Advanced Gunfire Effect in After Effects


Recently, we covered the topic of creating a muzzle flash emitting from a gun as it is being fired using After Effects. However, we used a replica weapon which doesn’t have a sliding chamber, nor emits a casing as a commonly used pistol would. In our quest as editors and visual effects artists, we need to continually be expanding our database of knowledge as we strive to create increasingly realistic effects. In this tutorial, I will be showing you how to create a sliding chamber effect, editing the bullet casing flying out of the pistol, and some additional touches.


It’s important to mention that using a realistic gun while filming anything should be handled with care. Safety first! That means you should not be using a gun, even though it’s fake, in a public space without proper permission. Always film with care and in a closed and controlled area.

  • Sliding Chamber Effect
  • Flying Bullet Casing
  • Final Touches


If you are in search for an airsoft gun, my recommendation is to do a quick Google search. You will find several results that will fit your needs. For better realism, I recommend an airsoft gun with a ‘blowback’ feature. Blowback is when the gun’s slider moves back when pulling the trigger – simulating when the slider on a gun moves to release a gun’s shell casing. If you don’t have the cash to drop on one of these, don’t fret. We can still create the effect in post. To get started, import your footage into a new comp in After Effects.

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From there, you are going to duplicate the footage layer by highlighting the layer and hitting CMD+D.

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Rename the duplicate footage as SLIDER, and reduce the length of the footage down to a single frame.

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Now, zoom in on the gun, and using the PEN TOOL, create a mask around just the chamber of the gun.

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Take the chamber mask and move it backwards; creating the sliding back motion.

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With the SLIDER footage still selected, go to EFFECT > BLUR > DIRECTIONAL BLUR and adjust the settings in order to create a convincing animated blur for the slider. You also may want to go into the slider’s mask settings and increase the MASK FEATHER to about 10 or 20 to soften the edges.

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As the slider on the gun chamber moves backward, the bullet’s casing is ejected upward and out of the gun. The best place to get a gun casing model, in my opinion, is from Video Copilot’s Action Essentials 2 package, which includes a series of bullet and casing models. They are pre-animated in a spinning motion, allowing you to simply drag and drop onto your source footage and animate accordingly.

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You could still make a convincing case ejection effect using a keyed image from GOOGLE and blurring the image as it ejects from the chamber, or by searching other 3D model sites like TURBO SQUID. When you have your gun casing model of choice, add it on top of your source footage, position it over the chamber, and adjust the scale accordingly.

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Using the POSITION settings, KEYFRAME the POSITION and then move forward two to three frames to move the casing upwards out of the shot.

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As stated before in a prior tutorial, we explored how to create a convincing muzzle flash while firing a gun, giving you this effect.

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Included with the VIDEO COPILOT ACTION ESSENTIALS 2 package is a series of smoke bursts that make for a good add onto the muzzle. Simply drop the footage into your comp, position and scale accordingly, and change the bleeding mode to SCREEN.

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After Effects Keying Tips & Tricks


Green/blue screen keying is one of the most used post production techniques for putting actors in environments that would otherwise be quite expensive to make happen. A technique that has been around since the 1930s, green/blue screen keying, or chroma keying, is a fundamental compositing technique used on many of the visual effects you see on television and feature films. With all the advances that have been made in post production technology, what would have taken visual effects and editors months to complete can now be accomplished rather quickly. However, as editors or visual effects artists, there are situations involving chroma key that may require more work than just applying Keylight and extracting your actor. I’m going to showcase some products and techniques you can use in After Effects to help for those special situations you may encounter with chroma keying.

Fixing Screen Color

As a post production professional, you may not always be on set to guide the production crew how to properly light their green/blue screen so that it can create an optimal key. When you get the footage, you may have to spend time fixing the green color on the footage so that you don’t run into issues pulling a strong key. The folks from PHYX have a plugin known as Screen Corrector that can help fix the screen color of your green screen footage. You can purchase it from their PHYX Keyer bundle for $139. One caveat about this plugin is that it is for Mac only. If you are looking for a non-third party solution, take a look at this tutorial below for changing the screen color.

