December 11, 2015

How to Create Realistic (But Totally Fake) Camera Shake in After Effects

So, you're shooting a scene that requires a lot of shaky camera movement, but you want to use a tripod. What do you do?

Maybe the obvious answer would be, "Uh, take your camera off the tripod and shake it around," but using a "shaky cam" technique isn't as simple and straightforward as just shaking your camera around. In fact, it takes quite a bit of planning and choreography to really pull it off well in terms of focus, framing, etc.

So, if you want to play it safe and shoot from a tripod, this tutorial from Sam and Niko shows you how to quickly and easily add realistic looking camera shake in After Effects by adding null objects that simulate random movement from your wrists, arms, and body.

There are a few other methods for creating this effect, one of which uses the tracking data from your footage (which is then pasted into your footage position data), resulting in the movements your body naturally makes, but this takes a bit more time and energy to pull off. Using Sam and Niko's null objects method is a super simple and quick way to add the shaky cam effect to your project, though they suggest only using it on very short clips -- more than 2 seconds and your clip starts to look computer generated (because it is).     

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9 Comments

Sounds like more work than getting a good shoulder rig, but this is a great way to get "handheld" macros or do screen replacements or special effects in lock offs and match them to handheld in post.

December 11, 2015 at 10:55PM

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Zack Wallnau
Cinematographer & Tinkerer
603

Use "After Shake" plugin from Video Copilot, or "CAMERA SHAKE" by RedGiant. Much simple :)

December 12, 2015 at 7:39AM, Edited December 12, 7:39AM

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Moosa Saleem
Director, Director of Photography
561

It really doesn't need to be that complicated. My last film was supposed to look 100% handheld but about 50% of it wasn't shaky enough. I just added the wiggle effect to all of the other shots and literally zero people noticed that it was cutting back and forth between actual handheld and fake handheld. (And these shots lasted upwards of 15 seconds at times.) I could tell, obviously, but if no one else could, what difference does it make?

To make a point that's been made in a ton of other contexts: If people are focused on the "quality" of the handheld, that means the project as a whole failed to engage them. And if that happened, it doesn't matter how good the effect is, because the audience clearly doesn't care about anything else.

That all said: It's cool to see how to make it more perfectly imperfect. After Effects is awesome.

December 12, 2015 at 10:32AM

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Alec Kubas-Meyer
Writer/Director/DP
273

I usually use the in camera technique to produce camera shake.

December 12, 2015 at 11:03AM

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Jerry Roe
Indie filmmaker
1521

When this effect is overused, all the footage is spoilt.

December 12, 2015 at 1:16PM

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SolarFilm
DOP
64

December 12, 2015 at 11:00PM

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Johnny Wu
Director, Producer, Editor
371

I saw this 5 years ago. It's nothing new whatsoever, and there are many ways to achieve it.

December 16, 2015 at 3:33PM

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Ian Cessna
Videographer
213

Silly question: is that possible recreate Fight Club camera shake effect in AE? I never found a tutorial about this.

December 14, 2015 at 7:55PM

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You have to evaluate if "shake" in post will reveal itself or not. Real camera movement has parallax, and this effect in post will not. I think a little shake goes a long way. Ultimately, you have to look at the results and decide if it works or not.

December 18, 2015 at 3:56PM

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David Patterson
videographer/editor
409