6 Replies Latest reply on Aug 8, 2017 8:29 AM by Szalam

    Best Parallax Options


      Hi guys/gals im brand new and this is my first post. So first hello all and im excited to be here and learn from the best!


      Having said that my mom gave me over 100 old photos and some high quality new photos that I want to convert to the Parallax Effect and create that really deep depth to make a fun family digital album. So because I have so many what is the fastest/easiest way to do it because having over 100 will take a long time. Im up for anything that will be the fastest like a plugin (if there is one) or using after effects or photo shop or whatever. For me im just trying to be as efficient as possible.


      Any advice/tips/tricks to save time im all ears and keep in mind I have not purchased any software yet so ideally a really short step by step video or easy plugin would be great I could just copy the technique and then after im done I can take the time to play with it.


      Second question do you get a better effect (that real deep depth look) in photoshop or after effects which one is better?


      Thanks, Kal

        • 1. Re: Best Parallax Options
          Rick Gerard Adobe Community Professional & MVP

          Synthesizing parallax in a still photograph requires you to separate foreground, middle ground and background elements into layers. In almost all cases the best tool for that is Photoshop. The layers are then stacked in 3D space and a camera move is added. This is a time consuming process and depending on the photograph and the move you want to make it can take many hours per image. There is no plug-in that will automate that process.


          Many photographs require that you reconstruct the background so you can make a camera move, most require at least scaling the middle ground and foreground elements so that you have a little room to move the camera. Without a lot of preparation of the images in Photoshop your camera moves will be limited to short dolly (move in) and even shorter truck (left and right) moves.


          When you set up your 3D space in After Effects you position the layers in approximately the same relative position they would be in the real world. For example if the original photograph was shot with a normal lens (50mm) and the foreground element, a person, was about 5 feet from the camera, and behind them was a window that was 10 feet from the camera, and behind the window was a tree that was 100 feet from the camera and behind the tree were some mountains and the horizon you could separate the image into 4 layers. The person in front, the window behind that, the tree behind that, and then the horizon. When you make all of the layers 3D and add a camera the camera will be positioned approximately where the kitchen wall would be (the middle ground of the image) so you would need to move the person closer to the camera by about 1/3 of the distance, then scale the person down so the person was approximately the same size as it was in the original photograph. Then you would move the layer with the tree about twice the distance from the camera. For example, if the camera was at -2600 in z, the position for the tree layer would be about 2600 in z. Then that layer would be scaled up. The last step would be to move the horizon. You can't stick it at infinity but usually about 4X the Z value of the camera is sufficient. Many times you can get away with having that layer closer. Sometimes you want to have the layer farther away. It all depends on how realistic you want the parallax change to be.


          There is an easy way to set the scale of the layers you move in z space so the image looks exactly like the original image before you start the camera move by using an expression that measures the length (distance) between the camera and the layer and does a little multiplication. Then you make note of the scale value, turn off the expression and enter the value or convert the expression to keyframes then delete the keyframes. Now you are set up for the camera move. If you have not filled in the holes in the background you are limited to a straight dolly in. If you cheat the scale of the closer layers you can add in a little truck to the left or right. The expression looks like this:

          C = thisComp.activeCamera;

          CP = fromWorld(C.toWorld([0,0,0]));

          L = thisLayer

          LP = fromWorld(L.toWorld(anchorPoint));

          d = length(CP, LP);

          z = C.zoom;

          r = d/z

          r * value

          I have it saved as an animation preset and I use it all the time. Here it is if you want it: Dropbox - Fill camera frame.ffx


          That's how it is done.


          There's another technique that is a little more difficult and it involves placing solid layers for the foreground, middle ground and background layers, then adding a light at the starting camera position, then setting the original photograph in front of the light and setting the light transmission in the material properties to 100% and cast shadows only in the material options. The masked layers are then set to accept shadows and receive lights is turned off. This technique has some advantages and some disadvantages, can be done entirely in After Effects, and if you set the rendering engine to the Ray-traced renderer, produces some amazing results with a little less work on some images. The disadvantage is that you cannot fill holes in the background to allow trucking moves.


          I hope this helps. 100 pictures, full blown 2.5D production with background holes repaired probably equals about two to three months of production time for an enthusiast or about two weeks of full time work by a professional.


