How to Turn Live Video Into Animation

By Alvaro Roque

Updated September 22, 2017

Items you will need

  • Digital Footage

  • After Effects CS3

  • Photoshop CS3

Images such as these blur the lines between reality and imagination.
i portrait series - cartoon style image by helenos from

TV commercials and movies such as "A Scanner Darkly" have showcased the animation-from-live-video effect. Although this effect actually began with techniques used in early, animated movies such as Snow White, the technique was rarely used since it required a room full of animators to accomplish it. Thanks to technology, turning live video into animation only requires a few steps and can be created by anyone with a computer, some footage and a few programs.

Footage in After Effects

Open After Effects. Go to “File>Import>File,” find your footage, and press “Open.”

Go to “Composition>New,” and press “OK.”

Go to “Composition>Make Movie,“ and the “Render Queue” should pop up. Click on the word “Lossless” under “Best Settings.” Under the “Format” drop down menu, select “PNG Sequence,” and press “OK.” Click on the composition name next to “Output To,” and create a new folder called “Anime 1.”

Photoshop and the Animation Effect

Open up Photoshop. Go to “File>Open.” Select the one of the images within the “Anime 1” folder, and press “Open.”

Go to “Window>Actions,” click on the “Create New Action” icon which looks like post-it notes at the bottom of this window. Name this effect “Animation Effect.” And press “Record.”

Go to “Layer>Duplicate Layer,” and press “OK” to duplicate this layer.
Go to “Filter>Blur>Surface Blur.” Type in from top to bottom "5" and "8." Press “OK.”

Duplicate this layer. Select this new layer and go to “Image>Adjustments>Desaturate.” Click on the “Channels” tab. “Ctrl+Click” on PC or “cmd + Click” on Mac while selecting the RGB layer. Click on the “Layer” Tab. Go to “Select>Inverse.” Go to “Layer>New>Layer,” and press “OK.” Go to “Edit>Fill.” Select “Black” under the “Contents, “ and press “OK.” Press “cmd + D” on Mac or “ctrl + D” on PC to deselect.

Turn off the top two layers by clicking on the “Eye” icon. Select the first “Background Copy,” and go to “Filter>Artistic>Cutout.” Type in from top to bottom "8," "3," "3." Press “OK.” Duplicate this layer, and change the “Blending Mode” to “Overlay.”

Turn on the layer second to the top, and select it. Go to “Artistic>Poster Edges.” Type in from top to bottom "2," "2," "6." Change its “Blending Mode” to “Soft Light.”

Photoshop Finishing Touches

Turn on the top layer. “Ctrl + click” on PC or “cmd + click” on Mac then press on the “Mask Tool” at the bottom of the “Layers” Panel. It should look like a square with a circle in it. Go to “Filter>Pixelate>Color Halftone,” change the “Max. Radius” to 8, and press “OK.” Go to “Image> Adjustments> Invert.” Change its “Blending Mode” to “Soft light,” and change its “Opacity” to 65%.

Go to “File> Save as.” Create a new folder named “Anime Mov,” change the format to “PNG,” and press “Save.”

Go back to the “Actions” window and press the “Stop Icon.” Close this image without saving. Erase the image from the “Anime Mov” folder.

Go to “File> Automate>Batch.” select the “Animation Effect” from the “Action” drop down menu. Press “Choose” under “Source,” and select the “Anime 1” folder. Press “Choose” under “Destination,” and select “Anime Mov” folder. Make sure “Override Action “Save As” Commands” is checked. Click “Save As” under “Errors,” and create a folder for these errors. Press “OK.”

Back in After Effects

Open up After Effects. Drag in the “Anime Mov” folder into the “Project Panel.”

Make a new composition and drag this PNG sequence into the “Timeline.”

Go to “File>Export>QuickTime Movie,” and press “OK.”