Custom TV Static Video Transition

Ingredients

  • After Effects
  • Final Cut Pro (or any other non-linear video editing application)
  • Footage - TV Static (download)

Making the Transition

First step is to get some TV static footage.

Import your footage into After Effects and use it to make a new composition.

Tip

You can drag footage straight to the “New Comp” button and it’ll automatically make a new composition matching the settings of the clip.

To make this static work as a believable transition, we’re going to make the black areas of the clip transparent; this will make it easier to overlay when we’re done. Let’s do this with an effect called “Shift Channels”.

Shift Channels

Now we need to adjust it so that the black areas become an alpha channel. Just click on the “Take Alpha From” menu and select “Luminance”. Make sure you have the transparency grid showing otherwise you won’t notice the effect.

Take Alpha From Luminance

If you want to fine-tune this alpha channel, you can apply a “Levels” effect to the static clip. Make sure it is above the “Shift Channels” effect to make sure that the histogram is affected before the alpha channel is taken from the clip. Play around with the mid-tones slider to see a real-time adjustment of your alpha channel. You can also add a drop shadow to the static to make it stand out.

Levels and Drop Shadow

From here you can either export the clip to use it straight from your non-linear editing application (like Final Cut Pro), or you could import the two shots you want to transition between and do it all in After Effects.

The After Effects Workflow

Once you have imported your shots into After Effects and dropped them into the timeline, line them up and tweak the length to suit your transition.

Tip

To ensure there is no gap between shots, hold down shift when dragging on the end of a clip to make it snap to the next clip or keyframe. Then, trim and position your static clip over the shots. Keep the static nice and short – it’s just a transition!

Check out your handy work with a RAM preview. If your transition is sticking out too much, there are a few things you can do to make it look more natural. For starters, you can adjust the blending mode of the static. I used “Overlay”.

Overlay

Tip

Make sure you fade the clip in with “Opacity” keyframes, so that it doesn’t just appear out of the blue.

If you want to get fancier, you can add the “Displacement Map” effect. This will warp the shots on either side of the static. Once applied to both the clips you want to transition between, select the static layer as the “Displacement Map Layer” and use “Luminance” or “Alpha” for the “Horizontal” and “Vertical Displacement”.

Displacement Map

Tip

Set keyframes on the “Max Horizontal” and “Vertical Displacement” in line with the opacity keyframes on the static to fade in the effect. Set your “Edge Behavior” to “Wrap Pixels Around” to preserve the edges of your clip.

Now comes the final touch: sound effects. I’m using a clip from freesound, a great source of Creative Commons-licensed sound effects. Just apply the sound and you’re done. Now you can export this composition and slot it into your video!

After Effects final result

The Final Cut Pro Workflow

What happens if you want to play with the transition in Final Cut Pro? If you’re happy with the way your static looks, go ahead and export the composition from After Effects. Here are the settings you need to export with to maintain your alpha channel:

Export with alpha

Note

Using these settings will output your video as a QuickTime movie with the “Animation” lossless codec, but there are plenty of other codecs that can have an alpha channel too. Just scan the “Channels” drop down for “RGB + Alpha” too see what’s available.

Import your clip into your editing software. Drag it to your timeline or on to the “Canvas” window, then let go over on “Overlay”. Drag the static around till it’s in the right place over your clips.

Overlay

If you want to do a little more fine-tuining, right-click on the static and change the “Composite Mode” (also known as “Blending Mode”) to “Overlay”. This will blend your static into the clips nicely. Again, make sure you adjust the opacity to avoid getting an abrupt change when the clip begins. Render your sequence and look at the transition.

Final Cut Pro final result

Parting Words

With a little bit of After Effects magic, you can make your video a little more personal with your very own TV static transition. If you want to experiment more, try using water or cloud footage instead – you can use these techniques to turn any footage into your own unique transition.

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