Create an eye-catching mandala visualization by rotating, flipping, and mirroring footage multiple times in Adobe After Effects.

Kaleidoscope mandala appears on a monitor mounted on a gray wall. A woman practices yoga in front.

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In this project, you’ll apply multiple instances of the Mirror effect to some footage so that it’s fragmented into countless trippy kaleidoscopic patterns. To get a better idea of how the Mirror effect works, let’s apply it first to a relatively simple shape, such as the letter “O.”

Start with a video clip in a new composition. Working in the Standard workspace (Window > Workspace > Standard), create a new text layer above it (Layer > New > Text) and type a single, large capital letter. Position the letter slightly above and left of center. Hide the video layer (toggle visibility off) so you see only the text layer. 

White letter “O” is added to a new black text layer above a video layer.

Add an adjustment layer at the top of the composition (Layer > New > Adjustment Layer). From the Effects & Presets panel, enter mirror in the search field and drag the Mirror effect to the adjustment layer in the timeline. In the Effect Controls panel, while the adjustment layer is selected, click the Reflection Center’s first (X) value and enter /2 after it to divide it by 2. This centers the effect’s origin in the composition. You’ll now see a reflection of your letter in the Composition panel. Later you can experiment with positioning the origin wherever you want.

Adjustment layer with mirror effect is added to the letter O. Two O’s appear with sides touching.

To fragment the shape, you’ll need to layer copies of this Mirror effect and increment the Reflection Angle for each one. First click the “fx” button to toggle the Mirror effect off; you’ll turn it back on shortly. Next, duplicate the effect (Command/Control+D) four times so that there are five instances of the effect. Set the Reflection Angle for each one (from top to bottom): 15, 30, 60, 90, 180. The idea is to offset the effect equally within the first quadrant; the remaining two angles (90 and 180) complete the circle. Finally, click the “fx” buttons back on, one by one, so you can see how each angle builds up a surprising, symmetrical shape.

More adjustment layers with mirror effect are added with different reflection angles, creating a flower-like appearance.

Select the Text layer. With the Selection tool active, drag the layer around the Composition panel to see how the stacked Mirror effects alter your simple letter shape into various symmetrical lotus, scallop, or flowery shapes. Experiment by toggling off some of the Mirror effects in the stack, changing reflection angles, and so on. 

Mirror effects are modified, creating a hollow ring with scalloped edges.

Because these layered Mirror effects are on an adjustment layer, you can simply hide the text layer and unhide the video layer underneath it in your timeline to see how the exact same effects now alter the video clip and mimic a kaleidoscope. As you play the video, you’ll see unexpected patterns emerge among the angled segments.

The text layer is hidden and the video layer unhidden, revealing a kaleidoscope image.

Provided there’s sufficient motion occurring within your footage, you may not need to make any further adjustments to get pleasing results. However, you may achieve even more intriguing visualizations by animating the video layer’s position. Just keyframe its Position value over the duration of the composition.

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