Tilt Shift

Tilt Shift

Posted on 20. Jul, 2009 by in After Effects

Create an awesome Tilt Shift effect as seen in Red Giant Software’s amazing plugin – Magic Bullet Looks. Change the look on the fly and save it as a preset for later use. Quick and easy.


Some time ago I wrote a note on my Facebook Fan Page about upcoming tutorials. I’m happy to announce that the day has come – the tutorials are recorded and all will be released soon. This is the second out of four tutorials that will be focused on recreating some of my favorite filters from a great color correction tool – Magic Bullet Looks.

In this video I will show you how to recreate one of the filters found in Magic Bullet Looks called Swing Tilt. It allows you to easily add Depth of field (DOF) to you footage. The technique I’m showing uses only one layer so it can be saved as a preset for later use. Theres also something extra. You can also animate the your focus area unlike in Magic Bullet Looks. You can even add additional effects to the blurred area to make your subject really pop – simple color correction for example. I forgot to mention that in the tutorial however, so if you want to do that you need to add your additional effects instead or along with the Fast Blur effect before applying the second copy of CC Composite. Enjoy!

Download: Tilt Shift preset (After Effects CS3)

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27 Responses to “Tilt Shift”

  1. David_97

    20. Jul, 2009

    Nice, Maltaannon! Great tut.

  2. jmalmsten

    20. Jul, 2009

    Allthough this is how it usually looks when people are trying out “tilt-shift”, the real thing is usually quite a bit more complex.

    The thing is that when done like this, it does look like an effect added on top of the image, when the real goal should be to create the illusion of a tilted DoF. By this I mean that instead of having a DoF that’s paralell in distance from the lens. It’s actually tilted. So that, for example, at the top the DoF can be at 3 centimeters and at the bottom of the image it’s 3 kilometers away. And the DoF itself can be set at 3 meters all the way from the top and to the bottom

    This is why it lends itself to aerial photography so well. Because with it you can get ultra-shallow DoF on objects far away.

    And one of the side-effects is that it screws with our sense of scale. Because when we see shallow DoF we think it’s close to us. “But the image contains huge buildings! Then it must be a miniature.” is sortof the dialog going on in our brains. And couple that with timelapse-photography with short shutterspeed and your brain interprets it as stop-motion miniatures. Making you marvel at the complexity that the photographer had acchieved with the hundreds of thousands of tiny little model-humans. And then to really sell the effect you color-correct it to be overly saturated and put on a selection of filters to take out the details in texture. Resulting in a more hand-painted look to really sell it.

    And to achieve a realistic tilt-shift-effect you would have to take this into account. And the only way I know how is to create duplicate layers with rotoscoped masks to blur out the objects that are in front of or behind the tilted DoF.

    But this tutorial does have good points of how you can set up a series of effects on a single layer using the CCcomposite, making it possible to save them as presets for further use. And you could probably get by with a edge-blur like this as a tilt-shift if there’s no objects in front of or behind the DoF-area.

    Keep the tutorials coming and don’t let leangthy comments that co overtly into technicalities get you down ! ;)

    (I know that there is another name that describes the threedimensional field that’s in-focus better, but try as I might, I only come up with “DoF”).

    • Jerzy Drozda Jr

      20. Jul, 2009

      Wow! Now that’s what I call a comment! You’re of course correct and I am aware of how it works (although I’m not a photographer to any extend) but as you know there’s only so much we can do to fake that effect.

      To do it the right way we would need quite a lot more info in the image, like a depth map and such. Instead we usually have to work with flat surface of pixels.

      As you noticed the point of this tutorial was to show some good tips and workflow techniques.

      And even though it’s not a real tilt shift I think we could get away with it in most cases.

    • brawk

      20. Jul, 2009

      seriously, it just seemed you were trying to flaunt what you read off of the wikipedia article or something.

      • jmalmsten

        22. Jul, 2009

        Brawk, Yeah, I know. It’s a problem I have. A short and consice “I think your definition is wrong, this isn’t so much a ’tilt-shift’ as it is an advanced (and very customizable) blur-effect”.

