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Split Screen in After Effects – It’s like looking in a mirror!

One of the effects used infrequently back in the day was the split screen.  Using the split screen, filmmakers could make it appear as if the same actor was on screen twice (see “The Parent Trap”). This required the camera to stay perfectly stationary and the lighting to be identical. Most of the time, this effect was used as a gimmick, and as time has gone on, filmmakers have gotten a lot more sophisticated effects, including computer controlled cameras that can be used to make much more complex effects that accomplish the same goal(the same actor on screen multiple times), but also allows the camera to move, and actors to move in front of each other and even interact with each other.

But since I don’t have a fancy computer controlled camera, I decided to do this old school.  It’s actually pretty simple in After Effects.  Check out the final result:

See how to do it yourself after the break.

The split screen effect I’m showing today requires precision and planning. We need to shoot two sides of a video that will need to match and have a clear space to split it into two.  This means that you need a single actor (you can use multiple actors, but it kind of defeats the novelty of a split screen), preferably in different wardrobe for each side, and they must not pass through the split section of the frame.  The frame can be split horizontally or vertically, but this decision needs to be made in advance, and the actors instructed in their placement before shooting.

You also must have a camera, and it must be on a tripod or some other stationary device, and you must shoot your video in identical lighting conditions. This usually means you’re shooting the videos on the same day, but if you have a tightly controlled studio, you can shoot them on separate days.  Any variation in the two sides of the video will ruin the transition.  The video used in the example was created by hitting record on the camera, and then creating both sides before stopping the recording.  I then edited the video into separate pieces. This ensured that the lighting and positioning would be identical.

Once we get to the point where we have two matching pieces of video created, the rest is actually pretty simple. We’ll be using the Linear Wipe effect which is generally used to make transitions between two scenes (think the screen wipe in Star Wars).  But today, we’ll be using it in a different way. Let’s see how in this video:

Creating a Split Screen in After Effects

The video starts with a composition created. If you need more info on how to work the basics of After Effects, you can attend our training class After Effects: Video Effects & Text Animation Basics, or you can check out the Lynda.com training library.


7 Responses to "Split Screen in After Effects – It’s like looking in a mirror!" to “Split Screen in After Effects – It’s like looking in a mirror!”

  1. Dave Says:

    You have done it again. Great video, i think your getting tired of me saying that… but i got a quick question.

    Are you able to crop rather than just straight line split screens?

    Also just a note, that it is near impossible to do it outside, especially if you are doing for a small multimedia project, it may take several takes, no pun intended, and the lighting and shadows change dramatically in certain times of the day.

    If it is for fun, then a minute per take, wont change the lighting, but setting changes often too. Cars drive past, parked cars leave, people etc. i tried it, i get people disappearing into thin air and half cars on the road.

    Even in empty places no cars or people, there will always be nature, wind direction has to be same or the tree will be moving two separate ways, half one way half the other, leaves falling from the tree will vanish before it hits the ground etc.

    You get my gist, you know when you get pros saying to you on TV, dont try this at home, well guess what, “PLEASE TRY THIS AT HOME” in fact “PLEASE ONLY TRY AT HOME”. :D

  2. Andy Hunsucker Says:

    Thanks for your kind words Dave. Your note about doing this outdoors is well taken. You’d have to have a carefully controlled outdoor set, and that just isn’t likely for a quick video.

    As for your question, I think you’re asking if you could put the split in other locations, which you can using masks. Masks can cut out a small portion of the video, where you could have another piece of video to complicate the effect.

  3. Stanley Says:

    Wow, I never knew how that was done.Thanks for the enlightenment.

  4. epipla Says:

    I tried to do this some time now but with no result, now with this I think I ‘ll do it, thanks for sharing!

  5. hdtv Says:

    Wow, I never knew how that was done.Thanks for the enlightenment

  6. Epipla Says:

    Hey Andy, thanks for sharing. It seems a thing that an advanced user can do.

  7. Power Artefact Research and Development | Conner Leech Says:

    […] Split Screen in After Effects – It’s like looking in a mirror […]

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