June 18, 2015
The tilt-shift lens has come a long way since being typecast as an architecture lens useful only for correcting the perceived lean of tall buildings and cityscapes. In fact, it’s grown increasingly popular among cinematographers and visual storytellers, who are much more concerned with aesthetics and audience perceptions than issues with converging lines.
Fortunately, the affordability of tilt-shift has come a long way too—with companies like Rokinon offering some of the first lens options under $1,000 and Tilt-Shift After Effects templates offering essentially the same effect in post for the cost of a download.
For those unfamiliar, tilt-shift lenses essentially allow you to tilt and move your plane of focus so that your glass isn’t perfectly parallel with your sensor or film element. This gives you a far greater selection of focus versus what you can achieve using aperture alone, resulting in a variety of effects ranging from mere subject isolation to whimsical, toy-like miniaturization:
Download: Chicago River Tilt-Shift
Download: Aerial Freeway Traffic Tilt-Shift
One nice advantage of applying tilt-shift in post—in addition, of course, to saving money by not having to buy a specialty lens—is that your footage remains versatile, as you can create both tilt-shift and non-tilt shift versions to suit different purposes. You can also, of course, dial back the effect for less dramatic results using a template.
On its own, our Tilt-Shift After Effects template allows you to control the amount of blur surrounding a linear area of focus. Once you’ve imported your footage into the template, you can customize the style and amount of focus in Adjustment Layer 2. Simply click the drop down menus in the template to see your options.
Now that you know where to find your settings, let’s dive into what each component does.
Blur Position: This will be the center point of your focus area. You can position this to correspond with any area you’d like to stay in focus.
Blur Rotation: By adjusting the degree of the angle here, you can rotate and control the area of focus 360 degrees.
Blur Amount: This slider controls the amount of blur outside the area of focus. You can enter any value you want, but you’ll only see visual results from 1-100, with 100 being the blurriest and 0 being the original footage.
FPS: By default, this will be set to 12 FPS. This is a stylistic choice by the template creator. If you’d prefer to keep the original frame rate of your footage, make sure the FPS slider number matches it here.
Below is an example of a non-tilt shift clip from our library before and after we ran it through After Effects with our tilt-shift template:
If your first attempt doesn’t yield the intended results, you might try a few adjustments. In the Golden Gate bridge footage above, for example, we adjusted the blur angle and position to isolate a single lane of traffic, but you may not need to be so selective. Instead, you might lessen the blur amount for a broader range of focus—perhaps focusing on all lanes of traffic while eliminating distractions like lampposts and bridge cables.
Rachel Morris writes about stock footage, After Effects templates, and post-processing techniques for VideoBlocks.