          One other suggestion. Make each camera move a separate composition and do your editing in Premiere Pro. Trying to fly a camera through 10 or 20 photos in a single composition is going to get really complicated and incredibly messy very quickly. 100 photos would be nuts.

          2 people found this helpful
          • 2. Re: Best Parallax Options
            Gutterfish Adobe Community Professional

            If your goal is to learn After Effects then I'd strongly discourage looking for work saving "shortcuts" before you even start.

            Not that there's anything wrong with work saving shortcuts inherently but if you have not even started learning & you're already asking:   "That's gonna take so long, is there an easier way?", then After Effects may not be the right fit for you.


            If your goal is to make a "fun family album" then there are apps and websites where you can pick a template, plugin your images and press "Go".   I'm not talking about After Effects templates.  If you don't know how to use After Effects then a template won't be of much help.


            You said you have not even downloaded any software yet.  I assume this means you have never used After Effects or Photoshop at all.

            If this is true you can expect to spend 20 to 100 hours (depending on how clever you are) before you can even start your project.


            Consider this and consider Rick's informative response.  If you're looking for the quickest, easiest path you're going the wrong way.

            If you're not willing to invest 100 hours before you can even crawl then a $3 app might be more what you're looking for.

            I'm not trying to be mean.  I'm just trying to paint you a realistic picture of exactly what you're thinking about getting into.

            • 3. Re: Best Parallax Options
              Roei Tzoref Adobe Community Professional

              good advice here. if you do plan to invest the time to learn, or for anybody else, here are some resources on motion control 3d/parallax 2d / camera projection / kid stays in the picture  whatever you want to call it:



              here's a script that can automate the multiplaning process nicely:

              pt_Multiplane - aescripts + aeplugins - aescripts.com


              camera mapping is a bit advanced, but can yeild fantastic results:

              Camera Mapping in After Effects - YouTube


              and there's also the vanishing point technique:

              VIDEO COPILOT | After Effects Tutorials, Plug-ins and Stock Footage for Post Production Professionals


              here's a full course on Lynda:

              Motion Control 3D: Bringing Photos to Life in Three Dimensions with After Effects and Photoshop CC

              • 4. Re: Best Parallax Options
                Kevin-Monahan Adobe Employee

                Hi Kal,

                Give an update with where you are now. Need help? Made progress? Do let us know.




                • 5. Re: Best Parallax Options
                  kalgreen Level 1

                  I could not find my question in the forum so I could not reply, sorry guys

                  for no reply. How do you find your questions in here? I had to reply to the



                  To give you a update I think im going to learn it all. The youtube videos I

                  saw show amazing things you can do which brings me a new question.


                  What video tutorials do you guys recommend for a brand new person? Also if

                  you need to create a video to simulate Times Square New York can you do

                  this in After Effects or would I have to get a cgi person involved? It

                  would be shots in different decades in the past. So for example if someone

                  was walking down times square in the 1960s you would see the skyscrapers,

                  cars etc.

                  • 6. Re: Best Parallax Options
                    Szalam Adobe Community Professional & MVP

                    kalgreen  wrote


                    I could not find my question in the forum so I could not reply, sorry guys

                    for no reply. How do you find your questions in here? I had to reply to the


                    You can click a link in the email that will bring you to the forum thread. Alternatively, come to the forums, click on your face at the top to go to your profile, and then go to your activity to find all of the threads you've participated in.


                    kalgreen  wrote


                    What video tutorials do you guys recommend for a brand new person?

                    A comprehensive getting-started course on something like Lynda.com

                    There are some great (free) tutorials here on Adobe.com that you could go through.

                    Another good, free, resource are the AE beginners tutorial series from Andrew Devis. I think it starts on this page. They're old, but other than the new preview system in AE, much of how it works on a fundamental level hasn't changed.


                    kalgreen  wrote


                    Also if you need to create a video to simulate Times Square New York can you do this in After Effects or would I have to get a cgi person involved? It would be shots in different decades in the past. So for example if someone was walking down times square in the 1960s you would see the skyscrapers, cars etc.

                    This would require a huge amount of work. You could do it with a real person, but you would need either 3d models of the different decades of Times Square or a LOT of work and some amazing photos of it.


                    This is the kind of thing it usually takes large teams of people with decades of experience to do.