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After Effects Horror Classics | Ghost Special Effects | Making A Ghost In After Effects

Eventually everyone has a project where you need a Ghost. And creating one is balanced on the scale of simplistically easy, to complicatedly intricate. You will find tutorials from start to finish, some general ideas for you advanced effects guys, and some practical ghost techniques you can make without a computer! So lets start on the easy side and work our way over to the dark side. And there is all kinds of ghosts. So we will start with the classical Ghost Style we all know and love!

The Ob-One Kenobi Ghost Effect:

Obi Wan Kenobi Ghost Effect

This is the most famous ghost effect in Sci-Fi history! From a certain point of view. And in the film age it was something to shake a stick at, but here in the digital age it is amazingly easy with the right tools. A black sheet or green screen and a NLE or AFTER EFFECTS Software package and you are making movie magic only the pros use to be able to do. Needed:

  1. A Clean Plate: Film your footage on a tripod without your ghost.
  2. Film your ghost on a green screen or a black screen(removing the black makes it transparent).
  3. Key your footage, and place your ghost actor in your scene.
  4. Now reduce the transparency/Opacity (Same Thing) on your keyed ghost actor using After Effects/NLE.
  5. Add an external glow (Pick a color, for the light side you pick BLUE, dark side pick RED.)
  6. You now have created your the most classic ghost effect!

Note: If you have no idea what I’m talking about, then welcome to the NERD world of Adobe After Effects. Where you can do virtually anything you can imagine, and add that effect to your movie. See The Video Below: (Tutorial starts at 1 minute in, if you want to skip to the effect. No this is not me, everyone asks lol)

Ob-One Kenobi Ghost Effect Top Features:

  1. Transparent
  2. Blue Outer Glow
  3. Over All Effect Has a White Sheen
  4. That’s it! (Who said this wasn’t easy!)

First, Some General Ideas about ghosts,

Before you set out to make your ghost you have to develop your vision of what your ghost is going to be. There are a lot of ideas…trickster poltergeists you can’t see, to strange and eerie apparitions, to ghosts you can see who look just like you or me with dash of pale makeup, desaturated color ghosts, ghosts who don’t know their ghosts, their are all kinds of ghosts! Some ghosts are merely glowing black and white images. Which sure makes it easier when you are trying to tell them apart from other people.

black and white ghost

Another black and white ghost

Not all ghosts are black and white, some come in color!

The ghost from ghost

Some ghosts, are really blue glowing ghosts. Heavy on the glow, heavy one the blue!

(Note: No Tutorial on above, but it was created using the following effects from after effects per the comments, which are not in english lol)

After Effects:

  • Particle Illusion:FLAMES *AFTER EFFECTS:
  • Color Different Key
  • Color range
  • Starglow
  • Shine
  • PhotoFilter
  • HightLight
  • CC SpotLight
  • Particular
  • DropShado­w
  • CC Scaterize
  • BasicText
  • 06 lights
  • 3D Layers
  • Adjustment layer

Even games follow the general blue and transparent ghost recipe, you can use other colors, and get creative, but generally you can see that people are use to blue and transparent represent a ghostly entity.

Game Ghost Blue

How to do a Blue Ghost!

This is a great tutorial which gives you a professional looking effect, this tutorial is not done by Andrew Kramer so don’t expect to be laughing at great entertainment, but the nerd special effects artist will appreciate the Movie Quality Ghost Effect. (Kinda boring though.)

Looks like this,

Blue Ghost Effect

Now Make A Blue Ghost! This is a PRO looking Effect!

The Two Cardinal Rules When Creating Ghosts!

  1. Ghosts are transparent!
  2. Ghosts Glow!
  3. Some Rules are made to be broken.

An Easier Blue Ghost In After Effects:

Sometimes You Want To Make Your Ghosts Look Real. (Strange Ideas)

And by real we mean mysterious, strange, otherworldly, anything which would challenge your reality and understanding of what is and what’s real. Things like this. The real ghost sitings. (Maybe.lol) Go real ghost siting montage!

If you are going to a real looking impact, you have these as examples of the supernatural.

Real Ghost Shot

Sometimes it’s what you don’t see which really makes something scary.

Ghost On The Stairs

So the point is you would want to create something weird looking, and then key it out and add your transparency in after effects. Some effects would really have to do with strange lights where you can’t really tell what exactly you are looking beyond an eerie ghostly apparition. Other Ghostly Effects: Ghostly things happen in ghost and horror movies, and you can do all kind of things to make ghostly things happen. The ghostly Mirror effect is a popular one (how come all the scary stuff happens in the bathroom! Damn You “NightMare On Elm Street” & “Psycho!” It’s also fun to poltergeist stuff across rooms, you got to love fishing wire!)

The Girl In The Mirror:

How To Do The Mirror Effect:

Poltergeist Go Into The Light effect! (Not a tutorial, I’ll throw one together as fast as I can.)

Paranormal Activity!

On a budget of 15,000 dollars they created a movie what scared the pants off people world wide. There special effects were good and so subtle, it was made like it would happen in real life which played on our fears and really got to people. Anyway, for a special bonus here’s IndyMogul recreating the effects from PARANORMAL ACTIVITY!

