'CRT TV' Effect

Further Learning After Effects

I undertook this small project to better learn the creation elements of After Effects, and what it can do beyond simple effects or added plug-ins.

This edit is taking some stock footage I filmed on a large hill, and making it look like it is playing back on an old 80s/90s CRT TV. While a similar look can be achieved with certain effects, for the purpose of this learning exercise, and for greater authenticity, I created the ‘screen’ look from scratch.

I began by drawing three identical shapes in one After Effects composition. These three shapes will become my colour pixels – Red, Blue and Green.

My starting three pixels, which will become my colour channels


These three colour pixels are then to be expanded out thousands of times so that they can display the entire screen’s worth of footage. To do this effectively, the original  composition is pre-composed before being duplicated many hundreds of times. The pre-composition can still be opened, in its own separate composition, and  any change made to it will also effect the original composition, but on its much larger scale.

This was a good introduction to using pre-compositions. an important part of After Effects when doing a large amount of post-production.

Pixels expanded out into the thousands

Completing the Pixel Screen effect

The video is then imported behind the pixels, but the effect is not just to have these thousands of pixels as an overlay. I want to actually use these pixels to display the three colour channels, Red, Green and Blue.

This can be achieved by going back to the original three pixels, covering two and leaving just one showing. Due to my pre-composition, this ‘covering’ will effect all of the duplicated pixels in my main composition. Back on the footage, I split the three colour channels and reduced the Green and Blue to 0 leaving only the red channel displaying colour. This first pixel then becomes my red pixel. Return and repeat for Blue and then Green. 

Now I have my three colour channels successfully separated into my three large old-tv style pixels. The footage looks authentic as the colour is now actually only displayed through these pixels. This can clearly be seen when I zoom into the footage.


The red channel, displayed through only a third of the total pixels
Red, Blue and Green together
Zoomed in to clearly show the pixelated, CRT style

Finishing Touches

Now I have the desired ‘old screen’ look, I modified the colour to better match the colour an old TV would display, I added a lens effect to make the screen look 3D, and photoshopped an image of an old CRT TV to act as a border for the screen.