Tube Camera Effect using After Effects 6.5 Without Third Party Plug-ins
Tube Camera Effect using After Effects 6.5 Without Third Party Plug-ins
After Effects Tutorial

Tube Camera Effect using After Effects 6.5 Without Third Party Plug-ins

G. Allen Stewart
Channel One Video & Film, Inc.,
Lafayette, Louisiana, USA
©2006 G. Allen Stewart and All rights reserved.

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Call it his love for everything old, or nostalgia or whatever, but G. Allen Stewart loved how the old color tube cameras handled light and color. He loved how the images seemed to be 'scan-lined', the blacks were crushed and noisy, so G. Allen Stewart went on a quest for the perfect plug-in to create that effect. He was never satisfied with the result, so here's his recipe for his ''make like 1970's TV effect.''

Movie link Project zip

When I was in high school, I shot part time for a production company in Lake Charles, Louisiana. I shot great video with an old Ikegami tube camera. Call it my love for everything old, or nostalgia or whatever, but I love how the old color tube cameras handled light and color. There is something pleasing, to me, with the way hot spots on the video were streaked and how the blacks were crushed and noisy. I also like how the images seemed to be "Scan-lined." These cameras were also notoriously inaccurate and unpredictable in the field. All this, coupled with the expense of good field monitors at the time, often created images that were remarkable only in their inconsistency and varied colors. Since we have been shooting on HD at our shop I have come to really appreciate the randomness of older video images. The HD stuff is absolutely beautiful, but way too accurate to inherently have esoteric beauty. Thus, my quest to "down-convert" to a more "gritty" video look; in other words, to crush our "film" like images back to look like retro video.

I researched many available third-party "TV" and "Film" type filters and was never satisfied with the result. So, here for you, is my "Make Like 1970's TV" effect.

The first and most important thing is decide what piece(s) of video that you want to treat, because, this technique gets complicated fast and you could end up doing a lot of work for nothing. Assuming that you have your (our video "1970 Video Raw") piece of video ready... here we go.

First open a new AFTER EFFECTS project and make a new composition by selecting > COMPOSITION > NEW COMPOSITION and name it " Video RAW", or open the supplied project (1970s TV.aep), set the length and size (10 seconds at DV 720 x 480 for our test project) of your video. Move your video from the Project Window to the "Video RAW" composition Time Line Window. Put this aside.

Next make a new composition and name it "Scan Lines", the same length and size as the "Video RAW" composition, and then select > LAYER > NEW SOLID and make this new solid 100% black and the same size as your previous composition (DV 720 x 480 for our test project). Select the "Solid Black 1" layer and select > EFFECT > RENDER > GRID. Set the grid values to: Anchor = (-7, 279): Size From = "Corner Point:" Corner = (-740, 285): Border = (3): Color = 100% white.

Black Solid 1

We are building a "Track Mat" of white lines on a black background. [You can play with the Y values on both "Anchor" and "Corner"; also the Border Value; to get different results. But remember: we are trying to create horizontal black and white lines of equal or near-equal value] Then insert a new solid 100% black layer behind the above mentioned "Grid" layer. Your time line should look like the example below.

Time Line

Now put this comp aside and return to you "Video RAW" comp. Duplicate your video ("1970 Raw Video") layer and re-name it "Hot Spots" by clicking the "Layer Name/Source Name" switch on the top of the Time Line Window, then selecting the layer and hitting the "RETURN" (or "ENTER" on PC) key, the text field will highlight and then type your new layer name and just de-select that layer. On your "Hot Spots" layer select: EFFECT > ADJUST > THRESHOLD. You want to set this value high (Level = 242) so that you isolate only the brightest parts of the video.

This is the original video.

Original Video

This is the video after the "THRESHOLD" filter.

After the THRESHOLD filter


  • If you are using your own video keep in mind that the values for the "THRESHOLD" filter will vary widely between different video clips, so you need to JUST isolate the very brightest sections of the video.

Next select: EFFECT > KEYING > LUMA KEY. Now you want to set up the Luma Key to "Key Out Darker" and set your threshold (Threshold = 2) so that our original video (1970 Video Raw) shows though and none of the black edges show.

Hot Spots

Next duplicate your original video ("1970 Video Raw") again and re-name it "Dark Noise." On your "Dark Noise" layer: Effect -Adjust-Threshold and adjust (Level = 17) until only the very darkest parts of the video are black. Then: Effect-Keying-Luma Key set-up to "Key Out Lighter," with a Threshold (Threshold = 124) set that all of you lighter video shows through.


