After Effects in itself is perhaps the most powerful tool in any motion designer, 3D artist or animator’s kit. But with the addition of plugins, Adobe’s software becomes smarter and more effective, as well as becoming the gateway to infinite creative possibilities.
Whether you’re a seasoned professional or a complete newcomer to After Effects, these seven plugins will help you take your work to a whole new level.
Sapphire is very similar to the perhaps better known Boris Continuum Complete, in that it is a brilliant one stop shop for a whole host of VFX plugins. Now on its 11th edition, there are more than 50 new effects to choose from, and the Academy Award winning Mocha planar tracking and masking engine is now included.
Expect to see plenty of motion graphics tool, which are perfect for creating textures and overlays, and cinematic lighting effects that allow you to easily add flares, glints, and glows. There are over 3000 presets to choose from, but if that’s not enough it’s also possible to create your own transitions and effects, so you can really make your composition your own.
As you’d expect, Sapphire’s most recent release has been optimized for maximum CPU and GPU performance, making the user experience faster and smoother than ever.
From a plugin that does everything, to one that does a single thing: Cineblur’s Instagram plugin gives you a super easy way to mimic Instagram’s filters, for instantly enhanced cinematography.
If you’re fairly new to After Effects, or just like to get to your end result as quick as possible, this one click solution is for you. Simply install, choose your filter, and you’re done. It couldn’t be simpler.
This plugin is completely free, so it’s worth having in your arsenal for those days when you don’t have time to grade your footage manually.
The first of two entries on our list from Video Copilot, this plugin focuses on sound.
Motionpulse is made up of five sound FX libraries: machine, velocity, organic, impact, and signal. These packs containing over 2000 sounds, so whether you need a glitch, swish, or splash, you’re guarantees to find it here. For custom audio FX, you can layer multiple clips from any library: simply drag and drop onto your timeline.
As you’d expect, every effect is fully mastered and in high definition quality. And, if you don’t need the full five libraries, Video Copilot has them available individually on their website for $49.99 each.
Want to create those incredibly popular 3D connected dots that you see everywhere? Then Plexus is the tool for you.
This trendy plugin from Rowbyte has essentially given birth to a trend in digital media, and the plugin gets better and better with every new release. Plexus 3 is the newest version of the plugin, and a very handy Object Panel has been added for when you need to organize two or more Plexus objects in your layer. Motion blur has also been added to enhance the cinematography in your animations, and you can use custom camera settings to make your work truly unique.
Obj. support is included, so you can import models from most major 3D graphics software and use them as the containers or forms for Plexus to use.
If you’re an animator, you’ll probably have a whole different tool bag of plugins from film editors, and if it isn’t already, Animation Composer should be a part of your kit.
Motion presets give you an easy way to animate your layers, and you can add, remove and adjust objects and animations with a click of your mouse. You can also take advantage of royalty free content through the precomps which have been created by professional animators and illustrators. This is the quickest way to add aspects such as titles, shapes and illustrations to your animation. Audio is taken care of too, and you can adjust the pitch of your chosen clip to better suit your animation.
What we love most about this plugin is how easy it is to use, which makes it suitable for beginners and pros alike.
Second up from the VFX giant Video Copilot is Optical Flares. This simple plugin does exactly what you imagine it will, and although it isn’t the most comprehensive plugin on our list, it will provide you with an almost endless supply of FX to bring your video projects to life.
With 12 unique lens objects and a further 50 custom lens objects, there are plenty of options to choose from. You can also create, share and swap your presets, so there’s no real limit on how creative you can get with your flares and glints.
This package is great for beginners as well as experienced users, as it comes with a 90 minute tutorial with Andrew Kramer, Video Copilot creator.
$399 No ‘best plugin’ list would be complete without an entry from Red Giant, and it’s their iconic Trapcode Particular that really stands out to us.
Similar yet superior to After Effects’ built in Particle World plugin, this brilliant piece of software allows you to create custom particles such as rain, smoke, snow and clouds. You can also create particle-based shapes, patterns and lines in 3D space, and it’s possible to combine multiple FX to create beautiful results in your composition.
The newest version of Particular is GPU-accelerated, and depending on the system and setup that you’re working with, speeds are boosted up to 4x faster than previous versions of the plugin.
Wrapping it up
No editor, animator or motion designer should be without an arsenal of their favorite plugins. By choosing the right ones for your work, you can expect to save time, improve your workflow and up your creativity.
What are your ‘can’t live without’ plugins? Let us know in the comments!