After Effects Glitch Tutorial

NOTE: This article uses links to footage containing strobing lights so if you are sensitive to seizures it might be best to skip this tutorial.

So glitches are pretty popular right now, and you can find templates online if you can get past all the awful techno beats going on in the background and plug in your own logos and stuff. But where's the learning in that? Let's break it down and create our own glitch effect right here in After Effects!

First, we'll need a glitchy video to work off of. I like this one here, and we can download it using sites like or I'm probably legally obligated to say you should only use those sites when the uploader and copyright holder allows for downloaded personal and commercial use, like we have here with that glitch stock footage.

Now that we have our base glitch footage, we need another piece of footage to apply that glitch to. You can use whatever you'd like here, because we're going to be taking the glitch from our reference video and applying it to our own footage or logo. So pop open After Effects.

What we are going to do, is apply an effect so that we have our logo or footage respond to the glitch footage and mimic what it's doing. So drag your footage, both the one to become glitchy and our free screen glitch clip into After Effects in your Project window.

So first we'll make a new composition out of the footage we want to make glitchy, so drag that down to the New Composition button or choose the composition drop down and select New Composition.

Now let's add our Screen Glitch movie, drag him down into your timeline below the footage you want to be glitchy. Since we're not actually going to ever want to see this footage, you can turn it off as well by clicking the eye button to the left of it's name in your timeline.

Now we have a choice here, and it will depend on how you want your glitch to animate.

If we want the whole scene to glitch out, we can add an adjustment layer to our project. If we're try to glitch just a logo or a piece of artwork though, you'll want to add this next effect just to whatever you'd like to have glitch.

Either way all the steps from here on out will be the same, it just depends if you want to add it to an adjustment layer to have it affect everything or apply it directly to your footage or artwork to only have it affect somethings. The choice is yours, but for my example I'll be using an adjustment layer to glitch out my whole video.

Now the effect we're going to want to add is called Displacement Map. You can find it in the Effect drop down menu under Distort or you can search for it in the Effects & Presets window if you happen to have that open. That's how I like to find my effects. Add Displacement Map to your new adjustment layer or to whatever layers you want to have glitch in your project.

What the Displacement Map does is look at a piece of footage and use values from that footage to calculate and displace (duh) other footage in After Effects.

Once we've added it, we need to tell it how to behave. In the Effect Controls window you'll see all the controls for Displacement Map.

The first control is called Displacement Map Layer, and that is telling the displacement map which layer to look at when it's trying to compute it's displacement. So click that drop down menu and change it to be the Screen Glitch video layer we have in our timeline.

When we do that we should see the video already tweaks and becomes a tiny bit glitchy. That's because the displacement map is now displacing it based on the glitch layer, rather than based on it's own layer which it was set to by default. Now let's see how to control it to get the look we want.

Every other control controls the amount of displacement for our glitch. The drop down menus for Use For Horizontal Displacement and Use for Vertical Displacement control what the displacement map looks at on our glitch video to apply to our normal video.

The Max Horizontal and Vertical Displacement are how much it offsets the glitch. The higher the numbers here the more dramatic the glitching will be. Here is also where you animate your glitch if you want it to come in and out of your video.

Just hit those stop watches to turn on the keyframes, and you can animate between different values to cause your video to glitch out more or less. You can use interpolation to really do some cool transitions in and out of your glitch effect here. If you aren't happy with the glitch in a certain area also, all you need to do is slide around your glitch stock footage to find a section that you do like, it's super easy.

Now lots of glitch videos also have some RGB offsets. So let's add that to our glitch as well. Under Effects > Perspective you'll find 3D glasses, add those to your adjustment layer or whatever layers you'd like it to be applied to.

You'll notice our video has disappeared now. Fear not fried. You see in the Effects Controls window there is Left View and Right View both with drop down menus that say None next to them. Click those menus and select our video we're applying all this cool glitch work to.

Now you'll see that there are just two smaller videos next to each other, not really what we were going for here. Under 3D View, again in the Effect Controls window for 3D Glasses, you'll want to choose Balanced Colored Red Blue. This will allow us to simulate the old school 3D glasses effect of a blue tint and a red tint off center from our image.

To animate these, we can use the Scene Convergence to animate their horizontal displacement, and the Vertical Alignment to animate their vertical displacement.

Now you can go in and fuss with this stuff as much as your heart wishes. Personally, I like to have more glitch and less of the 3D glasses effect, but that's up to you. Go crazy! Just don't go too crazy on those thumpin' techno beats please.