There are many effects you can use in your projects to add some visual flair. One popular choice is using 2D animated flash effects, or “elements.” You can add smoke, explosions, transitions, letters, and even animated animals or other objects into your video to create a fun and vibrant scene with these simple animations.
If you’re not familiar with these types of effects, here’s an example from the Pond5 collection:
These elements are typically hand-drawn vectors (meaning they can be scaled up as large as possible without losing resolution). They can be used for a quick effect to emphasize a certain action happening in the scene, or they can act as full-screen transitions that help move between shots. They have alpha or transparent layers in them, which allow you to put them right over the top of your scene.
2D animations can be added into your footage fairly easily using both Premiere Pro and After Effects, or really any editing program that allows you to make and keyframe masks. Once you create or acquire your animated elements, you simply need to place them into your scene. If the animation doesn’t look quite the way you want, it could be an easy fix, or something a little more tedious. Here are a few ways to incorporate the animation so that it looks more natural.
Masking Elements Properly
If an object or person in your footage occupies the same spot in the frame as part of your animation, you may need to create a mask around either your animation or object to fix it. Adjust the mask so that your animation doesn’t interfere with the object and it should look much more naturally incorporated into the scene. The end of this video has some flash animation in it, where you can see it’s masked behind the person’s arm and body at the 6:54 mark (full disclosure, that’s my brother).
Keyframing Within the Scene
Your animation may also need to move along with an object in the video, so this is where keyframing comes in. Keyframing the scale, position, rotation, or opacity of the animation (masked or not), or the mask itself, is the next easiest way to work with the animation. In Adobe Premiere or After Effects, simply go to the spot in the timeline where you want the animation to start, open the effect controls, and click the stopwatch to create a new keyframe. Then move to the spot in the timeline where you want the movement to end and create another keyframe. Adjust the keyframe values to get the movement exactly how you want it. These two keyframes may work, but you may also need to add a few more throughout the clip if it moves. I added some elements to this clip:
As you can see, I only needed four keyframes to move the mask around the moving punching bag.
If you need to add a keyframe on every frame, then you’re rotoscoping.
Rotoscoping is a more advanced and tedious keyframing technique. You can go frame by frame and adjust the animation or the mask’s position/shape to get exactly the movement you want — it just takes a lot of time. It’s perfect (and necessary in many cases) for adding animations and other items behind moving objects, however.
Keyframing 2.0: Motion Tracking
Another way to enhance the animation’s placement is to track the footage with the point tracker in After Effects.
Open the tracker and click “Track Motion” on your footage layer, then find the point in the scene that you want to follow and track it. Apply that data to a new null layer and parent your animation layer to that null layer.
Adding Basic 3D
The only thing left that may look off is the animation’s perspective. You can also tweak the animation in the 3D space (as long as your editing system allows for it). Swivel, tilt, or rotate the animation so that it appears to be on the same plane and lives in the same space as the rest of the scene. Keep in mind that, since this is a 2D animation going into a 3D space, you may not be able to do too much before it looks out of place. Just use your best judgment.
Here’s a before and after look at a clip using motion tracking and altered 3D settings. It’s hardly noticeable since it’s so short, but I think the tracked and 3D-rotated version looks like it lives in the space better.
Using 2D elements in videos is a simple yet interesting way to add a lot of fun and energy. You can add them in very small instances, or they can make up your entire visual-effects aesthetic. Either way, they’re easy to work with and can help your videos reflect your personal style.
Do you have any questions about the techniques used in this post? Tell us in the comments below!