School of Motion

How to Simulate Camera Shake in Adobe After Effects

  • By Jason Boone
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A Step-by-Step Guide for Simulating Handheld Camera Shake in After Effects

Use a tripod. Lean against a wall. Increase your shutter speed. Snap in a shorter lens...
There are lots of how-tos out there for preventing movement blur (or, camera shake), but sometimes this effect is not only acceptable but warranted and desired.
If, for example, you're animating a logo, or working in post-production on explosions, hits or other complex composites for visual effects, you may want to add that all-too-familiar blur.
There are a number of ways to produce this trick; we'll show you how to simulate handheld camera shake using a method that is quick and customizable.
som_after-effects_camera-shake.png

Step 1: Wiggle the Position

To bring the camera shake to life, use a Wiggle expression on the Position attribute of your image layer.
To add the expression, hold Alt and click the stopwatch icon next to the property. Then, type in the expression.
WIGGLE
The Wiggle expression is quite basic, consisting of two input values: frequency; and amplitude.
step 1 - add wiggle expression.gif
In my wiggle expression, I use a frequency of 1 and an amplitude of 25, creating a subtle shake.
To find the look you like, tweak the numbers.
Note: If you're working with images and videos, you'll need to scale up to ensure you don't see the edges.

Step 2: Create a Control Layer

While you've created the camera shake effect in Step 1, you'll need to use an expression controller for the greater command you'll need, especially if you're matching a visual effect like an explosion or a hit.
To create your control layer:
  1. Add a null object and rename it Controller
  2. Click the Effect menu, then Expression Controllers, and then Slider Control, and name your first slider Frequency
  3. Repeat the previous step, and name this second slider Amplitude
Step 2 - Adding Slider Controls.gif
Then, to connect the frequency and amplitude to their respective controllers, place your cursor in the expression and drag the pick whip to the slider control.
Now, you can keyframe both elements of your camera shake using the slider controls of your controller layer.

Step 3: Add Camera Shake to Multiple Layers

Thus far, you've only added camera shake to one layer; to simultaneously apply your effect to multiple layers:
  1. Click the Layer menu, New, and then Adjustment Layer
  2. Click the Effect menu, Distort, and then Transform
  3. Add the wiggle expression (from Step 1) to the position property of the new transform effect
This will apply your camera shake to all layers beneath.

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