Split Screen Looks

For this project I explored split screen looks in After Effects. It can be a tricky look to use and not look retro so was definitely a challenge. One of the most difficult aspects is choosing hero shots which work well together and are long enough! Below I break down some of the key design aspects.

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My initial idea was to stack the layers and use drop shadows to add depth. I mocked this up in both horizontal and vertical format. Some shots worked well horizontally and others better vertically, so a combination approach was more effective. At this stage I’d already locked in the look of the type, using Gotham as the typeface.

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This is the first combination test, this time with a more traditional border rather than drop shadows separating the images. Notice how the close up works well vertically, especially using just one side of the talent’s face, and the laying down shot works well horizontally. At this stage I hit on the idea of the type being offset for a refraction style effect when it crosses over into the vertical frame. I was also experimenting with colour grades, using a Gradient Ramp layer  with the Soft Light blend mode.

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Lens flares from Video Copilot’s Optical Flares help to soften the strong geometric look, add depth and unify the type with the grid. At this stage I switched to imagery from Man Of Steel to see how it was looking with shots from a different film. I was still going with the white grid at this point.


After discussions with team members I tried a black grid which looks okay but tends to get lost next to darker imagery and clashes with the text. Cameron our Creative Director liked the original shadow idea so suggested we try it with the combination grid.


The shadows worked well and reintroduced the depth shown in the original tests. It’s especially effective with the offset text.

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The Drop Shadow effect was used to create the main shadows, with soft feathered masks on black solids used to create the falloff, which was precomped on top of each of the shots in the grid.


The texture of Superman’s suit gave me an idea to add some texture to the text. In this early version I added a halftone pattern.


In the final versions I decided to choose a texture that matched the theme of each movie, so for Man Of Steel I used steel plate.


While the text in the previous designs worked well on some shots, it tended to get lost on others. To counter this I decreased the height of the vertical shot to allow the text to sit on black. This also helps the texture to stand out more. In this final version of Man Of Steel I switched out the hero images.


For the final After Earth look I moved the vertical frame to the right, switched the position of the horizontal and smaller frames and used turtle skin for the texture.


  1. Torus

    Nice breakdown. Thx for sharring 🙂

  2. Travis Wade

    Nice work John!

  3. Matthew Butler

    Great breakdown!

  4. lamrisif

    thank you ………………………

  5. Matt

    Great work – do you recall what music was put with this?

    • ismael haider

      Nice work bro …

      • nader

        Mr,Ismael . Can you help me ?
        i want make professional split-screen like as https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hDiJ17Xgaw8&t=4s

  6. TW

    How did you animate the text from one frame to the next one and make it bigger or smaller in that frame?

    • ChrisBox

      PreComp the text, make sure you have your position keyframes set. Place the precomp inside two different split screen layers. Change the scale of one to be bigger or smaller.

  7. Peters


  8. azzedine

    PreComp the text, make sure you have your position keyframes set. Place the precomp inside two different split screen layers. Change the scale of one to be bigger or smaller…

  9. Mousab

    Nice work

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