CE PixelSampler

CE PixelSampler

Posted on 17. Aug, 2007 by in After Effects

Take your compositing techniques to the next level! Better keying, auto collision detection, event triggers, and many more! This one is a must see!

When I first started working with After Effects, I came across a Tea Cups With Lids Amber Rings Wholesale Tea Trays Toddler Sleeping Bags difficult problem in which I didn’t want to solve it by animating keyframes by hand. As usual, I applied expressions to the problem, but at the time, expressions didn’t really solve it the way I wanted either. Now, with the release of After Effects CS3, my vision has come to life. I have created the CustomEffects that utilize the new sampleImage expression. These CustomEffects have made my job easier and I hope that they’ll help you as well.

This tutorial will show you how you can simplify the keying process, trigger expression events to control layers of your choice, and even do an automatic collision detection. Possibilities are endless.

sampleImage expression seems to be unstable in some cases, and since PixelSampler is based on that expression I strongly recommend saving your work before doing a RAM Preview.

Below you can download probably the most powerful preset package ever released. This package includes:

  • PixelSampler (grab a color from a pixel or a range of pixels)
  • ColorSampler (compare two colors and see if they match)
  • ColorHSL (calculates hue, saturation, and lightness for use with expressions)
  • MatchingValues (compare any two values and see if they match)

This tutorial focuses on PixelSampler, but other CustomEffects are also mentioned. They are build so that people who don’t like expressions could still take advantage of them. Take ColorHSL for example. This converts RGB values to HSL. This can be easily done by using expressions, but using this CustomEffects simplifies the process by allowing to use the pickwip tool and point to one of the HSL values.

If you don’t know how to handle my CustomEffects make sure to wait till the end of the tutorial and to read this short article.

Download: CE PixelSampler (After Effects CS3)

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61 Responses to “CE PixelSampler”

  1. Kopiart

    18. Aug, 2007

    Hi George :-)

    Yes, we would like some more presets, so work on your deployment tool and post some tutorials more often.

    Your secret fan

    • diendea

      16. Mar, 2010

      In would be good to have this Ce Pixelsampler for CS 4,
      or is there already a version?


      • Jerzy Drozda Jr

        17. Mar, 2010

        its the same one. cs3 is the required minimum

  2. secret student

    20. Aug, 2007

    both download adresses are same(mac version)
    plz upload a ‘win’ version.

    p.s. anyway I am a your secret student. (of course ^^)
    p.s2. One day (as soon as it possible) i want to donatate for your great website.(I mean our school!!!)

  3. Maltaannon

    20. Aug, 2007

    Sorry for that. The link should work now. And by the way… you could also use the Mac version if you follow my instructions on “What CustomEffects are” page that you can find on the right hand side of my site.

    I’m an very happy that my tutorials are helpful. Keep visiting me and keep writing comments. They keep me going. When I see comments I know that someone is actually learning from my tutorials.

    Cheers and good luck with your After Effects!

  4. Robbert-Jan van der Does

    23. Aug, 2007

    Hello Jerzy,

    what a very nice tutorial and I think it is really great to share it with everyone!
    A few years ago I made a 35 mm SLR groundglass simulation, complete with an analogue exposure needle and an effect that simulated the mirror flipping up when a picture was taken. I manually keyframed the needle to point completely down when the image went black because of the flipping mirror and I also applied a wiggle expression to the rotation of the needle to make it look like it was responding to the changing luminance of the subject that was “photographed”.
    Now I can use your prestes for this!!! I could even make an all digital scale and drive the values for f-stop or shutterspeed by the luminance or grayscale values of the pixelsampler. (When I have installed production premium cs3 ofcourse, which was delivered yesterday by UPS to my doorstep).
    Lot of compliments (also for the other tutorials, they are really great)

  5. Aharon Rabinowitz

    23. Aug, 2007

    Hey there-

    This tutorial was awesome. It answered some “Is that possible?” questions that I had. I’m really impressed with the work you’re doing – I know how hard putting these tutorials together can be. And the whole custom effects thing is very exciting as well.

