You may be familiar with using depth passes from 3D programs. But, wouldn’t it be awesome if we could instantly create depth passes from any video clip or image?

Well, now we can. And the results are stunning. Depth Scanner is a brand new After Effects plugin from Blace Plugins. You can instantly create Z-depth passes on any video footage or image with it. You can then use the depth passes with other effects to create amazing visuals.

Let’s check it out!


What Is Depth Scanner?

Depth Scanner is an After Effects plugin that uses artificial intelligence to automatically generate a depth pass on any video clip or photo.

In short, the plugin analyzes the clip and detects what parts of the shot are closest to the camera. Then, you can use the depth pass for all sorts of compositing techniques, such as adding in depth of field, subtle 3D parallax movement, depth-based transitions, and a lot more!

An example image before and after of the Depth Scanner After Effects plugin in action
Depth Scanner automatically creates depth maps for video and still images.

How to Use Depth Scanner

Using Depth Scanner is incredibly simple. After installing the plugin, select your video clip or image in After Effects, then apply the Depth Scanner effect.

Immediately, you’ll see a low-resolution depth pass. To increase the resolution, just adjust the Resolution setting. I recommend setting it to Large.

An example of a depth map generated by Depth Scanner - a silhouetted dark figure on a white background
Depth map generated by Depth Scanner.

You can also adjust the Model, which is how the depth of your footage is interpreted. The default is set to Faster, which renders faster.

Accurate is the second option, which takes longer to render but can give you better results with problematic shots. I recommend trying both, then choose the one that looks best.


Depth Slicing

Depth Scanner also has a slicing mode, which essentially allows you to “slice out” parts of your video based on the depth pass.

To do this, change the Mode setting to Slicing. Then adjust the Minimum and Maximum percentages to slice out an area of your footage. You can also soften the edges with the Soft Border setting.

Depth Slicing with an astronaut in the foreground and a white background
Slice out parts of your video using the Slicing mode.

This slicing effect can also save you a lot of time if you need to remove something from a video clip. Simply slice it out so that you’re left with a transparent area. Then use Content-Aware Fill in After Effects.


Creative Effects

Now that you can create depth passes from any video, this opens the door for a lot of creative effects. One of the easiest is adding in Depth of Field. You’ll need two copies of your footage in your composition to do this.

Apply Depth Scanner to the bottom copy, then refine the settings for a good-looking depth pass. Now, apply the Camera Lens Blur effect on the top “normal-looking” copy of your footage.

Screen shot of the Camera Lens Blur Settings
Set the Layer to your depth pass footage and set the Source to Effects & Masks.

Set the Blur Map setting as your footage with Depth Scanner applied to it. You’ll also need to change the Blur Map Source to Effects & Masks. Then just increase the Blur Radius to see depth of field added to your shot!

An example of Depth of Field with a model of a town
Adding depth of field to a video shot in post using Camera Lens Blur with a depth pass.

Another excellent effect to try out is a Depth Transition. To do this, simply apply Depth Scanner to your footage and then change the Mode to Slicing.

Now, keyframe the Maximum setting from 0% to 100%. You’ll then see your video footage animate based on the depth pass.

An example of a Depth Transition with a gif of a building pulling away from the camera
Create depth transitions using the Slicing mode.

For a more stylized effect, create multiple layers of your video footage using the Slicing effect. You can even experiment with applying effects and presets to them, such as the 8-Bit Video Game preset.


Experiment with Other After Effects Plugins

Many other effects and plugins can utilize depth maps. Two of my favorites are Crossphere Bokeh and AE Pixel Sorter 2.

Crossphere Bokeh works similarly to the Camera Lens Blur effect, but produces better-looking bokeh and renders much faster.

AE Pixel Sorter 2 also has an Input setting, where you can set your depth pass and then control the “pixel sorting” based on the depth of the image.

An example of using AE Pixel Sorter 2 with an image of a downtown area as the model
Using Depth Scanner with AE Pixel Sorter 2.

Create a Depth Map in Photoshop

If you have the latest release of Adobe Photoshop, you can also create depth maps on images in one click, using their new Neural Filters.

Under Filter, select Neural Filters. Then check on the switch for Depth Blur. (You may need to download the filter. Click the Cloud Icon if it’s next to the filter name.)

Showing how to use the depth map in Photoshop
Use the Depth Blur Neural Filter in Photoshop to instantly create a depth map on images.

Then, at the bottom of the settings, select Output Depth Map Only, select OK, and you can save out your depth map.

Example of a Photoshop Depth Map
Depth map created in Photoshop.

Interested in the royalty-free tracks we used to make this video? Give them another listen:

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