Nice Rack Focus Experiment

[vcblogshowstreaming3 real_rack.flv real_rack.jpg]

In a recent tutorial Animating a Still, we used tracking data from a real hand-held camera to give our still image a natural look, as opposed to using a mathematical expression like the wiggle. This gave our footage a natural organic look that would be difficult to achieve with expressions.

Then I thought I would try a similar experiment utilizing a real optical rack focus.

So I filmed a dark square while performing a real rack focus to see if I could extract the information inside of after effects to use with a 3D camera.

And since I’m actually posting this, you can assume it worked, unlike my perpetual motion machine that you will never hear about again.

Watch Tutorial Experiment

Download Footage

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7 years ago
Nice rack focus experiment ... ha ha, good choice of title Andy !
7 years ago
Very Professio-null :) Keep going !
7 years ago
I don't know why this experiment is so cool to me. I've had a glass of wine at the end of my workday, so that might explain it. That said, I'm really impressed by how you came up with a method to get mathematical values from the rack focus. Awesome, as usual.
7 years ago
Hey Andrew. Insane ideas. Love the way you open doors to thinking in organic motion. Seems so obvious once you 'fix the blur' on the co-relations between perception and reality. Quite genius.
Ivan P
7 years ago
Hey Andrew, nice rack...focus.
7 years ago
Big Big Andrew... Coooool Experiment!
L'ho testato sul Focus Distance con una bella expression!
very very good!
Grazie dei tuoi preziosi consigli!
Steve Green
7 years ago
Nice work Andrew,

On a kind of related topic,
Seeing that the new iphone has a gyroscope, I wondered whether the tracking data from that would be any use to solve a camera match move...

There is an app for recording data from the accelerometer, but obviously that's not particularly accurate...
7 years ago
Man...Even your useless experiments are surprisingly creative.

Bravo!! All respects to A.K.
7 years ago
It´s completely amazing how you´ve guess the way to "track" the focus. I just want to say you are a genius!! ;)
Bradley Bell
7 years ago
Nic work as always :) just enough time to watch before school.
Thankyou, Andrew.
7 years ago
Hi .. as always nice..

But I am kinda pissed no one is replying to my support request emails...

7 years ago

Hey, not sure if this is the sort of thing you're after, but I figured I'd give it a go anyway...

Check it out. If that's what you're after then head over to my site where you can find my e-mail address.
7 years ago
RAHUL, I think this tutorial can help you, Andrew makes realistics building with some planes in After effects and not too hard to do :

good luck
7 years ago
how to make Camera Projection with cc particle world
how to pause cc particle world effect 5,6 second
7 years ago
This was very interesting.
Along with the shaky motion this really creates a realistic feel.

Well done.
7 years ago
Can you tell us how to remove a shadow between the rack ?
I encounter these shadows between an C and D rack.
7 years ago
I really wish that you or anyone replies to this.

I have to design my school building collapsing for my institutes video-competition but my brain is just not processing in that direction. Please give me some suggestions. I don't want it to be hardcore 3D - like modeling the building and then shattering it... it would be to painful to do that way.

please, help me!!!
Kyle Hatch
7 years ago
That wall... was certainly not white my friend. haha.
7 years ago
Andrew you are awesome!
7 years ago
I was really hoping for some sort of Boob reference!
7 years ago
Andrew, God Bless You! We love you Man!
7 years ago
Great stuff. It'd be interesting to see how this approach compares with using a drawing tablet with Motion Sketch, to cull the data from natural movement.
7 years ago
Solution très ingénieuse et intelligente! Comme d'habitude avec Andrew !
7 years ago
That was actually a very clever useless experiment. The end product looks beautiful. This seems more ground breaking the more I think about it. As well as the elephants
7 years ago
just got dissapointed :D
7 years ago
Very cool done Andrew!

check this out, it's a school project what I made with some friends.
7 years ago
Deja Vu = Glitch in the matrix = the agents are close...............RUUUUUUUUUNNNNNNNN!!!!!
7 years ago
Lol :D i just love your videos. great job
7 years ago
Pretty cool, technique. I will test this idea with the flickering light, sound amewsome! :D
7 years ago
Hi there! I uploaded that Simpsons video to youtube ;]
Since you posted it here many people watch it and comment it. That was nice suprise, because suddenly thousands of people started to watch this video and many posted your name on it :D
Maybe Im gonna start learning Adobe After Effects this summer...
PS: Simpsons rock!
Greetings from Poland.
7 years ago
Nice thinking man, looking at these tutorials I imagine that you spend 24 hours a day, working on AfterEffects. :DD
Rough Cut
7 years ago
That is absolutely incredible. So many possibilities.
Marçal Solé
7 years ago
I don't believe in God. I believe in Andrew Kramer.
7 years ago
Nice experiment Andrew!

