For all those who have tried their hands at motion graphics, animation, designing, or video editing, After Effects is one of the video editing software they will certainly vouch for. With many features, effects, and plugins, this software has made our work effortless. 

One such amazing feature is Camera Tracking! We can use this amazing feature for any video footage or animated object to give tracking effects to any object amidst the motion of background objects. 

Believe me; camera tracking is fun! With camera tracking, you can easily place any object into your video clip as if it were when the footage was shot. It may seem overwhelming; however, Camera Tracking in After Effects is nothing less than a walk in the garden!

So, let's quickly understand Camera Tracking and how to make the best of it to handle it for our graphics designing purposes.

What is camera tracking?

Camera Tracking is a method that involves taking a post that has already been filmed with a live camera and tracking its motion so that 3D elements can be added to it. This process is often used in videos, movies, and TV shows to add special effects, feature computer graphics, robots, you name it.

Regarding post-production or video editing, camera tracking is recreating the camera path the actual real-life camera takes.

For instance, you have shot a 20-second video of your garden and now want to add an object. And, of course, you have to make it look real.

Now, importing a 3D model and placing it on top of the footage won't exactly look real or good, for that matter. Why? Well, the ground in your video would be moving, and you will have to animate the 3D model frame by frame to follow (unless you were holding the camera still).

However, with the After Effects camera tracking feature, you can achieve all this in a much easier and less tiring way! How? Let's find out!

What is camera tracking used for?

Now that you have the basic idea of camera tracking, the next question is: What will you use it for? Let's first glance at some excellent ways to utilize camera tracking. For instance, you can:

  • Stabilize motion
  • Add text, solids, or other elements to a composition
  • Embed 3D objects into 2D footage
  • Apply effects or colour grading 
  • Replace TV, Computer, or mobile device screens

These are just a couple of things camera tracking can help you with. Besides, camera tracking can prove beneficial in a plethora of cases, whether you need to draft text to an object within your footage, your client needs you to replace a computer screen with some text information, or perhaps you need to add a 3D animated Logo to a 2D space. 

From pretty basic to intricate compositions, camera tracking will be handy.

Getting started with Camera Tracking

Now, let's move on to the best way to use the 3D Camera Tracker to track footage and then integrate a text layer into that footage. 

Step 1: Select the tracker

  • Firstly, drop your footage in After Effects. 
  • Once your footage has been uploaded to your timeline and you're ready to start tracking, click on the Window menu. 
  • Then, scroll down and click the Tracker option.
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There are primarily four tracking options that you will find in the Tracker option under the After Effects Window menu:

  • Track Camera
  • Warp Stabilizer
  • Track Motion
  • Stabilize Motion
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  • Click on the Track Camera, and the 3D Camera Tracker effects will get added to your selected layer, and After Effects begin analyzing this layer. It counts the total number of frames, and the percentage of clips tracked.

click on the track camera Note that the tiny dots that will appear over your footage are strictly referential and can not be rendered out.

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Step 2: Select tracking point

  • Once your footage has been analyzed, you'll have to establish the tracking points and the plane to which they must be tracked.
  • Firstly, hover your mouse over the tracking point references in the composition window.
  • When you see a triangular shape, select three tracking points, and a red ‘target' will appear to help you visualize the plane better.
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  • Find tracking points that keep the red target parallel to the plane you're tracking.
  • To set the plane, left-click the triangle that lines up best for your surface. 
  • Once you move your arrow around the video, the picker will get disabled; therefore, the red ‘target' will stop moving.

Step 3: Add text 

  • Once your plane is defined, you will add text to your footage.
  • After that, right-click on your selected triangle, and a window will open with multiple options for creating new layers.
  • To place text on your tracked footage, click the Create Text option.
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  • After Effects use the tracking data to place a new text layer (or solid layer, null layer) in the scene, but you'll still have to align it.

Step 4: Align text on tracked footage

  • To align your text layer to your tracked footage, find the tracked text layer within the timeline and click on the arrow to the left. This will show all of the editable properties for the layer. 
  • After that, click Transform to reveal all the transform options.
  • After completing this process, you can adjust the X, Y, and Scale values until the layer lines up.
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To fast your workflow, select your layer and press:

  • S for scale
  • P for position
  • R for rotation
  • T for Opacity
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Watch this video to understand the camera tracking process, better!

All set to excel in camera tracking process?

There you go, folks! Now, you can use all this newly gained knowledge to begin tracking like a pro! After Effects has all the tracking solutions available for you! 

Camera Tracking is a fundamental technique to learn as a motion graphic artist or visual effects artist. And believe me, you'll end up using this excellent approach much more than you can imagine, and for multiple reasons. 

So, what are you waiting for? Get out there and conquer tracking!

And for any questions, feel free to reach out to us!

Editor: Richa Sharma

Frequently Asked Questions

Tracking a camera in After Effects involves using the built-in camera tracker tool. First, import your footage, select the layer you want to track, and then choose “Track Camera” from the Animation menu. After Effects will analyze your video and create tracking points that you can use to add 3D elements or match your composition to the camera movement.

Camera tracking, also known as 3D motion tracking or match moving, is a technique used in visual effects and animation. It involves analyzing video footage to determine the movement and position of a camera in 3D space. This information is then used to composite 3D objects, animations, or other elements into the live-action footage, creating a realistic blend between the virtual and real worlds.

Camera tracking in After Effects focuses on tracking the movement and position of the camera within a 3D environment. It's used to integrate 3D elements seamlessly into live-action footage. Motion tracking, on the other hand, tracks the movement of specific objects or points within a 2D or 3D space. While both techniques involve tracking, motion tracking is typically used for adding effects or animations to specific objects in a scene.

  1. In animation, camera tracking refers to replicating real-world camera movements and perspectives within a virtual 3D environment. This technique is often used to create a more immersive and cinematic experience in computer-generated animations. It involves mimicking the movements of a physical camera to give viewers a sense of depth and realism in the animated world.