The author shows us a technique of using the Selective Color filter to boost the green in the footage to pull a better key. He then goes on to change the white and black values of his alpha matte so it can be used later as a track matte for the green screen footage. I’ve utilized these techniques on projects and found it really helpful. It’s not fool proof, but it’s better than having to settle for a terribly lit screen.

Creating a Lightwrap

A light wrap is a compositing method used to give your actor the illusion that background light is reflecting into the foreground, and helps sell the key as being more realistic. This method is used after you’ve pulled the best key you can to sell the composite better. If you are looking for plugins that can do this easily, look to Key Correct Pro from Red Giant. Their light wrap plugin allows you to take your background of choice and seamlessly blend it with your keyed footage. I’ve used this plugin numerous times, and it has done wonders on my keyed footage. However, you may be working at a site that doesn’t want to spend money on a light wrap plugin, so it would good to know the method for generating one within After Effects.

Media production instructor Andrew Smith shows us how to create a light wrap in After Effects using only native tools. His method includes duplicating the keyed footage twice, using the invert and channel blur filters, and precomping along with track mattes. Looking at the result he was able to generate, I believe this is a great method to know when you need to create a light wrap with no third party plugins. A light wrap is just one method in the process of completing a green screen composite. The color of your subject and the background are just as important.

Color Matching to the Background

One of the many things that sells a green screen composite is how the subject is lit and colored in comparison to the foreground. Not taking the step to color your subject to the background will make your composite look amateur. It’s not as hard as it looks. You can go down the third party route, or use the color correction filters to achieve this. If you chose a third party option, I would recommend PHYX’s Composite Matcher or Red Giant’s Composite Wizard plugin Composite Color Matcher. Both plugins are good at easily matching your foreground with your background. If you want to stay native to After Effects, you can follow this tutorial below.

Motion graphics artist Dries Lambrecht shows us how to achieve this using the Levels filter. It involves manipulating the red, green, and blue channels individually by using the Channel drop down menu in After Effects. This is a preferred technique among visual effects and motion graphics artists, as looking at an image across different channels can give you a much better representation of your highlights, midtones, and shadows. Overall, I found this technique handy when you need to do it quickly, while still paying attention to each RGB channel. These are some tips and tricks you can use for when you are keying your footage and need to make it believable and professional. You can use third party plugins and cut some time off from completing your work, or you can master time tested techniques using what’s available in After Effects. At the end of the day, choose the best method for the task at hand.

Sound Effects

Video Editing Time Lapses

A Team NLE

The job of a video editor is a very challenging and intense position that sometimes is overlooked by the audience. It is their job to weave hours of footage into a coherent and comprehensive piece of art that is enjoyed by the masses. Most people wouldn’t understand the work that goes into making a 30 second commercial, 30 minute television show, or two hour movie unless they see a behind the scenes package on a DVD or an online featurette. However, there are some editors who have shared the process from start to finish via time lapses. I will share some video editor time lapses from a wide spectrum of works to showcase the amount of time and effort it takes to complete a project.

Television Editor Time Lapse

TV editor Matt Barber shows us the process of cutting an episode of the NBC series, Chuck. Working on Avid Media Composer, Matt spends the first nine days going through the dailies he received from the set, and picking out takes based on set notes building a selects sequence. From there, he creates a director’s cut of the episode to be shown to the director before it goes out to the producers for approval. After he receives notes from the director’s cut, he begins constructing a producer’s cut which will be reviewed by the studio executives. After he has gone through the director, producer, and network for approval, his episode enters picture lock so it can be sent in for audio, color, and VFX finishing. In a span of almost 30 days, it took Matt that much time to get an episode of Chuck to air. If you think that is intense, nothing is more intense and stress inducing than getting an SNL digital short done.

