Behind the scenes: Beef History’s parallax effect

We get a lot of questions about how we set things up in our videos, and now that we have a website we have a good place to answer them. So every week we’ll show you one of the tricks or techniques we use to construct our series. And if you have questions, leave ‘em in the comments.


Hello there, it’s Jiazhen here. I’m a video director at Secret Base. I spend most of my day thinking about what I am about to eat, and cranking out videos for you to watch. Today, I want to talk to y’all a bit about how I make these videos — specifically “Beef History”.

Ever since we launched Beef History back in the beginning of 2018, it has been one of the hallmarks of our channel. Hell, even Shaq thinks we do a good job. Aside from the engaging storytelling, we have also been trying extremely hard to present the videos in as visually appealing a way as possible. So today, I would like to take you behind the scenes a bit and share some of the small tricks we’ve utilized during the run of the show to let you know more about how we bring it to life.

Former Steelers teammates Ben Roethlisberger and Antonio Brown share a celebration together in a game with a Beef History branding design.

This parallax treatment is one of my personal favorites when it comes to photo transformations: it incorporates the series identity subtly into the photos while also giving the key figures more focus, as they separate from the background through gradual motion.

To make this happen is quite straightforward. To use the above example as a reference, personally I just take the picture into Photoshop and crop out the assets (mostly people) with the quick selection tool on the left hand side toolbar.

The toolbar in PhotoShop indicating the location of the “quick selection tool“.

After making the selection, (to make it faster, you can subtract from the selection by holding down the option key when clicking the mouse.) click “select and mask” on the top toolbar and use the “refine edges tool” to brush off the edges. It should look something like this, with the red parts being the sections that will become transparent.

The original picture of Ben Roethlisberger and Antonio Brown being edited and refined inside PhotoShop.

Then, I like to keep this as a “new layer with a new layer mask” as the output on the bottom right corner. Use the brush tool and/or eraser tool to adjust some small details on the layered mask (Please note, on the layer mask, or otherwise you will be altering the original picture in the background.) and you have yourself a cutout!

The layer of “Cutouts“ is being selected while the layer “Background“ is being turned off in PhotoShop.

Here the original background is turned off and only the cutout layer is visible with a transparent background. This is a relatively basic method to crop people out, best used for pictures that are not extremely complex or detailed. There are also other methods to accomplish this cutout effect and there are plenty of tutorial videos online that show you how to use them.

The players Ben Roethlisberger and Antonio Brown have been cropped out from the original picture.

My next step before moving this asset into After Effects is to remove the cutout figures from the original background layer. To achieve this, I turn off the cutouts layer, and select the parts that I want to remove (the players in this case). To make my life easier, since I already have made the selection when cropping them out, I can simply hold down the command key while clicking on the layered mask. And now I have the players selected again.

The players Ben Roethlisberger and Antonio Brown have been selected with the “quick selection tool“ inside PhotoShop.

Then I go to “Edit” on the top menu and select “Fill” in the drop down menu. Under “Contents”, select “content-aware fill”. This is a feature that will allow Photoshop to automatically fill in the parts in which we want to remove based off of the original background.

The players Ben Roethlisberger and Antonio Brown have been removed from the original picture with some rough edges.

As you can see, the players have been removed from the original picture, but the edges are still kind of rough. To make them smoother, select the “Clone Stamp Tool” from the left hand menu to collect samples holding down the option key and brush off the roughness on the edges. The whole point of this removal is to enable us to freely expand the cutouts in the later edits when they are parallaxed.

The players Ben Roethlisberger and Antonio Brown have been removed from the original pictures with the edges smoothened.

Now that I have saved the file with a layer of player cutouts and a layer of cleaned-up “fake background”, I can bring them into AfterEffects. Making sure to put the cutout layer on top of the background layer, I can apply motion to the scale and position of the cutout layer through keyframes. Thus we have our this parallax.

You can find plenty of occasions in our series where we embed some series identities and designs into this parallax. In this instance I have inserted the Beef History title logo into the composition, layering it in between the cutouts and the background to give it a little more brand identity as well as motion. And I’ve also put in our special texture loop layer and particles layer to give it some more depth.

A composition inside AfterEffects which is composed of the different layers of the cutouts and picture of Ben Roethlisberger and Antonio Brown.

As you watch through our Beef History series, you might find some similar treatments:

A parallax frame of a Vince Carter picture with newspaper in the background.

A parallax frame with a Richard Sherman and Pete Carroll picture with an article in the background.

A parallax frame with a Rajon Rondo picture and a quote highlight in the background.

These are all parallax treatments based off of the same method to present different kinds of information such as quotes, newspaper articles etc. There are many different graphic elements you can put in between the parallax layers to make your visual presentation look much more complex and appealing, and we hope we can share more of these useful visual editing techniques and ideas with you in the future. Hope you’ve enjoyed this one, and hope you enjoy a wonderful day.

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