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How To Use Face Tracking In After Effects To Make Your Videos Pop

Liza Brown
Liza Brown Originally published Sep 02, 22, updated Mar 27, 24

Face Tracking is a process of identifying or locating human faces in digital images and videos, and it is used for a variety of applications, such as to re-target tools and effects to specific areas of the face, to track face data for rotoscoping/motion stabilization, or to generate keyframes for facial expressions automatically.

In Adobe After Effects, there are two Face Tracking features, i.e., Outline Only and Detailed Feature. The former will help only to track the face, while the latter provides detailed data on different facial features to help you change the eye color, mouth movements, etc.

In this blog post, we will explore Face Tracking, its applications, how it works, and its challenges and drawbacks. We will also provide an easy-to-follow guide on using the Face Tracking feature in Adobe After Effects.

In this article
  1. Part 1. What Is Face Tracking
  2. Part 2. How Does Face Tracking Work?
  3. Part 3. The Challenges And Drawbacks Of Face Tracking
  4. Part 4. The Face Tracking In After Effects
  5. Part 5. The Guidance Of Using Face Tracking In After Effects

Part 1. What Is Face Tracking

Face Tracking is a process of identifying or detecting the areas of the face, such as the eyes, nose, and mouth, in a video or image. This effect can be used to track and animate face replacements, retouch footage, or add effects to a user's face in live footage.

Where It Is Applied

Face Tracking can be used for a variety of applications, such as:

  • Replacing One Face With Another: This is helpful if you need to change the face of a character in video footage.
  • Adding Automatic Effects: With this feature, you can apply effects to a face in live footage.
  • Retouching Footage: Face Tracking can help you retouch a face in a video clip, for instance, you can smooth it or change the skin tone, etc.
  • Robotic Devices: Certain robots use Face Tracking technology to perform human tasks.

Part 2. How Does Face Tracking Work?

Face Tracking algorithms usually begin by detecting facial landmarks, such as the eyes, nose, and mouth. Once detected, the AI algorithms use them to track the face as it moves. This information can be used to perform various tasks, such as identifying the person's emotions or estimating their head pose.

Face Tracking technology is constantly improving and is now being used in various new applications, such as to create 3D models of people's faces, control robotic devices, and create more realistic avatars for virtual reality systems.

Part 3. The Challenges And Drawbacks Of Face Tracking

Face Tracking is a technology that has been growing in popularity in recent years. This technology allows computers to detect and track human faces in real-time. While Face Tracking has many potential applications, some challenges and drawbacks also need to be considered:

One of the main challenges with Face Tracking is that it can be difficult to track faces in different lighting conditions. Faces can also be obstructed by objects such as hats or glasses. Another challenge is that things like photographs, makeup, or masks can fool face tracking.

Some privacy concerns need to be considered when using Face Tracking. This technology can be used to collect sensitive data about people without their consent.

Despite these challenges and drawbacks, Face Tracking remains a promising technology with many potential applications, and it can help with many tasks such as identifying a perpetrator, finding a missing person, better security measures in banks and airports, and many more.

Part 4. The Face Tracking In After Effects

Adobe After Effects is a useful and powerful tool that can be used for various purposes, including Face Tracking. This feature enables you to track the movement of a person's face and detect specific parts of a face, including eyes, nose, mouth, etc., to let you work with these facial features individually.

For instance, you can change the mouth movement or pupil color without frame-by-frame adjustments. Moreover, you can measure facial features to see the details, such as how open the eye or mouth is.


Here's a simple and quick rundown of the features of Face Tracking in Adobe After Effects:

  1. Help you detect faces and provide isolated data points to help you refine the content.
  2. Retouch the face in a video without adjusting it frame by frame.
  3. Let you export the tracking data to Character Animator for creating performance-based animations.


There are two Face Tracking functions in the Tracker panel:

  • Face Tracking (Outline Only): This feature will only help you to outline the face in a video clip.
  • Face Tracking (Detailed Features): This option will help you if you want to detect the different facial features and parts, including the eye, pupil, eyebrow, mouth, and nose. You can also take exact measurements of the features.

Part 5. The Guidance Of Using Face Tracking In After Effects

Follow the guidelines below to use Face Tracking in After Effects:

Face Tracking To Outline A Face

Step1Launch the After Effects software and click “File” in the top Toolbar. Select Import and click “File.” Find the video footage and add it to the Project panel.

adding the footage to the project panel

Step2To add a new layer, drag and drop the video footage from the Project Panel to the Composition.

Step3Drag the blue current-time indicator in the Timeline to a frame showing the face's upright and front view.

dragging the blue cti to a frame with the face in the upright and front position

Step4Now, you have to draw a closed mask loosely around the face. This helps identify the region for locating the facial features. The top mask is used for Face Tracking if you have selected multiple masks.

creating a closed mask loosely around the face

Step5Click the “Window” option from the top Toolbar and scroll down to “Tracker.” Select “Face Tracking (Outline Only)” as the tracking method in the Tracker Panel.

Step6To make sure the tracking is working correctly, track forward or backward one frame at a time and click the “Start” button to start the analysis process of the frames. Once finished, you can find the Face Tracking data within the Composition.

Tracking Detailed Features And Extracting Facial Measurements

For detailed face features tracking, do the following steps in sequence:

Step1Import your file and add it to the Project in the After Effects. Drop and drag the video clip into a Composition from the Project Panel to add a layer.

Step2Position the CTI to a frame showing the upright and front view of the face, and draw a closed mask loosely around the face to define the search region to find the facial features.

Step3Click the “Window” option, scroll down to Tracker and select it. Choose the “Face Tracking (Detailed Features)” option as the tracking method.

selecting the face tracking option

Step4Track forward or backward to check the tracking process, and click the “Start” button to initiate the analysis process.

Step5Once the analysis is done, you can find the tracking data within a new effect, “Face Track Point.” To access the face tracking data, go to “Window” and select “Effects Control” to go to the Effects Panel or check within the Composition.

face tracking data within the composition

Step6Move the CTI to a frame displaying neutral facial expressions or is in the rest pose. The measurements of a face on other frames are dependent on the rest pose frame. Now, click “Set Rest Pose” in the Tracker Panel and select “Extract & Copy Face Measurements” to add the Face Measurement layer.

Step7When the Face Measurements effect layer is added, keyframes are automatically generated based on the Face Track Points keyframe data. You can copy the data from the system clipboard for use in Adobe Character Animator.

Video - How to do Face Tracking, Facial ID, with After Effects (iPhone X features) Tutorial


In this article, we've discussed what Face Tracking is, where it is applied, how it works, and its challenges and drawbacks. We further provided a step-by-step guide on using Face Tracking in After Effects and discussed its two functions.

Hopefully, this guide helps you understand the Face Tracking technology, and you can now use the feature in After Effects without hassle.

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Liza Brown
Liza Brown Mar 27, 24
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