I was browsing through videos of YouTube and I found this video:
(a greek song's videoclip)

It seems that the used one of these techniques to give the video an organic look.
How did they create this artistic-organic look?
Maybe they used another technique of getting info out of real world footage and compositing them into a moving photo or video...
7 years ago
Genius! This seems like you might have been an elephant in the 60's to come up with that, but useful as heck actually!

7 years ago
Outstanding information as usual. Thx from Oregon
7 years ago
always klever, always Kramer.
7 years ago
andrew you are mad! how did you get there!? it's madness!
7 years ago
Excellent!!.this kind of stuff deserves a new preset or plug-in " VC real-camera data" Ill will pay for that for sure.
7 years ago
Sounds like a new video copilot dvd - "real camera movement keyframes" :)
7 years ago
Please do more Experiments :)
7 years ago
@Andrew Kramer - You mentioned a flickering light as a source for extracting data. A similar technique was used in Lord of the Rings. They used fire and flames data and blended on scenes to simulate a windy chaotic world, when frodo put on the ring.
7 years ago
Something that you can do in 3dsmax to get more of a 'hand animated' or motion capture feel and would be nice to somehow incorporate into ae is the ability to keyframe & record live keyboard, mouse and/or joystick controls and then use that live recording in your animation.

There are tutorials out there on animating characters in 3dsmax with joysticks, more like puppeteering. Anyway I think this might help make your process go faster.

I think it would be fun to use a wii remote's acceleromater data to control a 3d camera in ae and then be able to record your motion live.
7 years ago
Very nice experiment, hopefully i can find something to use it on.
Göran Thorén
7 years ago
Ok, I have stopped being supprised by your magic and creativity. You're a tru wizzard Kramer!

This little experiment is going to come in handy.
Eric Cavazos
7 years ago
I would like to see a real life flicker of a light bulb or element to a flare. Maybe sun flicker applied to a imitation flare from Optical Flares. Of course if the sun flickered we would all be dead, but I am sure you know what I mean.
Zackery Zounes
7 years ago
DUDE!!! You are a freaking GENIUS!!! I would never have thought of that on my own. How in the world did you do that?
7 years ago
Very niiiice! and nice title too!
7 years ago
Now do we to start calling you "Professor Andrew Kramer"
or Just The Mad Professor?

Very Cool Experiment :)
7 years ago
Very cool idea! Thanks for sharing!
7 years ago
Nice experiment, realy nice idea!
It can use almost anything for organic way of look in
animation of camera, light...
realy nice!
7 years ago
Dude, that's seriously clever. At first I was like "I have no idea how to do that", and the method you were using completely blew my mind.
You should be an engineer or something, that was pure genius.

Keep it up, cheers!
copilot user
7 years ago
Andrew, really thanks! You are an amazing man who inspired me to work with movies especially with fx. Very thanks!
7 years ago
I wonder if these would work with a circle instead of a square? I think it's a lot easier to write a good story about a circle, than of a square...
7 years ago
The title made me think something completely different...

I had the same idea awhile back, but didn't get anywhere because I was still fairly basic in AE and didnt know very much about it. Couldn't you write a plugin with this method (on simple shots, of course) to remove DOF?

Anyways, thanks for making this concept a reality. Now I want to know how you figured this out, since you said it was embarrassing. :)
7 years ago
Pure genius - well done Andrew.
7 years ago
I think maybe you should be piloting rocket ships or something. VERY clever.. I can see the possibilities of this already. Very clever indeed.
7 years ago
Wow I'm inspired! Gonna see what other in-camera things I can take to my digital canvas.

... lol how do you come up with this stuff?
Bob K
7 years ago
The potential in this for management of the built-in camera is enormous!
Thanks for helping us to better understand the science!
7 years ago
I missed the "I am Andrew Kramer and we will see you next time." part at the end.. :P
7 years ago
Yeah! that is one more step into realistic CG, thank you, this video gives a birth to different and innovative ideas.
7 years ago
Nice... Yet again you open the door to new possibilities for us! Keep it up!
7 years ago
"" - Extract defocus? This is madness!

