How to datamosh in After Effects, CapCut, and Premiere Pro

Datamoshing helps you create glitchy, tripped-out footage. Here’s a tutorial covering how to datamosh in After Effects, Premiere Pro, and CapCut.


Datamoshing is an odd little technique — it’s built on accidents and imperfections, but can make your video content pop. Learn all about it today. 

We’ll cover:

What is a datamosh?

Datamoshing is a video editing technique in which the footage is manipulated to look ‘trippy’ or ‘glitchy,’ usually by manual compression. The most common datamosh you’ll have seen is the transition datamosh, in which one frame breaks down into a bunch of pixels and moves onto the next scene. It’s most commonly found in music videos — check out Chairlift’s Evident Utensil to get a feel for it. 

Contrary to popular belief, datamoshing is not the act of shoving a computer around at a Metallica concert. 

What causes datamoshing?

Datamoshing was originally a defect, rather than a desired effect. Filmmakers and editors noticed it when they exported compressed videos.

Datamoshing is born from the relationship between a compressed video file’s i-frames, p-frames, and b-frames. I-frames (intra-coded frames) contain the complete image, and can be displayed on their own as a freeze-frame or still image. 

P-frames (predicted frames) are the ‘holding pen’ in which the pixels from the i-frames must move — they’re reference frames, which depend on the information from the previous i-frame or p-frame. Similarly, b-frames (bi-predictive frames) show information based on the previous or following p- or i-frame.

Using a laptop

P- and b-frames are ideal for compressed video, as they only store predicted pixel movement data, rather than i-frames’ full-on image storage. 

When a video is compressed, all of these frames are thrown into the mix. If an i-frame is corrupted or removed during this process, the p- or b-frame will display incorrect data. It’s a little like using a faulty part to fix a car — it fits, sure, but it’s not going to work quite how it’s supposed to. The end product becomes corrupted and datamoshed.

What are the different types of datamoshing?

There are two main types of datamoshing. The first is i-frame removal, which throws pixels from a previous frame into the current footage — this is the ‘transition’-style datamosh. 

The second type is p-frame duplication, which causes ‘bloom.’ This is a trancy, spaced-out visual, which occurs as a result of pixels in the p-frames being replicated over and over. 

Editing video

Why do people use datamoshing?

Why do people collect baseball cards, buy designer clothes, spend money renovating a perfectly nice living room? When done right, datamoshing just looks cool. It’s rarely used in commercial TV and movies, but is rife in music videos and digital content. 

Found-footage horror filmmakers are big fans of datamoshing, as their whole shtick hangs on the content looking like raw, unedited takes. Since datamoshing can happen naturally, if it’s placed at the right moment, it can make for maximum spookiness. We’re not going to link it — we’re scaredy-cats — but watch the trailers for the Unfriended movies. That’s why filmmakers datamosh. 

Why does my video datamosh?

Datamoshing can be used to emphasize your footage, but what if it’s been datamoshed by accident? This has likely happened as stated above — your content was probably corrupted during the compression process. 

While there’s no one-size-fits-all solution, you can trouble-shoot datamoshing via several avenues. First, check that you’re exporting with software encoding rather than hardware encoding — the former is usually higher quality and absent of any visual noise or glitchiness. Bumping up your bitrate and increasing the overall export quality can also reduce your chances of accidental datamoshing. 


How to datamosh in After Effects

If you’d like to datamosh manually, the best program to use is Adobe After Effects. As long as you have the program installed, you can datamosh for free and without a plugin. 

Whether you’re on a tight budget or just want to go old-school, here’s how to manually datamosh in After Effects:

  1. Open After Effects and import your video. Duplicate the footage layer, then rename it to something like ‘Reference frame’ — just so you don’t get your wires crossed later on. 
  2. Go through your project timeline and select the frame in which you’d like the effect to start. Reduce your footage layer’s work area from the left to the selected frame, so you’re working from the start of your datamoshable zone. 
  3. Trim the reference frame layer, so you only have one frame left — the frame after the work area you selected in the previous step. 
  4. Head to the top menu and create a mask on the footage layer, leaving letterbox-style gaps at the top and bottom. These gaps allow pixel analysis — if you mask the whole thing, there’ll be no room for this process. 
  5. Find the mask on your project timeline, and check the ‘Inverted’ box. This prepares your video for pixel analysis. 
  6. Click ‘Window,’ then ‘Content-Aware Fill.’ Set the ‘Fill Method’ field to ‘Surface,’ then click the burger-style menu in the Content-Aware Fill window. Click ‘Content-Aware Fill Settings,’ then check the boxes for ‘Create Photoshop Sequence for Output’ and Auto-Manage Unused Fill Footage.’
  7. Tap ‘Generate Fill Layer’ and let After Effects do its thing. If you receive an error, reduce the size of your mask area and try again. 
  8. The pixels from your reference frame layer should have deformed, spreading over your footage layer and creating a datamosh-style effect. 
  9. The area outside of the mask will still be visible, and may look unusual. To fix this, click ‘Layer’ in the top menu, then ‘New’ and ‘Adjustment Layer.’ Give the adjustment layer a name you’ll remember, like ‘Upscaled layer.’ Head to the Upscaled layer’s ‘Effects & Presets’ menu, and select ‘Transform.’ Drag the Transform effect to the left-hand column, and scale it up so the old, visible edge moves out of the frame. 
  10. Create another Adjustment Layer and call it ‘Artifacts.’ Give this layer a ‘Hue/Saturation’ effect and crank the saturation way up high. Doing so will make all of your video’s digital artifacts and imperfections more noticeable, enhancing the datamosh vibe. It will also make the footage too bright — counteract this by adding a ‘CC Composite’ effect, setting the blending mode to ‘Color.’ This will return your footage to its original color, all while retaining the datamosh.

As you might have guessed, datamoshing in After Effects can be time-consuming. If you have the budget, it might be worth buying the Datamosh 2 plugin. 

Datamoshing on a laptop

How to datamosh in Premiere Pro

If you want to datamosh your Adobe Premiere Pro projects, you’re best off downloading a plugin or preset. There are several available on the market, all of which will lend your content a convincing datamosh. If you have access to the full Adobe suite, you could always edit the footage first in After Effects, then import it into Premiere Pro to finish up. 

How to datamosh in CapCut

CapCut is a free, mobile-friendly video editing app synonymous with TikTok videos and other vertical viral content. Manual datamoshing isn’t doable in-app, but that’s fine — you can find templates that’ll do the job. Search ‘glitch’ in the CapCut Templates page, and you should find something to fit the bill. 

It’s worth noting that, while you can datamosh manually with After Effects and Premiere Pro, the market is flooded with datamosh-specific apps and programs. MoshUp is a great choice for iOS mobile devices, Datamosh: Datamoshing & Glitch comes recommended for Google Play users, and Supermosh even allows free, in-browser datamoshing. 

Datamoshing on mobile

Ready to get your datamosh on? Whether you’re a solo creator or part of a larger team, there’s always room to learn new skills and take your content to the next level.

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