    Thanks so much for your contributions to the After Effects community. Keep up the good work!

    Best regards,

    Aharon Rabinowitz

  6. Roggy

    24. Aug, 2007

    i´ve watched the most of you tutorials – being impressed!! but pixelsampler is … wow!! you had me already with the “keyin thing” (taking the value of an color-area for the key color) and now i see this is just the beginning. possibilities for ps seem to be endless. i can´t wait for my cs3 to be installed to play with it…
    thank you for this!! R.
    hey, get a mac and build the installers for the rest of us ;-)))

  7. Daum

    28. Aug, 2007

    Hello Jerzy
    This tutorial is a high level and really simple to understand. I had a fun time. Professional/simple/humourous, this tutorial is a must see.
    Thank you.

  8. massimiliano

    05. Sep, 2007

    this is a very usefull tutorial! And Aharan himself wrote a comment here! You, Aharan and Andrew are my AE gurus!

    Thanks for sharing your experience!

  9. kiloutimuk

    13. Sep, 2007

    Hi all!

    I am really excited. Keep up the great work. Good resources here.


  10. Thorsten Meyer

    15. Sep, 2007

    Hi Jerzy,

    This is a very useful Tutorial you have done here.

    A must see)


    (DFX (Digital Effects) VFX (Visual Effects) Compositing Food)

  11. Lucien

    19. Sep, 2007

    I very appreciate your tutorial and your modesty.

    Is very generous to care about mac user!

    Thank you

  12. vucheria

    23. Sep, 2007

    Man, your tutorials are great..and I think that your ideea regarding the custom effects is a great one and will help many people.

    Thanks for sharing your knolweage

  13. Sandy

    16. Oct, 2007

    Hey Maltaannon!
    this is just a gr8 stuff. Thnx4it.

  14. CR Chis

    26. Oct, 2007

    Hi Maltaanon.
    Recently I download your Pixel Sample custom effects, everything works just like you explain in your tutorial, but I don’t know why when increase the value of width and height the point source no change at all, and when write the expression on th text layer nothing happens. please help. I have some ideas with this custom effects.

    Sorry my english is bad.
    I hope more new stuff from you
    Greetings from Costa Rica, Central America

  15. Lorenzo

    26. Oct, 2007

    Same problem here :(

  16. Maltaannon

    26. Oct, 2007

    I’m very happy that you find my PixelSampler interesting. Are you sure you’re dropping the PixelSample preset to an empty area of the comp window? Make sure you do. After that a new ShapeLayer will be created. If you don’t get that than you’re doing something wrong.
    If you don’t have an empty space in your comp window than just create a new empty ShapeLayer and drag the PixelSampler to that layer in the timeline window.
    I hope this helps.

  17. CR Chis

    27. Oct, 2007

    The problem was an error in the expression. I wrote a bad word on this. The problem in the value of width and height is there, but the Pixel Sample works fine. Thanks a lot.

    I hope you make more interesting tutorials.

  18. ramses

    27. Nov, 2007

    Yo te leo desde tijuana, tus tutoriales son geniales, muchas gracias por tu interes.

    Cuando logre obtener ganancia economica con los conocimientos aprendidos en tu “school” te remunerare.

    Gracias y Salud!

  19. sheathe

    18. Dec, 2007

    I’m new to After Effects, so I’m quickly trying to absorb as much as I can. Your tutorials and presets are excellent; aside from being very creative and clever, I really enjoy your sense of humour and you’re just a really nice guy. Thanks for sharing so much – I really appreciate it and will certainly make a donation. Cheers from Canada!

  20. Etum

    13. Jan, 2008

    Hi Maltaannon.

    Just wanted to say thanks for the tutorials, they’ve taugh me alot. You CE presets are awsome, i would like to see all presets written this way, it’s so much easier to deal with. Pixel/color sampler looks great too, i will porberly use it for keying. Nice Robot render too ;)

    Thanks alot for the effort, and watch out for George’s mental health ;p

  21. Etum

    17. Jan, 2008

    Wait, there are no XML files in the windows edition zip, can i use the ones from the mac edition? Because they don’t show up as “missing” in AE.
    Just wanted to let you know, i’m going for the Mac ones :)
    Best wishes from Denmark.