Cool idea! thx for tut

7 years ago
7 years ago
lol, really cool experiment
7 years ago
When You told about light flickering, first I thought about was Optical flares. I don't have Optical flares so i can't make an experiment, sadly :(
7 years ago
it's important to stay or even better PLAY with focus!

But i have to say this technique seems to be very complicated, maybe for really specific project it will be usefull.
7 years ago
Blows my mind...
7 years ago
Cool men! keep on coming
7 years ago
Stay off drugs?? What fun would that be? You said to enjoy the rest of my week..
Some Guy
7 years ago
This was a very interesting experiment, thank you!
I wonder why you didn't make it a tutorial (or a Short Cuts episode), so it will show up on the tutorial page and people can find it later, without searching the blog.
Gene Ween
7 years ago
creating natural Blur from Tracking data??... it's insane. It's math. It's beautiful. Well done Sir, Well done
7 years ago
"ill press edit... duplicate!"
7 years ago
Hey Andrew, thanks for this tut, I really like this technique of extracting data from actual footage. If you're looking for a realistic looking effect, what better source than the actual footage right? You mentioned at the end you could do this with a flickering light, which I might try out myself, but I've used this expression for a few years for flickering effects and it works really well. Just copy and paste this into almost any property, opacity works well, and you get a pretty awesome effect. If you use this on position properties you can get a very weird effect too. Might give you a seizure, but what won't these days?

// HIGHER values for probability make a random opacity LESS likely.
// A value of 1 will always create a random opacity, a value of 2 will
// create a random opacity 50% of the time, value of 4 will be 25%, etc.
probability = 6;
// "opacity_normal" is the value set for opacity when the a random
// opacity is NOT chosen.
opacity_normal = 100;
x = random(probability);
if (x <= 1) {opacity = random(100);} else {opacity = opacity_normal;}
7 years ago
Yo Andrew! This guy on youtube, you've probably seen him but he has taken a lot of these techniques and used them in his vids! Check them out.
7 years ago
I mean real zoom in zoom out and real wiggle :)
7 years ago
hey Andrew that was smarter than the wiggle part in the previous tutorial for real, but can we do that for a zoom in zoom out with a wiggle? ive been always wanted that man thnx
7 years ago
Hi Andrew,

This is absolutely brilliant. I commend you for your ability to think outside the box and devise a way to extract numerical data from an image.

I was bummed when you mentioned using real camera shake data in your earlier tutorial. I had devised the same method a few years ago as a solution to an effects shot I was working on and was so very proud of myself. You've stolen my mind!

Anyway, I, like everyone here, am so grateful for your tutorials and fantastic products. You're an invaluable resource to any AE artist. Thank you for what you do.

7 years ago
You are a genius Andrew!
7 years ago
Wow, that's actually pretty interesting that you can convert a rack focus to numerical data in AE. I wonder if that's possible for the iris somehow as well?

I know professionally you're not supposed to change the iris whilst filming, but it'd be a cool organic intro to a title graphic if mixed with this rack focus technique.

Cool stuff AK.
Ben Wotton
7 years ago
Man that's genius! I seriously want to know how this experiment started! :)
7 years ago
Nice. Great little thing to know how to do...may seem pointless but I bet this technique will be handing for SOMETHING.
7 years ago
Haha I got kinda excited two words in, but hey, still cool!
7 years ago
What would be cool is a way to save the data in some form so you simply have to apply as a preset or plugin, called Organicam. Some of the presets could be called, Frantic, Drunk, Shaken not Stirred...etc.
7 years ago
Very nice experiment! Thanks Andrew!
7 years ago
Hey Andrew I like your ideas I actually just made a video with fake camera movement but I used your aftershake plugin and just set the slide to 1 check it out
7 years ago
Just finished doing something similar: strapped a vibrator to my camera shot a test grid and used that to control the blur on some landscape footage shot from the top of a hill, to make it look like it was shot from a helicopter without a stabilizer.
Wish I had seen this first, it would have saved me hours of mussing around to get the expressions running right!
7 years ago

Such a brilliant idea! Never even crossed my mind that this was possible! Thanks for the awesome tip!
Domingo Santay
7 years ago
Gracias por toda la informacion Here una buena persona
7 years ago
Very helpful I would say...Maybe not the most interesting like you said Andrew.
7 years ago
Thanks for the tutorial. You sir are a genious! Chicago loves you, you should come visit us!
7 years ago
Once i saw the test video before the tutorial i kinda already knew what you andrew was going to do. It's pretty smart and has made me think of a few ideas of my own
7 years ago
Lol the title made me do a double take when it popped up in the RSS feed. :)
7 years ago
Buku cleaver!!!
Thinking like and artist and technoid at the same time.