SNL ‘Beygency’ Time Lapse

Film editor Adam Epstein has to work under the tightest of deadlines to get content on air for Saturday Night Live. In most cases, Adam is usually getting content within an hour of the show airing live on Saturday. In this time lapse, Adam shows us his edit of a SNL short called Beygency, which parodies the Adjustment Bureau and singer Beyonce Knowles. Starting Friday afternoon at 4 PM until Saturday morning at 1:37 AM, Adam uses a full Adobe workflow. This consists of tools such as Premiere Pro, After Effects, Mocha Pro, Illustrator, and Photoshop. He uses these to edit, composite, lay audio, and finish the short. Working with footage coming off RED cameras and more, Adam is able to take this short from start to finish for our viewing pleasure. The first time I saw this, I was in complete awe of what was happening in front of me. It’s like watching someone complete a 48-hour film race right before your eyes. Some projects may not have as tight of deadline as an SNL short, but watching them come together is still a joy to watch.

KIPP Post Production Time-lapse

Post production professional Aaron Williams shows us in this time lapse a project he did for the KIPP Academy in Nashville. Within two minutes, you see Aaron start in Premiere Pro pulling soundbites from various interviews to construct the skeleton of the video. Next, he utilizes the Pancake Timeline technique to pull secondary soundbites, as well as b-roll selects to add flesh to the story. In the midst of the edit, he’s doing music searches, syncing audio, as well as using temp placeholder graphics so he can visualize how the edit will look when finished. From there, he moves into DaVinci Resolve to add a color grade to footage followed by After Effects to create motion graphics and visual effects. Once he gets what he needs from these programs, he brings everything back into Premiere to finish the project. I’ve watched this time lapse numerous times and have picked a few techniques for my own workflow that I have implemented to make my life easier. Aaron’s time lapse is a true demonstration of what it takes to construct a video with the highest professional quality. Now that we’ve seen how much time and effort it takes to edit a project from start to finish, we can begin to appreciate how important the role of an editor is. It takes a lot of time to make a commercial, TV show, or movie look the way it does. It also takes talented and wise professionals to make it look so effortless.

Sound Effects

Trapcode Particular Tutorials


Trapcode Particular, the 3D particle system created by Peder Norrby and sold under the Red Giant banner, is by far one of the most popular After Effects plugins ever created. With the plugin, artists have created incredible effects ranging from light streaks, bokeh patterns, smoke, fire, and much more. The in depth parameters and interaction with After Effects 3D camera easily enhances many compositions across the board. I’m going to share some tutorials I’ve come across that showcase the depth that Particular has to offer.

Recreating the Catching Fire VFX

In this tutorial, motion graphics artist Michael Park shows you how to create a procedural fire effect for your logo, similar to the Hunger Games: Catching Fire title sequence. Michael shows us techniques for using the AutoTrace feature for logos, as well changing After Effects bit color depth from 8 to 32 for a high dynamic range of colors. He also shows us how well Particular and Element 3D from VideoCoPilot work together.

Galaxy Nebula

In this tutorial, author and motion graphics artist VinhSon Nguyen shows you how to create a galaxy nebula using Particular. VinhSon utilizes the After Effects camera, 3D lights, and null objects to guide the particles along with Knoll Light Factory and his Instafilm script to add finishing touches. You can get the result in the beginning of the video using this technique. The After Effect lights and 3D null objects are very instrumental in generating source points and paths for Particular to send particles across the screen.

Creating Water with Trapcode Particular

If you are looking to generate water without using practical effects, then this a tutorial to watch. VFX artist Dino Muhic shows us how to create water around a watermelon using Particular. Manipulating parameters in the Emitter, Particle, and Shading settings, you can generate water particles that can control and animate with other objects. Dino shares some great tips preparing your scene, as well as sculpting the water to look exactly as you want it.

