Insider Tips: How to Create an Instant Pixelated LCD Effect in After Effects

Insider Tips: How to Create an Instant Pixelated LCD Effect in After Effects

Every week, Insider asks one of our expert contributors to share a tip, tool, or technique that they use all the time and couldn’t live without. This week, Laurence Grayson shows you how to create an LCD pixelated screen effect in After Effects.

Instant pixelated LCD screen look in After Effects

Given how much time we all spend staring at some kind of digital display, you’ll often be asked to simulate an LCD screen in your motion graphics or VFX work. Fortunately, there’s an After Effects effect that’s made for the job—not that you’d know it from the name.

How to create your LCD screen effect

  1. Drop your footage into a composition.
  2. Add CC Ball Action to the footage layer.
  3. Set the Grid Spacing to 1.
  4. That’s it.
Instant LCD screen effect using CC Ball Action
Creating an instant pixelated LCD screen effect in After Effects with CC Ball Action.

Why CC Ball Action and not Mosaic?

Great question. Mosaic is another way that you could do this. In fact, it’s an arguably better approach, as you can adjust the horizontal and vertical block sizes to better emulate the rectangular appearance of LCD subpixels.

Where it falls down is in the absence of gridlines between the blocks, which you get for free with CC Ball Action. I’m sure there are some of you thinking that the solution to this would be to drop a Grid effect, setting the Corner value to a couple of pixels higher than the Anchor Point value, inverting the grid and then changing the Blending Mode to Stencil Alpha. 

I wish you good luck with this.

Lining up Grid and Mosaic effects in After Effects
Go ahead. Try lining up the Mosaic and Grid effects if you like. But don’t say I didn’t warn you.

It’s next to impossible to get these two effects to line up correctly and life’s too short. So just throw CC Ball Action onto your footage and get on with the rest of your day.

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Thank you to Laurence Grayson for contributing this article.

After a career spanning [mumble] years and roles that include creative lead, video producer, tech journalist, designer, and envelope stuffer, Laurence is now the managing editor for Insider. This has made him enormously happy, but he's British, so it's very hard to tell.

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