        Luckily Jerzy seemed to look past my mr-knowitall-iness and understand what I tried to say. That real tilt-shift is a bit more complex than blurring the edges and I understand him that there’s probably not really enough time for a full-blown “this is how you rotoscope out and create a pseudo-Z-depth-channel for this kind of work”.

        I keep visiting this site every day for new techniques for my AE-work and this tutorial had a handful of really handy ones. So I’m grateful for the time he puts down for all of us for free and since I’m bordering on starting a fourth paragraph, I’ll just shut up now and try to get a life… ;)

  3. Laura

    20. Jul, 2009

    Awesome! Thanks a lot! Excellent explanations as always. B)

  4. Ben

    20. Jul, 2009

    Brilliant tutorial, as ever. Can’t wait for the next one in the sequence.

    Hope you don’t mind my guessing for spot focus, but: lens flare instead of light sweep?

    Looking forward to it.

    • Jerzy Drozda Jr

      20. Jul, 2009

      Hehe. Close one, but no. Guess again.

      • AndrewYY

        20. Jul, 2009

        Ha. I think I know. The circle effect? :P

        • Jerzy Drozda Jr

          20. Jul, 2009

          You think I’m going to tell you and ruing the surprise for everyone else?

  5. illd

    21. Jul, 2009

    Wow, sometimes I think Maltannon is a machine ;) You got so many ways, I hope your head won´t explode one day ;)

  6. eric hinson

    22. Jul, 2009

    As always, i LOVE your work. you’re a great asset to the mograph/fx community. my only thing is i wish you had a preview of the final output along with the tutorial link. I know you don’t want to become video copilot or anything but being able to preview what we’re going to achieve (like aetuts.com) is priceless. Thanks for all you do, Jerzy.

    • Jerzy Drozda Jr

      23. Jul, 2009

      Sure, but not all things are very impressive when you look at them. It’s the techniques. Like this tutorial for example – the rendered preview wouldn’t do much good, would it. Besides – there are the preview images – they are 1000×500 so quite big. Just click on the thumbnail to see the full image.

  7. Robbie Williams

    06. Aug, 2009

    where is the link to play the video?????

    • Jerzy Drozda Jr

      06. Aug, 2009

      Huge green button that says “Click here to watch the video tutorial” on top of the article, next to the thumbnail.

  8. Keerah

    08. Aug, 2009

    • Jerzy Drozda Jr

      08. Aug, 2009

      Sweet. It could use some time posterization though. Nice work!

  9. Tutos

    18. Aug, 2009

    I like this effect on photos. This is the first time I see it on a video, and it looks pretty well too.

    Thanks !

  10. elastomero

    14. Feb, 2010

    Great Tut, Muy bueno! Muchas Gracias Amigo

  11. Ahmad

    26. Mar, 2010

    thanks for this amazing tutorial
    but i think that this is the hard way
    you can animate using mask only and working in just one layer

  12. nike sb shoes

    28. Jun, 2010

    Great Tut, Muy bueno! Muchas Gracias Amigo

  13. Marty

    17. Aug, 2010

    can you explain where to install the preset for tilt nd shift in AE CS5? Im a newbie but love this efx.

  14. Jeff

    20. Oct, 2010

    Great tutorial! Just for the record though, the Focus Area in Magic Bullet Looks CAN be animated. When you apply the effect, there’s a little stopwatch next to “Look” (right above the Edit button). If you set animation on that, then attributes on Looks can be animated. I’ve found that some attributes (like the focus area in Swing Tilt) can animate smoothly, while others appear to only animate with Hold keyframes (even though the keys appear as Linear in the timeline).

    Just thought I’d throw that out there.

  15. Manuel De Sousa

    04. Jan, 2011

    Love the tilt shift affect. It Rocks!.

  16. discount sunglasses mall

    01. Aug, 2011

    seriously, it just seemed you were trying to flaunt what you read off of the wikipediscount sunglasses malldia article or something.

  17. PETITFORMAT

    17. Jun, 2012

    Great tutorial. but one question : what is the effect “slider control” and “point control” in the French edition of AE ? Thanks !

  18. Sonicjar Music

    25. Mar, 2013

    We have been using Magic Bullets for some of our videos for CC. But the way you showed it is quiet innovative. Dont know where we will use it in our videos, but certainly interesting man!! Cheers from India