Use After Effects for 360 Post Production
A guide for enhancing your 360° video with After Effects and Skybox

Stepping Up Your Game in 360° Video - Adding Text, Pictures, and 2D Video Using Skybox Composer

What you need: Adobe After Effects with Mettle Skybox v 2.0 plugin

Whether you want to add pictures, graphics, text, or 2D video clips over your 360 footage, the process generally comes down to five simple steps:

Compose - Add the picture or clip to a new AE composition and scale it to the desired size
Add Edit - Open Skybox Composer to setup a new “360 vision” edit
Drag - Add your object to the scene and enable it to be edited in 3-D
Move - Position and angle your object according to how you want it to look in your 360° scene
Render - Use Composer to apply this edit to the main composition



Start a New Project in After Effects (after your Skybox 2 plugin has been installed and registered)

Import your 360° video footage
Click and drag your 360 clip from the Project list on the left side of your screen down to the “New Composition” icon:



The composition you’ve created should show up on the bottom left corner After Effects. 



Step One: Compose


We’ll be using more or less the same process with our picture or video overlays as we did in importing our 360 video. We just have to take some additional steps so our overlays will fit into the main composition.

1. Import the image or video file you want to overlay, then drag it onto the “New Composition” icon. (For my example, the composition is ‘Target’)

2. Now we need to scale both the image file and the composition down to the appropriate size for the 360 video. To scale down the image itself, go to the image file within the new composition, expand the “Transform” properties and adjust the “Scale” (in this case, I’ll scale it down to 50%):

With this new composition highlighted go to the main toolbar and select Composition > Composition Settings.


*Be sure to turn on “Toggle Transparency Grid” (the checkerboard icon on the right). The background behind the image needs to be transparent.*

First we scale the composition down by half just as we did the image file. Click “Width” and add “/2” to the end of the number (this will divide the width in half, and since the ‘Lock Aspect Ratio’ box is checked, the “Height will adjust automatically. Click ‘OK’, and the Composition window will now fit perfectly around the image.


Now for a final step, we need to create a transparent “border” around the image. This will prevent the edges of the image (or video) from appearing jagged or distorted after being converted for our equirectangular video. To do this, we simply go back to “Composition Settings” and add a little extra “Width” and “Height”.


*You’ll want to add a bit more “Width” than “Height”. You’ll need to un-check “Lock Aspect Ratio” before making the adjustments*

 When you've finished making the compositions for your 360° Video file and each object you want to add into it, it's time to set up 360° spaces to place each object and apply this setting to the scene. To do this, we'll be using the Skybox Composer plugin.

Step Two: Adding an Edit

On the top menu bar, select “Window”. At the bottom, you should see the option “Skybox Composer.jsxbin” Click on this to open Skybox Composer


Since the objects we’re overlaying are all 2D sources (text, image files, standard video), we’ll select “Add 2D Edit”
This will bring up a list of options for your 2D Edit. Select a composition with 360 footage: This should default to the comp you made with your 360° video (unless your project has more than one file, then you’ll need to specify which one you want to edit from the drop-down menu)

Composition Settings: The only one of these we need to be concerned with right now is “Comp Width”. For 2D Edits, this should match the width of our raw video file (in this case, the resolution of our 360° video file is 3840 x 1920, so Comp Width = 3840)

Leave everything else at default and click the Add 2D Edit Button

Note: You can cancel any “Edit” in Composer by clicking the “Properties” tab next to it in the Composer window and then hitting the ‘Delete’ button


Step Three: Dragging 

Next drag the composition for whatever object you want to overlay into the composition for your “Edit”. Make sure it’s set to the top layer, and that 3-D is enabled (see below image)



Step Four: Moving

With 3-D enabled on the object, open the “Transform” properties.

You can use the “Position” coordinates to move the object in your scene along the X (horizontal), Y (vertical), and Z (closer/further) axes. If you want to adjust the angle of the object, you can use the “X Rotation”, “Y Rotation”, and “Z Rotation” functions. (see above)

Note: You can add simple text captions to the scene by simply selecting the Text Type tool from the AE toolbar Ttool.png then click the spot on your scene you want to type the caption. This will create a new “Text” layer at the top of your composition. Remember to enable 3-D on this layer.

Step Five: Rendering

When you are finished with your edit, it’s time to apply the changes to the “Output” composition Skybox Composer generated. To do this, simply go back to the main Skybox Composer Window (if you don’t still have it open, you can simply open it up again from the “Window” drop-down menu. Click the “Edit 1” button (or whichever Edit you are applying) and then click the “Open Output/Render” button.



Repeat each of these four steps for each edit you’re applying to the scene. Then follow the Render/Encode instructions on the Mettle Skybox Converter tutorial to upload the finished edit.

* The above steps also apply to adding text into your video, especially if you’re making a lower-third or any other specific style of caption or graphic with text. For simple captions, you can skip the “Compose” step, go to your 360° Video composition and select the “Text” tool (the “T” icon) from the toolbar on top, then click the spot on the video you want to add a text box:




This will add a new “Text layer” onto the Composition. You can adjust the text using the “Paragraph” and “Character” boxes on After Effects. If you’re editing in 3-D with Skybox Composer, remember to enable 3-D on each text layer you add (the cube icon).

Render/Encode Your Finished Video: 

For best results, render the finished composition in After Effects and then encode it in Adobe Media Encoder.



*Note: If you’re short on time or hard-drive space, you can skip the next few steps and click the “Queue in AME” button. Rendering in AE first is recommended for better quality and for avoiding potential visual glitches.*

Click the down arrow next to “Output Module” and select the “Custom” option.


Select “Quicktime” as the output Format and (if your footage was shot on a commercial 360 cam with integrated metadata, check the “Include Source XMP Metadata” box.

Click the “Format Options” button next to “Video Output”. Set the Format to “Photo-JPEG” (If this option does not appear on the list, make sure Quicktime is installed on your computer).

With all other settings left on default, click ‘OK’.

Make sure your “Output To:” is set to an easy to find location on your computer. Then click “Render” on the far-right side of the screen.

After AE finishes rendering your video as an .mov file, open Adobe Media Encoder, upload the MOV file and encode as an .H264 file (.mp4) file (Should be set to “Match Source - High Bitrate”) and click the “Play” button (green arrow icon) to encode.

Further Instructions:

You can watch the Skybox Composer in action (as well as some solid examples of overlaying visuals in 3-D space) by watching: Skybox Studio Version 2: How to Add 2D Elements

And we’re just getting started. Skybox Composer also provides easy fixes for:

Stabilizing Your 360° Video
and Stamping Out or Masking Out Your Camera Rig/Tripod