Speaking of technoid, here's a real perpetual motion machine. At least in the context of the earth. As long as the earth turns, it will rotate. If you take it to OZ, it will rotate the 'wrong' way.

...and rack focus is how I met my wife.
7 years ago
I might have done it like this:

tint - black and white
levels - crush blacks and whites
threshold - turn anything non-white into black
Invert - that
Expression: sampleImage()
7 years ago
Nice and subtile..would be definitely useful...nice jokes parts as always..thanks Andrew!
7 years ago
Or just watch maltaannon's tutorial posted above by 10 PolarBears which does exactly what I described :)
7 years ago
Tracking rack focus is a cool idea. I would suggest an alternative method that may be even faster and simpler: instead of converting the grayscale "focus value" to a position using a tracker, use the layer method sampleImage() to directly read the color value of some appropriate area. You can use a point control to position the sampling center. And you may be even able to track focus on production footage by converting it to grayscale and positioning the point control near some reference contrast point.

You can check out and for clear and detailed explanations, and even on your own forum :) for some ideas.

It may even be cool to implement it as a "Focus Sampler" preset. Just drop it on some footage, position the point control near a contrasted area, adjust some threshold and you're done! Target a camera depth of fiend or some blur filter.

Thanks and keep up the great work Andrew!
7 years ago
lol at first i only saw nice rack and instantly clicked the link
7 years ago
I see the potential for a new plug in!

Organic hand-held cam instead of wiggle. Organic rack focus. Organic ISO. Organic Exposure. Organic zoom. Organic camera roll. Organic shutter speed. Organic WB.

7 years ago
Its good to know your're a simpsons fan. an the rack focus is cool too. :D
7 years ago
Stay Off Drugs!! .. Andrew thats key my friend...KEY!(frame)
7 years ago
Gerge Ftw
7 years ago
Hey andwer ive watched ur tutorials for some time know and i noticed that when ur using after effects u never experience any lag so can u tell me how u do that because i use after effects and every few minutes it either freezes and/or crashes for me
7 years ago
The title got me interested in something else, but very interesting experiment;however, I would like to see Elephants on acid, or possibly After Effects on acid.
7 years ago
So Pretty Smart!!!!!!!!!!!! grettings from VENEZUELA
Diego G
7 years ago
How come the tutorial isn't in the tutorials part?
7 years ago
ha ha I'm doing some of this stuff right now. Normally the way these things work is, I try hard to figure it out, finish a project, and 2 weeks later AK comes out with something. Can't wait to read it when I get out of the office.
7 years ago
i told you Andrew , i love you , hahaha you're my brother, keep going, i have learnt alot from your tutorials. hugs from Cambodia.
7 years ago
Hey Andrew,

While you are being very experimental how about checking this out and see what you think.

A fellow mad AE scientist.
Jack Howard
7 years ago
All I saw was "Nice Rack" and I clicked! How disappointed I was...
7 years ago
I like focusing on nice racks. :)
7 years ago
True Super Geek
7 years ago
Hey man They should start payin for the tutorials cuz i know its alot of time and hardwork that puts in 2 these stuff and alot of ppl just get wants and demands of wot ur tutorials should b some of 'em just don't appreciate even ifs its cheap and couple cents let dem pay u got a family u gatta maintain man i'm sure all of us can afford man ANDREW UR STUFF R GR8 THANKS BRO 4 EVERYTHIN U'VE HELP ALOT OF US IN WAYS U CAN'T EVEN IMAGINE U JUST DON'T KNOW U ROCK!!!! DUDE
7 years ago
that was cool
thanks andrew!
check this out:
me and my friends made it
7 years ago
really nice, your so helpful
7 years ago
Ah, very nice, very organic, natural feel! Couldn't think how you were going to apply tracked motion to a blur, very nicely done.

I was wondering the other day if there was a way to use the lens objects from OF as a lens blur bokeh object, instead of just a polygon.
7 years ago
It actually never crossed my mind that you could capture the rack focus..... Makes me wonder what else someone could bring into after effects from real camera elements.
7 years ago
Thanks for this Andrew! Will be using this very often!
7 years ago
Very nice job Andrew!
7 years ago
Really superb.... you ROCKS.... but we need somewhhat advacned tutorials, please
7 years ago
I love to experiment with this type of stuff.
Thanks bro
7 years ago
lol, the title threw me off a bit. but nice info and vid man!