In this After Effects tutorial, learn how to create eye effects inspired by Blade Runner and Blade Runner 2049. Follow along with free project files!

In this tutorial, we are going to track and composite eye elements onto footage in Adobe After Effects. You will also learn some basic compositing and workflow tips that will help improve the composites, and we’ll even experiment with adding in HUD elements tracked to the eyes.

Let’s get started! Download the free project file below.

Download the Free AE Project File

Click on the button below to download the free Blade Runner After Effects project with free HUD elements from our Interface pack.

Download Blade Runner Project File

Tracking the Eyes

Achieving a quality track on the eyes of your subject is the key to making the effect composite look convincing. Some tips for getting the best track possible include filming in a well-lit area, filming in 4K, and preventing any bright reflections from landing in the center of the pupil. (Too many bright reflections can throw off the automatic tracking.)

Next, open the Tracker panel and select the Track Motion option. With the playhead at the beginning of your footage, position the tracker over the eye you want to track. Ensure that the smaller target area is over the pupil and that the larger one covers entire iris. Click the play button on the Tracker panel to start the automatic tracking. After the track completes, set the Target to a null object and select Apply in the Tracker panel.

Create Blade Runner-Inspired Eyes in After Effects — Track Motion

Parenting Eye Elements to the Track

After the eyes are tracked individually, with the movement connected to null objects, it is really easy to connect and parent elements to the eyes. Add in the eye elements you want to work with, then scale them down and place them over the eyes. Use the pick-whip for the layer to connect it to one of the null objects with the eye tracking data. This will allow the eye element to track with the eye (because they are now parented.) You can also add in HUD elements, such as those from RocketStock’s Interface pack, and move them around in Z-space for a cool look.

Create Blade Runner-Inspired Eyes in After Effects — HUD Elements

Masking and Improving the Composite

For larger eye elements, we will need to mask around the eyelids. You can take advantage of the mask feathering to help speed up this process. For general compositing improvements, you may want to lower the opacity of the eye elements, or experiment with various image blending modes. Applying a subtle blur to the eye elements can help as well. Finally, you can create a mask track for the natural eye reflections and composite that back on top of the composited eye element to refine the look even more.

Create Blade Runner-Inspired Eyes in After Effects — Masking

Please feel free to share your results by tweeting us @rocketstock.


Do you have other tips for compositing eye elements in After Effects? Let us know in the comments.