  22. Etum

    17. Jan, 2008

    Okay, sorry for the multiple comments. Just wanted too say; i used your installer, and it works perfect. Thanks alot. *off to play*

  23. yared

    07. Feb, 2008

    Thanks, I am your new student.Hope to get cool tutorials. Keep in touch.

  24. michelegavazzeni

    23. Feb, 2008


  25. Bob

    29. Feb, 2008

    Hi Maltaannon, another amazing tutorial you made there :D
    It costed me some time to install and check everything, but it was double worth it ! I’m looking forwards to your DVD
    Cheers from Holland

  26. I.Hayward

    12. Mar, 2008

    Hi Maltaannon, I think the Pixel Sampler is great. But I am having the same problem as CR Chris above. When I originally installed Pixel Sampler it worked as per your tutorial but now it won’t work at all. I have tried creating a new shape layer and aplying the preset without success. I hope you can help because I think it is awonderful tooi for keying.

    Ian Hayward

  27. Maltaannon

    13. Mar, 2008

    Somehow I never get across those problems you describe, and I’m testing it with many different machines whenever I have a chance, so forgive me but I think you must be doing something wrong. Don’t create a Shape Layer – just drag PixelSampler onto the comp area, but not on any layer. It should do it’s job. If not – let me know.

  28. I.Hayward

    13. Mar, 2008

    I have tried both methods, ie creating a shape layer and by dragging the preset into the Comp area, but still it won’t work. I have also removed and reinstalled the preset a few times but still noresult. I’m wondering if any one else is experiencing this problem. As I said previously, when I first instaled the preset it worked. Even now when I open up the original AE project that worked, it no longer functions. Any help wouuld be gratefully appreciated.

    Ian Hayward

  29. Maltaannon

    13. Mar, 2008

    Do you get any error messages, or it just doesn’t work? Contact me via the Contact Form in the contact section please. I’ll write you back and then you’ll be able to send the the project file. Maybe that will get us somewhere.

  30. Simon

    20. Jun, 2008

    Actually for me the preset still works, it’s just you can’t see the sample square resizing anymore – the sample it takes is still correct. It used to, now it doesn’t for no reason I can see.
    It’s still a brilliant preset – just shame about the shape!

  31. Maltaannon

    20. Jun, 2008

    I really don’t know why that is. It always worked for me, but I guess there is an issue. Few people reported this already. Fortunately I’ll have more time in the upcoming weeks to take care of you boys and girls, so I’ll try to look into it and do some improvements.

  32. Hai Banh Minh

    28. Jun, 2008

    every time open the file, it appears cc force motion missing or some other cc. Is there i can get this?

  33. Simon

    01. Jul, 2008

    Some help! I managed to get the missing rectangle back!
    Add another shape layer to your comp. Use the rectange tool to draw a rectangle in the new layer. Now delete your new layer…
    …and the PixelSampler rectangle spontaneously works!

  34. Maltaannon

    02. Jul, 2008

    Oh. Thats strange. I think you found a bug in AE. Nice!

  35. Jay Corrao

    14. Jul, 2008


    I have finally taken the plunge and made a donation. I have found many of your tutorials very useful but many are just way beyond my comprehension. However I do very much appreciate all that you do for the AE community and yes…I love the custom effect format. What I would really like to see a tutorial on is how to create a very basic custom preset just so I can get an idea of how this is accomplished. So as I have heard you say many times cheers and keep up the good work.

  36. frank

    31. Jul, 2008

    It may be too late by now but I hope you include pixel chooser in your upcoming training DVD. I would love training just on pixel chooser alone. It seems there are a million ways that this could be used. Thanks for all the great work you do.