  • My friend Garrett pointed out to me that you can save time by just duplicating the "Hot Spots" layer, change the name to "Dark Noise" and just adjust the settings as below.

Dark Noise

To see what is going on, I placed a solid "Red" layer at the bottom of my time-line window and disabled my original video layer ("1970 Video Raw"). You should see something like this:

Red layer

Great! This is starting to look pretty good. Now you should "shy" or "hide" the "Hot Spots" layer and the "Dark Noise" layer. We'll need these later.

Shy the Hot Spots

We are going to start playing with the "1970 Video Raw" layer… First, we'll rename this layer "Scan Line 001." Then we are going to duplicate this layer and rename it "Scan Line 002," AFX should automatically name it (a PC automatically names the layer "Scan Line 2" instead of "Scan Line 002," but it really doesn't matter). Your time line should look something like this:

Video RAW Timeline

I know that my writing is a little boring, but the finished product will be exciting…and who knows when you'll have to wow a client with your cribbed super-cool "retro" footage. So, onward ho! Remember your "Scan Lines" comp? Grab the "Scan Lines" from the Project Window and place it over the "Scan Line 001" layer, then grab and place it again over the "Scan Line 002" Layer. When done you should have this:

Grab the Scan Lines

Now the real fun begins! On the bottom of our Time Line Window click the "Switches/Modes" switch to the Mode selection. Next, on your "Scan Line 001" layer pull down the drop window (under TrkMat) until it indicates [Luma Mat "Scan Lines"]. Now be careful, on the "Scan Line 002" layer pull the same drop window down and select [Luma Inverted Mat "Scan Lines"]. Your project should look like this now.

Luma Mat Scan Lines

Now this is where the end user gets to be creative. All we are doing is trying to emphasize the scan lines that naturally occur in video. So select your "Scan Line 001" layer and click: EFFECT > ADJUST > HUE/SATURATION. Adjust filter to: Master Saturation = 20: Master lightness = 5.


  • Once again these values are dependant on the video provided, if you are using your own video the settings will be different.

Scan Line 001

Now select both the "Scan Line 001" layer and the "Scan Lines" layer above it and click your left arrow once. This will offset both those layers by one pixel. This is not necessary but I like how it makes all vertical lines in the frame look a little rough.

Offset layers by one pixel

OK, now for the "Scan Line 002" layer. Select: EFFECT > ADJUST > HUE/SATURATION. Adjust filter to: Master Saturation = -35: Master Lightness = -10. Once completed this gives us a real nice over emphasized video look. At this point you can just delete the "Red Solid 1" layer. (In the example project I just "Shy-ed" or "Hide" the layer.) Be sure that your Composition-Background Color is set to black.

Now is where it gets really interesting. Reveal and select your "Hot Spots" layer and Pre-Compose this layer (Select: LAYER > PRE-COMPOSE). Be sure to move all attributes into the new composition.


Then highlight the new composition/layer "Hot Spots Comp 1" and then select: EFFECT > TIME > ECHO. Set your values as: Echo Time = -0.033; Number of Echoes = 99; Starting Intensity = .21; Decay = .91; and Echo Operator = Add.

Hot Spots Comp 1

Now move your time line cursor over to 02:00 and you should see:

What you should see

Now you need to reveal and pre-compose your "Dark Noise" layer. You now have a layer named "Dark Noise Comp 1." Select: EFFECT > NOISE > NOISE. Set your value: Amount of Noise = 51% (any value between 30% and 75% works well) and UN-CHECK "Use Color Noise."

Dark Noise Comp 1

Now set the Opacity = 20%. Then select your layer mode to "Darken."

Select layer mode to Darken

All right! This is starting to look totally cool! We are almost done. We just have to do one more thing to make it perfect. In your "Video RAW" composition select: LAYER > NEW > ADJUSTMENT LAYER.

New Adjustment Layer

Select this layer and select: EFFECT > BLUR & SHARPEN > UNSHARP MASK. Set your values to: Amount = 50; Radius = 3.0; Threshold = 5.

Unsharp Mask

This last bit of magic binds the whole project together and makes it into one effect.

I Thank-you for reading my "Make Like 1970's TV" tutorial, hopefully you'll take away from this not only a great idea for treating video, but also a broader understanding of the power of After Effects even without lots of expensive third party plug-ins.


  • I was using a Macintosh G5, Mac OSX, After Effects 6.5, so everything might not be exact for your system. This tutorial has been tested and shown to work on PC version of 6.5 with a few minor differences.

Edited By: Garrett Raine, 3D Animator, Assistant Editor, Channel One Video & Film, Inc.

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