Doctor Who REGENERATION EFFECT tutorial | After Effects, no plugins

Here’s another fun trick video effect – how to do the ‘Doctor Who’ regeneration effect! Our fan-made version was made in Adobe After Effects using no plugins.

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In the long-running British science fiction TV series Doctor Who, regeneration is a power used by the Time Lords, including main character the The Doctor, to change appearance and personality, and is a brilliantly convenient excuse to recast the actor in the role whenever the show needs to. If only James Bond could do the same!

The style of effect has changed many times during the 50+ years of the BBC series (in the black and white 60s days it was often just a dodgy cross-fade to the next actor) so it is a little different every time. We based ours on the ‘modern’ era of Doctor Who which started in 2005 with Christopher Eccleston and made the effect much more dramatic. Specifically we were going for a combination of Tenth Doctor David Tennant transforming into Eleventh Doctor Matt Smith (“I don’t want to go!”), and Twelfth Doctor Peter Capaldi transforming into Thirteenth Doctor Jodie Whittaker (“Oh, brilliant!”)

While most of the DIY Hollywood effects we try are done in a single take, we decided to shoot this one as a series of shots, almost like a short film, because that is how it is normally done in the show. So we shot this in our home studio with a green screen, and we recreated the ‘TARDIS’ using the technique seen in our previous after effects tutorial video ‘How to add yourself into movies’, which you can see here:

For the transformation itself we shot both actors in the same position trying to replicate the same angle of head tilt, and blended them together using some distortion from the mesh warp tool, and covered the join with a particle effect done using Particle World and some smoke and lens flare elements. This effect also uses a similar technique to our ‘Mission Impossible Mask Effect’ which you can learn about here:

For other shots to set up the transformation we used techniques such as fractal noise, turbulent displace to create a kind of ‘heat wave’ effect, and CC light rays.

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Mission Impossible mask effect tutorial:
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Original Mission Impossible mask effect tutorial (2015):
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Duration: 00:12:13

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