Focus attention at the very beginning of your shot using an iris wipe transition in Adobe After Effects.

Man on sofa holds laptop showing the iris-opening effect on footage and text, “Shop Talk: Episode 4: Replacing a Damaged Rim”

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This sample file is an Adobe Stock asset you can use to practice what you learn in this tutorial. If you want to use the sample file beyond this tutorial, you can purchase a license on Adobe Stock. Check out the ReadMe file in the folder for the terms that apply to your use of this sample file. Any reference to “Shop Talk” is for demonstration purposes only and is not intended to refer to any actual organization, products, services, or creative work.

The traditional iris transition, common in the early days of cinema, provides an alternative to a fade-in or fade-out. Use this playful masking technique to draw the viewer’s attention creatively to something specific before the rest of a scene comes fully into view.

Starting with your footage in a composition, create a new solid (Layer > New > Solid) of any color at the top of the composition. Select the Ellipse tool in the main toolbar and draw over the area of the shot you want to mask, pressing Shift while doing so to confine the shape to a circle. Choose Layer > Transform > Center Anchor Point in Layer Content to center the anchor point in the selected mask.

Adobe After Effects shows a circular mask drawn on a solid layer above footage showing a spinning wheel

To reveal the background footage through the mask, select the footage layer and choose the Alpha Matte option in the TrkMat column, targeting the solid above it. (If you don’t see TrkMat, toggle the Switches/Modes button at the bottom of the Timeline panel.)

Footage layer shows an alpha matte applied, revealing the footage through the circular mask

After the footage shows through the circle mask, keyframe the mask’s Scale (S) from zero to however large it needs to be to achieve the iris-opening speed you want. Increase the Mask Feather setting (F), depending on how soft you want the edge of the mask to appear.

Circular mask shows feathering applied and two Scale keyframes from zero to whatever percentage reveals the entire footage

Reposition the mask so it opens exactly where you want it. Try adding extra Scale keyframes between the two extremes to finesse the iris-opening animation until you’re happy with the result.

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