Music to Light Effect

In an effect shown in the NBC series Heroes, one of the characters was able to visualize sound in passing light streams. Renowned motion graphics tutorial author Harry Frank shows us how to create this effect for our videos. Utilizing techniques such as motion tracking, 3D lights, null objects, and Particular, you can have your music turning into light in no time. Harry also shows us other parameters within Particular, such as Opacity over Life and Aux System, which help define the look of the particles. He then shows us finishing techniques to give it a cinematic look.

As you can see from these tutorials, Trapcode Particular is not only a versatile plugin, but an industry standard plugin for many of the motion graphics and visual effects you’ve seen over the past few years. As a user of the plugin myself, it has helped me create many great mograph assets on a variety of projects, and still continues to be a plugin I go to when the situation calls for it. You can try Particular for yourself by downloading a trial, purchasing it as a standalone for $399, or as part of the Trapcode Suite for $899.

Royalty Free Music

Realistic Muzzle Flash Tutorial using After Effects CC


When a gun fires, it emits a brief flash of light called a muzzle flash. Some movies still have the funding to buy and properly use stage weapons, which are essentially real guns firing blanks under the strict supervision of a gun expert. Most, if not all, lower budget films and videos do not have this luxury. Instead, they use a replica airsoft gun that’s built to shoot plastic BBs, and in post production, they will add in the necessary muzzle flash and additional effects. In this tutorial, I will show you how you can create your own realistic muzzle flash using Adobe After Effects CC in three simple steps:

  • Preparing for gun use
  • Adding in the Flash
  • Creating realistic lighting

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It’s important to mention that using a realistic gun while filming anything should be handled with care. Safety first! That means you should not be using a gun, even though it’s fake, in a public space without proper permission. Always film with care and in a closed and controlled area.

If you are in search for an airsoft gun, my recommendation is to do a quick Google search. You will find several results that will fit your needs. For better realism, I recommend an airsoft gun with a ‘blowback’ feature. Blowback is when the gun’s slider moves back when pulling the trigger – simulating when the slider on a gun moves to release a gun’s shell casing.


Once you have recorded your footage of your actor shooting, import and create a new composition in After Effects. Find where the muzzle flash should appear on the timeline.

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On Google, search for MUZZLE FLASH, and grab a picture of one with a black background.


Add the muzzle flash image into your composition, and position it appropriately in front of the gun.

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RIGHT CLICK on your video footage file and change the BLENDING MODE to SCREEN. This will eliminate the black from the muzzle flash image.

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On the timeline, you will want to reduce the length of the muzzle flash down to a single frame. This is due to the fact that when firing a real gun, the muzzle flash only lasts for a fraction of a second.

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Now that your muzzle flash is in place, you will want to create the proper lighting in the scene to match the effect. In other words, when a real gun is fired and a muzzle flash is emitted, there is a range of light from the flash that effects surrounding objects… usually the actors face, chest, and part of their arms, depending on how the gun was held, etc. To capture this light on your actor, you will want to duplicate the footage by selecting the video footage on the timeline and hitting CMD+D.

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Once your footage is duplicated, you will RIGHT CLICK on the duplicated footage and change the BLENDING MODE to ADD.

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Using the PEN TOOL from your toolbar at the top, you will draw a series of rough masks around the areas the light will affect.

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At this point, we need to soften the edges of the mask. To do so, you will need to select the duplicated footage layer in the timeline and hit M+M (m twice) on the keyboard to bring up the masking controls. Increase the MASK FEATHER appropriately until desired softness is achieved.

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Timing wise, the lighting comes on and quickly fades off. On the timeline, go to the frame just before the muzzle flash appears and set a KEYFRAME for OPACITY at 0 percent. Then, proceed to the frame with the muzzle flash and set another keyframe for the opacity at 100 percent. Finally, move two frames down the timeline and set one last keyframe for opacity at 0 percent.

There you have it! A realistic muzzle flash.