  37. CristalCube

    04. Aug, 2008

    Really interesting and useful tutorial, thanks for the effort.
    I want to thank so much for teaching us all that knowledge, and keep it going on this, we will always be you thanked.
    I think that knoledge is one of most powerful thing.

    Greetings. CritalCube³.^^,

  38. Slickluv

    08. Sep, 2008

    I need help…after downloading the presets where do i put them and exactly how big are they? please help

  39. qbas

    22. Oct, 2008

    hello:) How can I put pixelsampler in to adobe after effects? please help

  40. Patrick

    08. Dec, 2008

    Hi Maltaannon,

    I just wanted to let you know that this CE is amazing. It really saved me on this otherwise impossible to key shot for a film I worked on. We had shot a white puppet against blue paper, with a big spotlight shining on him, and no matter what part of the blue I picked in Keylight, it would key the puppet right out with the background. I tried using PizelSampler, gave it a large area to average, and suddenly got a great key. It was my first paid gig, financed by Jim Henson’s daughter, and was premiering at The Smithsonian in just a couple of weeks. I was under a lot of pressure, and I don’t know how I would have pulled it off if not for this CE. As a way of saying thanks, I bought MILG 5 as soon as it came out. It is fantastic as well.

    Thanks for everything!

  41. Maltaannon

    08. Dec, 2008

    This is fantastic! I really appreciate your comment and I’m so happy that I helped you out. If you can send me a link to a few seconds of the animation – before and after the key. Would be great to see CE PixelSampler at work. Take care and Happy AfterEffecting.

  42. Patrick

    10. Dec, 2008

    Sure thing. I set up a hidden movie on my site, and sent you the link via the contact page. Everyone else can check out my reel, if they want, at:


    to see some other fun stuff from that movie, and others. I spent last year doing a film that combines live-action, puppets, 2D animation, 3D animation, virtual sets, and a flying carpet. It was a crazy project to learn After Effects on, but a great experience. The movie is being well received on the festival circuit, too!

    Your tutorials, along with Video Copilot and Creative Cow’s, really helped me learn the program. Thanks again for everything you do here!


  43. Arnold

    07. Jan, 2009

    Using Pixelblender has some amazing results, but is it just me or does the render time become insanely long?

  44. Maltaannon

    07. Jan, 2009

    That really depends on the area you’re sampling, but yes – it may increase your render times, since on every frame AE is rendering the pixels, then grabing the desired area, then does whatever you wanted it to do, so it does take a bit of time, but shouldn’t be that insanely long.

  45. Arnold

    08. Jan, 2009

    I dont think it’s ur plugin, I am using some of my normal presets for keylight, and im getting out of memory errors and its taking for ever, I must have some pre holiday bug….

    CS4 arrives for me tomorrow I will check if i have the same issues.

  46. Maltaannon

    08. Jan, 2009

    Sure. Let me know. I’ll see what I can do.

  47. Jerzy

    08. Jan, 2009


  48. marilou

    14. Feb, 2009

    hello from Paris, we are realy trying all that we can to make you pixel preset works BUT ther is one problem,when i go to: Effects-Keylight-screen color…there is no pick quick tool!!!!
    driving me crazyyy, i’m so sad!
    Ok so ther is a pickquick tool in Effects-pixelsampler-sample color…and when i link it to keylight sceen color the message is: thisComp.layer(“sansfond01.mov”).effect(“Keylight (1.2)”)(“Screen Colour”)….
    thank you ry very much for all that you’ve already done…i hope it’s not to late for you to ansewer!!!

  49. ali

    06. Jul, 2009


  50. Lorenzone

    10. Sep, 2009

    Hi Jerzy, I can’t find the XML file, only the ffx and a .polyCE.
    Many Thanks for all your tutorials, i’m learning a lot. You disserve a donation on every work done with your presets, and so i will do.

