After Effects 2D tracking basics

Published by | Wednesday, March 21st, 2012

The tracking tools in After Effects allow you to select a spot in a video clip, lock onto it, and then use that movement for effects and compositing. This week on Design in Motion, we’re going to take a look at 2D tracking, a tool that gives you position information for elements moving on X and Y—or left right (X), up down (Y).

Tracking this kind of movement in clips is often the first step in the effects process, and the information it generates can be used to place elements into the footage to match camera movement. 2D tracking information could also be used to drive a particle effect that adds “magic” to the end of a magic wand. Today we are going to specifically work on selecting a spot in a video clip, inserting a piece of type into a piece of video footage, and having the inserted type stick to the motion of the spot we selected to track.

When you’re ready to do a 2D track you need to ask a few questions: What do I want to accomplish with the track? Is the object or spot I’m trying to track moving or is it moving and rotating? Another important question is whether or not your feature is moving in Z space as well. If your feature is moving in Z space, then you’re going to need a different type of tracking and tracking tool that we’ll dive into in a future edition of Design in Motion.

2D tracking is an important part of many visual effects and compositing workflows. If you’re interested in learning more about the tracking tools in After Effects, watch After Effects Apprentice 12: Tracking and Keying, from Chris and Trish Meyer. If you’re specifically interested in learning more about how to stabilize jerky handheld video footage, check out After Effects CS5.5 New Creative Techniques, also from Chris and Trish Meyer, to learn more about a great new tool called the Warp Stabilizer. Chris and Trish Meyer will help you become a tracking master!


Design in Motion is a weekly series of creative techniques featuring short projects using After Effects and CINEMA 4D. Taught by motion graphics expert Rob Garrott, the course covers how color correction, expressions, rendering type, lighting, and animation are used in each program, and the topics are updated weekly. Using these tips and tricks, motion graphics designers will find designing to be a more efficient process. Exercise files are included with the course.


Interested in more?
• The complete Design in Motion weekly series on
• All video courses on
• All courses on After Effects
• Courses by Rob Garrott on

Suggested courses to watch next:
After Effects Apprentice 12: Tracking and Keying
After Effects CS5.5 New Features

After Effects CS5 Essential Training
CINEMA 4D: Rendering Motion Graphics for After Effects

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