Paranormal Activity Special Effects : FX Reboot (10 min clip, effects tutorials are 5 minutes in. Just Paranormal fluff before that. )

Another Paranormal Activity, With Blood On The Wall Effects, and a Green Screen Ghost! Lets Start With the How To first.

Paranormal Activity: More Paranormaler!

Funny little short, ghost for horror, ghosts for comedy. How about a music video, keep reading! Oh, and for you Star Wars Fans, the above guys did an excellent movie…and used the Ob-One Kenobi Ghost Effect: You’ll Want To See Star Wars Blu-Ray Changes – New Scenes! More Porkins! Ok, back on topic.

Black and White Ghost Technique:

  1. Shoot Your Green Or Black Screen Footage
  2. Convert your clip to black and white
  3. Add an external Glow
  4. Wear White Scary Contacts (Or After Effects It)
  5. Make Your Scary Movie! Or Music Video See Below!

Creating a Ghost Effect in After Effects (From NextWaveG)

Here a ghost appears out of thin air, not a bad tutorial. Requires After Effects.)

How To Be A Japanese Ghost!

The Ring, The Grudge, And Tons Of Other Movies…Follow 3 out of these 4 Rules.Rules Of Being A Japanese Ghost:

  1. Wear White
  2. Hide Face with Long Hair
  3. Do the Ghost Pose (Like a Raptor)
  4. Say “Urameshiya!!! Means I Blame YOU!! ; I Curse You!!)

Another thing, Ghosts Walk Through Walls!

This is a big one, everyone loves a chase scene and ghosts are hella hard to run away from because you need to open a door, they can just fly through a wall or two to come get you! Here’s a great tutorial on walking through a wall.

poltergeist special effect

Poltergeists! It’s not a ghost movie until an invisible force throws all kinds of crazy crap on the floor. (You know that would scare you if it happened to YOU!)

Poltergeist Definition: – a ghost or spirit which manifests by making noises and random acts of mischief, such as throwing furniture, chicken appliances, and random objects all over the place. Their really a pain and love to scare people and the worse part is they generally make a mess.

The Poltergeist’s Secret: Fishing Wire. Or string since After Effects and other NLE video editing systems have a built in wire removal plugin. You can make everything move all over the place with a little fishing wire. And here’s how!

“Real Poltergeist Activity Caught On Video”

Ok the tutorial for this is below this video, here is what he is demonstrating. You only need to watch the first half to see the effect, the rest is fluff. Anyway it may not look super awesome but this is only a quick down and dirty demonstration. Alright let’s take a look!

“How To Fake A Poltergeist/Ghost Video”

Great, the above video is what we’re here to do, only better.

(This guy is the real ghost hunter deal, showing us how to people make fake ghost videos. Tutorial begins at around 4 mins 50 secs in. The background is pretty cool too, I’ve checked his other how to videos and this is his best one.)

Another Fish Wire After Effects Video, Telekinesis.

 Last One, Reel In That Fish…er..Ghost.

The Ring! Sometimes Ghosts Have A CREEPY Ghost Walk.

The ring walking effect

This one was a pain in my @$$, as a lot of people have an opinion on this effect, and some people have done a decent half tail job of recreating it. But not a perfect job. The best would be a combination of these two videos which will appear below.  This effects is based on two concepts.

Concept 1: Walk Backwards.

Take your Talent (Actor) and have them act out a scary unnatural walk really really slowly. THEN! Film them having them do that backwards! By moving really slowly and in acting out their part in reverse, you can reverse your footage in post which will make your talent move forward. Then you speed up your footage to your desired speed and look. Now you have a creepy walk which looks unnatural because!

  1. You actor acted scary.
  2. Reversing footage after walking backwards, looks creepy!

Concept 1: Frame Dropping

By eliminating every 3rd or 4th frame you have that weird jumpy motion, this isn’t the same as increasing or doubling your shutter speed which you should do as well. Increasing shutter speed gives you that Saving Private Ryan motion and eliminates any motion blur in your image. This can be a total pain in post! Unless…

  1. You get the Time Shutter Plugin for after effects.
  2. Warning: This is an old plugin, so Good Luck All.

Here are the two videos which show you how Concept 1 & Concept 2 are done! However in concept one, the guy just speeds up his movement and didn’t do it backwards…you however will so no worries! lol

Notes from the author: (Of the above film)

I downloaded a preset called time shuffler and put the shuffler at 32. Then added a old 8mm camera look and the song on the ring “Samaras Song”.

The Ring: Girl Crawling Out Of The TV

After Effects Pepper Ghost Effect:

Peppers Ghost Effect

Pepper’s Ghost is the effect they use at Disneyland, the Tower Of Terror, & the Haunted Mansion. No computer necessary. I wanted to include it here, but it would make the already excessively long Ghost Page longer and almost impossible to load. So I’m making it another post. Anyway what’s great about this effect is it is a practical effect, no computer needed. Haunted houses do this! It’s amazing :)

Checkout Peppers Ghost Effect | No Computer Needed!

In Conclusion!

Alright, my effort here was to pull together everything you will need to create and produce great quality ghosts and ghost like effects. I know everything wasn’t step by step, but this will save you hours of scouring the net for some great ideas. Everything you see here is all you need to cross over to the other side of phantoms &  ghost making terror! If you have a great horror ghost making resource share it in the comments!

To end with a bash, here’s 100 Greatest Horror Movie Quotes of All Time

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