  51. SOSA

    17. Sep, 2009

    custom effects are awesome!!! keep them coming!!!thanxs

  52. Gabriel Spada

    08. Dec, 2009

    Congratulations for the site… Your work really helped me a lot.
    But now I have a problem, my height and weight square are missing on pixel sampler (as some people already stated this problem here b4), everything works perfectly fine, it’s just a bit annoying that I can’t see exactly what tha hack am I sampling.
    Since other people also had this problem and I doubt it is any mistake by maltaannon, my bet it is that any update screwed it since there were no problems b4… If anyone found out a solution I’d be glad to hear it.
    By the way, I’m using CS4 on a Mac if it is of any help.

    • Jerzy Drozda Jr

      08. Dec, 2009

      Just like I replied before – I have never experienced this “bug” myself, and I’d like to point out that I was changing workstations 2 times since publishing this tutorial. The point is that I cant even start to imagine how to fix something I haven’t seen.

      You can try clicking on the layer, making sure all the the little visual widgets (like masks paths and stuff) are on. Maybe try to create a new Shape layer, then delete it’s content, so that you’re left with an empty layer, and apply the CE PixelSampler to it?

      I have no clue. Those are just random guesses. If any of these helps let us know. Thanks.

  53. Ed Octoor

    15. Jan, 2010

    I have OLD programming experience can you please include a Manual method of installing your plugins, as I would work an hour just to be able to do your tutorials.. but if you use your pluggin in your tutorials and if I can not install it… it makes me really really sad.. I find your tutorials very interesting and I like that you talk … and think-out-loud etc… Crtl+home to center.. see I am learning..

    I searched for “PresetEffects.xml” and verified that is
    was Writeable…:
    I installed your installer; I go to properties; to find the actual program exe; I run as admin… I double click on cePixelSampler.polyCE; I browse to my
    “Adobe…support Files” and click install… and I get the following error

    “Install Failed! Check if your After Effects installation directory is selected correctly and try again.”

    So my Tutorial has a red X because I can not afford LUX or SHINE and now the installer doesn’t have manual instructions. Am I crazy, or is it true that I have to pay more for a collection of plugins than I did for the actual Adobe Program, I am starting to loose interest.. really fast.

  54. Ed Octoor

    16. Jan, 2010

    I am SO Embarrassed… and am looking for a ROCK to craw under…

    I found my error here….
    I browse to my
    “Adobe…support Files” and click install… and I get the following error

    I should have…..
    Browse to my
    “C:\Program Files (x86)\Adobe\Adobe After Effects CS4” and click install, and all was fine…

    I am going back to the FlashLight Tutorial even though I wouldn’t be able to publish any of my work using a Demo TrapCons Lux or Shine pluggin because they have this big
    RED CROSS… ummm maybe I should create pluggin and flood the internet with free pluggins like you.

    Thank you for your tutorials…

  55. Wimp

    21. Sep, 2010

    I got somewhat an idea from wathcing this and the video that I’ve linked as my homepage (http://vimeo.com/14396098).

    Dont you thinkt it’ll be possible to use this technique to get the “true color correction”? Just freeze a frame, sample the colors(highlights, midtones & shadows) and adjust them?

    Ex. Pixel @ the pos of X = 200 and Y = 400 gives us the RGB of, 240, 252, 232. Then you could chose wich of those values to match around.

    And if the picture is somewhat hard to get high/mid/shad from, maybe its possible to grayscale it first?

    Then apply all this data to an adjustment layer.

    Please respond to me if this is doable :)

  56. Gregory

    14. Jan, 2011

    Panie Jerzy, musi pan mieć IQ \< 144
    super dzięki za te poradniki!

  57. Adam Seeley

    12. Nov, 2012

    Hayalp!…. Hi, really trying to get this to work… they all seem to install properly and Pixel Sampler works fine. When I try to apply ColorSampler to a new shape layer though, I get this error.

    “After Effects Warning: Class ‘Efect’ has no property or method named ‘Color B’ Expression disabled.

    Error occoured at line 1
    Comp: ‘TestFootage’
    Layer: 1 (‘Shape Layer 2′)

    Any pointers gratefullt recieved…



  58. Adam Seeley

    12. Nov, 2012

    Hi again…. Windows 7 64bit , CS 6 btw…