequence giving the illusion that it’s rotating, simple.


The Controller: I created a NULL object in the scene and attached various slider controls which would be driven by Expressions (After Effects programming language.) By adding controls for shadow placement I am able to use the tool on different sized motorcycles. As you can see on the screen capture of my controller settings I’ve added parameters for camera focal length, product rotation, shadow position front/rear and shadow widths. I can open up the original raw photo in Photoshop to get the focal length.

The Grid: There are instances where you don’t know the focal length so I added a grid system as well that helps to assist in aligning the product on the ground. You’ll get a warbling in the distortion of the shadow if the image sequence isn’t properly set-up. * The product image is blurred to protect the clients photo. Creating new shadows is really easy. Simply go to the top view and draw our your shadow shapes and they’ll update in the viewport.

Grid View

As you can see from the top view how our shadow is projected. It’s really easy in this view to dial in your shape and feathering. I used various vertical and horizontal blurs as well as the new Feather Mask tool to get the desired look.

Top view



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