After Effects Camera Tracker
In this After Effects motion tracking tutorial, I’ll show you how to quickly and easily track the motion of a 3D camera and then place other elements in your scene.
- Import your video clip into After Effects.
- Create a new composition that is the same size as your video clip.
- Bring up the Camera Tracker panel (Window > Tracker).
- Click the “Track Camera” button.
- After Effects will analyze your video clip and place tracking points on the scene.
- Adjust the tracking points as needed.
- Once the tracking is complete, create a new solid and a camera.
- Position the solid and camera so that they match the tracked camera movement.
- You can now add other elements to your scene and they will track with the camera.
Tips for tracking a 3D camera in After Effects:
- Use a video clip with a smooth, consistent camera movement.
- Make sure the tracking points are placed on features that are visible throughout the entire video clip.
- Adjust the tracking points as needed to improve the accuracy of the tracking.
- Use the Camera Tracker panel to preview the tracking results.
This tutorial is just a basic introduction to tracking a 3D camera in After Effects. There are many other advanced techniques that you can learn. In future videos, I’ll show you how to use the Camera Tracker panel to do things like track camera movement in 360° video and track multiple cameras in the same scene.
After Effects Camera Tracker Video Transcript
In this After Effects motion tracking tutorial I’m going to show you how you can quickly track the motion of a 3D camera and then place other elements in your motion tracked After Effects scene. The first thing we need to do is have some footage to motion track. Here I have a quick shot of a table and I just moved my camera along the top of the table. This will work quite well for a motion track because it has a nice flat surface.
Once you have the track in the timeline and it is in a composition, you want to make sure the composition is the same size as your footage. You can double check this by going composition, composition settings. In this particular case, I’m using HD footage but if you are using 4K footage you want to make sure that this matches your 4K footage. The next thing to do is to bring up the camera tracker. You may not see it over on the right hand side of your screen so just go to window and then you can click on tracker.
Now we have the tools we need to motion track a camera in After Effects. It’s as simple as clicking the button “track camera .” After Effects will start analyzing the scene in the background. There are a few things we can change but the defaults work pretty well so we’ll see if the defaults work for tracking the camera first. Once After Effects analyzes the scene it will put tracking points all over the place. This is what After Effects uses to detect changes in the scene and the camera movement. If we scroll along with the playhead, notice that more tracking points come along and then others disappear as After Effects keeps track of everything that’s going on. If I hover over this area notice we get this target. What this is, is a representation of a plane that After Effects thinks is there. Notice how it creates a triangle between three points. Sometimes it’s obviously wrong as you can see this doesn’t look like it’s quite sitting on the ground, but this one here looks pretty well. If I click there it will select these three points now I can go ahead and set the ground plane and origin. This will make that plane actually flat and at 0 for our composition. You don’t have to do this but if you don’t then it’ll keep the camera flat and your ground will be at an angle and this can be more difficult to move other objects around in an animation.
The next thing that’s nice to create is a camera and a solid. So if you right click you can create solid and a camera. What this does is create a solid right here on the plane and we have a 3D camera so now we can create different objects to be within the plane. For example, now if I play this you can see how that solid sticks to the ground right there so it’s really on the ground. For example now I’ll go to four views and as you can see our camera is in an angle. If we did not change the origin and ground plane our camera would be flat and then our solid will be at an angle. You can always go back and change it.
If I click on the solid you’ll notice that it’s at (0, 0) right here at the top. The top left of a screen in computer graphics is (0, 0). So right here is our solid. We can use the solid for helping position different things. For example, if I create a new shape layer and then in the shape layer I draw just a simple rectangle this will just be flat if I scrub through the timeline now. You’ll notice that it just moves all over the place but if I click on the 3D icon here now the shape layer is in 3D and as you can see here in this view it is underneath the plane so what I need to do is click on the shape layer and move it up to the top of the screen, and then I can move it over. Now the shape layer will stick to the ground because it’s right where it’s supposed to be.
I can hide the solid now and now I can just see the shape layer. I’m going to go back to a single view and now I have a shape layer that sticks perfectly on the tracking camera. If for some reason you have your shape layer too high it’ll look like it’s moving. So for example if we press P for position and we raise our shape layer up now it’ll look like it’s sliding. You notice how it is sliding? That’s because it’s actually hovering in the air. You could do this intentionally if you want something to appear like it’s up in the air but most of the time you want things to stick to the ground. So now if I undo that we can see how it sticks to the ground but a red square isn’t so exciting so I’m going to go ahead and hide the shape layer and then I’m going to go to my project panel and I’m going to bring in other footage. Here I have some green screen footage of a character on the left and a character on the right. What I’m going to do is create both of these as 3D layers. Once I do that notice that they move in position. This is where your extra camera views come in handy so I’ll go to four views. If you press the tilde ~ key this will become full screen. I’ll move this character first and what I want to do is make sure the feet are right on the ground. Then I can click this character and also move it up so the feet are right on the ground because we know that’s where our ground plane is.
Then I can move them over. This is where the top view comes in handy. Here we can see our our camera and our character is way over to the left. Now I’m going to go back to a single view but our characters are a little big so I’ll press the tilde ~ key again. I’ll shift click both of them and press S. Now I can scale them down. Once I scale them I need to go back into the front view so I can either change this view to the front or go to two views I’m just going to change this view. What I need to do is bring them down so they’re not floating so now the feet are on the ground and then I can move them over to the right here. Now I’m going to go back to the 3D tracker camera.
So they’re still too far over to the right so I’ll bring them over and now we have our characters on the ground.
I think they could be even smaller for this particular camera scene but we’ll leave it like this for now. Remember we can also move them forward just like this because they are sticking on the ground and if I play my camera you’ll notice that the characters stay on the ground.
I think I’m going to go ahead and make them even smaller. And then I’ll bring them forward and then maybe just a bit smaller. I think that’s a good size but now I need to go ahead and look in the front view again. Now I’m in the front view and I just need to bring these characters down a bit. You can zoom in and what I need to do is make sure the feet are right there on the ground. Now I’ll go back to the 3D tracker camera.
I can move them back and then I can move them over. So now I have my two characters that are on the ground and they will stick with the camera.
So hopefully this helps you use 3D camera tracking and After Effects. In other videos I’ll show you more advanced techniques with the camera tracker but this should get you started with a one-click camera track in After Effects.