When making a movie, whether small or large, it can always be fun to add an additional effect over the shot. You either do this for aesthetic, atmospheric, or plot reasons, all depending on the context you put it in. VHS effects are among the most popular, as can be seen in so many online photographs and phone apps. Today we’re gonna learn how to add VHS effects to video, how VHS video effects can be utilized, and some popular VHS filter options that you can add into your next project.

VHS Effects Benefits

Why use VHS effects?

Everyone has their reasons for using certain effects or overlays, such as film grain, and the VHS video effect is no different. So when you’re learning how to add VHS effects to video, there are a few things to keep in mind.

Aesthetics

Some people like to use VHS textures and effects because they like the look. Whether they actually have relevance to the plot in any way is secondary. This is the sort of thing you may see with someone using a phone app, but it can be used to great effect in a narrative.

If, for example, you wanted to showcase characters having fun somewhere, a VCR effect can be part of that experience. Or, if your story has a paranoid feel to it, that VHS footage effect can keep things creepy.

Nostalgia

If you’re working on something that is intended to represent the past in some way, a VHS filter can accomplish that. Similar to how a movie might utilize 8mm or 16mm film to represent “the past,” so can the look of a VHS tape video effect.

Maybe you want certain home movies to look a certain way, especially if we’re flashing back to a time before the present. In other cases, you might just want to give off a vibe that can only be accomplished with VHS textures.

Practical

Possibly the best reason to use a VHS effect is for practical reasons, like if you have a character watching a tape. If your movie is a period piece — or even if it isn’t — this is probably why you would want to use a VHS effect. Even if you aren’t having a character using a tape of any kind, the VHS effect — being tied to a specific time — can be era appropriate if you want to film a scene or sequence with the effect.

VHS Effect Usage

How to Use VHS Effects

Part of learning about how to add VHS effects to video includes knowing what that entails. The tutorial below, while specific, should provide you with an understanding behind what can be done to achieve a VHS video effect, even if you aren’t using any plugins.

How to add VHS effect to video in Premiere

Adjusting the specifics of your footage may not be your thing, but there are more straightforward ways to achieve that desirable VCR effect and VHS filter.

Sharpness

A VHS image shouldn't look very sharp, so you want to make sure your footage has a blurriness to it. That does not necessarily mean turning the blur all the way up; sometimes lowering the sharpness is good enough. If you still want the image to look soft, though, feel free to play with your blur settings to enhance your VHS tape video effect.

Glitches (V/A)

This one’s pretty important, as it is likely you want to bring attention to the quality of your VHS effect for video. Even if you would rather keep things subtle, a small visual and audio glitch can go a long way in selling the effect. In some cases, you can go real hard and make the image look badly beaten, which can work well in “found footage” scenarios.

Display Icons

While not super necessary, you might want to include those ever famous “date” icons that also help sell your VHS tape video effect. Aside from dates, you can also include battery information and maybe even a tracking bar, in case you want to simulate that very specific VCR effect that some of them had.

Aspect Ratio

Some might consider this essential, but it also just depends on what you’re trying to do. If you want to make your VHS footage effect as “authentic” as possible, making sure your aspect ratio is 4:3 is pretty important — VHS analogue technology was made for 4:3 monitors.

VHS Effects Online

VHS effects online you can use

As you may have guessed, there are a variety of VHS effects for video out there that can be added to your favorite production software programs. We decided to give you a few recommendations that work in either After Effects or Premiere Pro, each one providing a different type of experience and package you can take advantage of.

Let’s start with a few you can use with After Effects:

VHS Transitions

VHS Transitions is a free VHS effect template that comes with 16 animated transitions that you can use for just about anything. Compatible with After Effects and not featuring any plug-ins, it can full 1920x1080 and is free of charge. Just keep in mind that these are transitions and not strictly overlays.

VHS Freeze Frame Opener

VHS Freeze Frame Opener

If you’re interested in having a quick VHS effect in your production, then VHS Freeze Frame Opener is the free software for you. It comes with twelve media and twelve text placeholders, all in HD.

Creation VHS Effects

How to add VHS effects to video with Creation

This is a pricey bundle, but the Creation VHS Effect collection comes with a lot of unique options. On top of having overlays that you can place over your video, you can also customize your footage with over one-hundred different effects, including glitches, static, and filters.

VHS Video Effect Overlay

Free VHS effect overlay 

This is a basic and free VHS Video Effect Overlay from Enchanted Media. It is a drag and drop template, one which makes it easy for anyone to use in their production.

VHS Toolkit

VHS footage effects with Toolkit

For a cool $29, this VHS Toolkit can be yours. It comes with a nice spread of effects that include different levels of overlay, from subtle to severe. You can also add specific overlays, such as what you might see if you were viewing the footage from an actual tape recorder. This toolkit also comes with transitions, backgrounds, and a helpful guide.

Now let’s talk about a few effects that are compatible with Premiere Pro:


VHS Style Pack

This Style Pack is free with a nice variety of VHS effects. Along with the usual VHS tape look, it also includes some fairly unique effects, like “High Contrast,” which can give your video a very stylistic look. As a result, this style pack provides VHS effects for the practical and aesthetically minded filmmaker.

VHS Retro Trailer

How to add VHS effects to video trailers

The VHS Retro Trailer is a free and easy to use template for creating a movie trailer with VHS effects. Not just an overlay, it comes with editable text layers, dynamic transitions, and stylized beginnings and ends for your trailer, helping you make ideal VHS effects for videos.

VHS Film Effect Preset

A VHS effect online preset 

Featuring a helpful tutorial, this VHS Film Effect Preset can be used in Premiere Pro and be downloaded at no charge. As a preset, this can make it easy to use and implement in your footage, along with being able to manipulate your footage to greater effect.

VHS Build Pack

VHS texture pack

The VHS Build Pack comes with five types of styles, along with five transitions, for a bundle that will provide you with the VHS looks you want. Along with coming in two aspect ratios (4:3 and 16:9) and four sets of VHS elements (such as displays and icons), and a nifty tutorial.


Rampant VHS Effect

A VHS effect tutoria 

It’ll cost you $19, but Rampant’s VHS Effect package comes with very nifty and cool templates that you can mix and match with. Some of these specific effects include your usual distortion, but also ghosting and scan lines, all of which can be played with to achieve a style that’s best for your project.

UP NEXT

Top film grain overlays

Now that we have gone over how to add VHS effects to video, you should look into the top film grain overlays that you can use. From simple to complex, there are a few film grain overlay types for whatever project you’re planning to work on next.

Up Next: Film grain overlays →
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  • Rafael Abreu received his B.A. in English from Florida International University, along with certificates in Film Studies and Asian Studies. He’s written reviews, scripts, and analytical essays focusing on all aspects of cinema. He can’t stop talking about aspect ratios.

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