How to Crop a Video in After Effects

Updated July 19, 2017

Adobe After Effects is one of the most popular software tools available for video processing. Not strictly an editing package, After Effects is geared more toward adding effects and processing the footage, allowing the user to alter ambient light, apply colour filters, manipulate the speed of the footage and more. Resizing and cropping video is a really useful way of correcting minor errors in framing and composition. It can be used to cut out distracting background action or to hide some feature of the scenery not meant to appear in the video.

Launch After Effects and click "File," then "Import." Upon clicking this, the downloader will scan for storage devices connected to your PC. Select your video camera from the drop-down field at the top of the dialogue box and choose a disk location where the photos will be stored. Finally, click "Get Photos."

Click "File" followed by "Open In Camera Raw" after the files have downloaded onto your machine. This allows you to edit the raw footage that After Effects will reference. Be aware that changes you make to your raw footage will effect all the clips in your After Effects project that use that raw footage.

Select the "Crop" tool from the "Camera Raw" dialogue box. It looks like two "L" shapes, one inverted, overlapping to form a square. Drag a box over your preview window, don't worry if it isn't right straight away, click and drag the small nodes on the border of your selection, this will allow you to edit the box you have drawn.

Double-click in the preview window once you are happy with the cropped area. The dimmed area outside the crop-box will be discarded. Save changes with the "File" menu if satisfied.


Double-clicking the "Mask" icon in the toolbar will centre your image, making even cropping easier. If you wish to constrain your selection to a specific aspect ratio, for display on a screen later, hold down the mouse button when you click on the crop tool, a drop-down menu will appear with the most common options.


Versions of After Effects prior to CS3 may not possess the same functions, accessible in the same way as described in this tutorial.

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About the Author

Matt Gerrard began writing in 2002, initially contributing articles about college student culture to "The Gateway" magazine, many of which were republished on the now-defunct Plinth blog. Since then, Gerrard has worked as a technician for musicians, educators, chemists and engineers. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in music technology from DeMontfort University.