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How to use Camera Tracker in After Effects

By Jacob Richardson and Ryan Plummer
After Effects

After Effects Tutorial: Tracking Video Footage and Then Placing and Aligning Text

We've shared popular how-to guides on tracking and replacing screens as well as creatively animating text in After Effects. Today, with the help of Birmingham-based motion designer, director and SOM alum Jacob Richardson, we'll show you how to use the 3D Camera Tracker to track footage and then integrate a text layer into that footage.
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For those looking to expand their After Effects video editing and VFX skill set, this latest Quick Tip Tutorial will surely serve as a helpful resource.

How to use the Camera Tracker: Quick Tip Tutorial Video

How to use the Camera Tracker: Quick Tip Tutorial Project Files

To follow along, download the project files used in Jacob's tutorial video.

Project Files: How to use the Camera Tracker

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How to use the Camera Tracker: Explained

Once your footage is uploaded to your timeline, and you're ready to start tracking, navigate to the top of After Effects and click the Window menu. Then, scroll down, and click Tracker.
Where is the tracker window in After Effects.gif

Tracking Footage in After Effects

What does the Tracker Window in After Effects look like.png
There are four tracking options that available in the tracker window that appears when you click Tracker in the After Effects Window menu:
  • Track Camera
  • Warp Stabilizer
  • Track Motion
  • Stabilize Motion
Once you click Track Camera, the 3D Camera Tracker effects will be added to your previously selected layer, and After Effects will begin analyzing this layer, counting the percentage of the clip tracked and total number of tracked frames.
Track Camera effect in After Effects.gif
Please note: little dots will appear across your footage; these are strictly referential and will not be rendered out.
What do tracking points look like in After Effects.png
For a visual guide, check the Render Track Points box in the 3D Camera Tracker effects menu.

Setting a Tracked Floor Plane in After Effects

Once your footage is analyzed, you'll need to establish: the tracking points; and the plane to which they should be tracked.
To begin, hover your mouse over the tracking point references in the composition window. A triangle will form between the three tracking points you're referencing, and a red 'target' will appear to help you visualize the plane.
How to match a tracking plane with After Effects Tracker.gif
The goal is to find tracking points that lay the red target parallel to the plane to which you're tracking.
To set the plane, left-click the triangle that lines up best for your surface. Once you move your arrow away, the picker should disable and the red 'target' will stop moving.

Adding Text to Tracked Footage in After Effects

Once your plane is defined, you can add text to your footage.
Hover over the recently set triangle and right-click the mouse. A window will appear with several options for creating new layers
To place text on your tracked footage, click Create Text.
Right click options for a tracked shot target.png
After Effects will use the tracking data to place a new text layer in the scene, but you'll still need to align it.

Aligning Text on Tracked Footage in After Effects

To align your text layer to your tracked footage, find the tracked text layer in the timeline and click the arrow to the left. This will reveal all of the editable properties for the layer. Next click Transform to reveal the all the transform options.
Now you can adjust the X, Y and Scale values until the layer lines up.
How to reposition text with a 3D Tracked camera in After Effects.gif
To expedite your workflow, select your layer and press:
  • S for scale
  • P for position
  • R for rotation
If you want to use more than one transform property, select your first one and then press and hold shift when selecting any additional properties.
How to open up multiple specific properties for an after effects layer.gif

Working Professionally in After Effects

Looking to get your foot in the door as a motion designer?
Our mission is to break the down barriers standing in your way, and equip you for the work ahead.
We reached out to the top motion design studios across the country and asked their leaders what it takes to get hired. Then we compiled the answers into a free ebook.

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Standing Out Among Your Peers

No matter what role you're hoping to fill, you can enhance your value as a candidate by investing in yourself through continuing education.
While we (and others) do offer a ton of free content (e.g., tutorials like this), to truly take advantage of everything SOM has to offer, you'll want to enroll in one of our courses, taught by the top motion designers in the world. 
We know this isn't a decision to be made lightly. Our classes aren't easy, and they're not free. They're interactive and intensive, and that's why they're effective. 
In fact, 99% of our alumni recommend School of Motion as a great way to learn motion design. (Makes sense: many of them go on to work for the biggest brands and best studios on earth!)
Want to make moves in the motion design industry? Pick the course that's right for you — and you'll gain access to our private student groups; receive personalized, comprehensive critiques from professional artists; and grow faster than you ever thought possible.