The best After Effects plugins
The plugins and scripts that every motion designer needs to help speed up your workflow
After Effects is capable of producing incredible work right out of the box and each year it grows more and more powerful. Despite this, there are some features and tools that are missing or are neglected. Over the years, thousands of scripts have been released to help bridge these gaps. AEscripts has a huge range of plugins and scripts that are available to download, most of which don’t cost the earth.
As a freelancer, if I ever have to work in-house, I quite often end up using their spare machine. It makes you realise just how much these plugins have become a part of your daily workflow. I’ve tried to keep to a list that would benefit all motion designers, that way I don’t end up with plugins that would only benefit character animators for example. Also, these are my opinions – nobody has paid me to select these.
This plugin is without a doubt one of my favourites. I’ve only veen using it for a few weeks but it has dramatically improved and sped up my workflow. Anybody that uses Cinema 4D will be frustrated with After Effect’s way of organising comps. You can hide layers etc but organising them is just a pain and this plugin solves that. It allows you to organsing layers into different groups and quickly hide, solo, and lock layers via the UI. It sounds incredibly simple but the impact this can have when working on huge projects or complex character animations is vast. If you could only afford to buy one plugin on this list, THIS is the one.
Audio is one area in After Effects that’s clunky and quite often slows down your workflow. There’s nothing worse than working on a complex animation with dozens of nested comps and then the client makes a change and you have to change all the audio. Universal Audio solves this problem. You select the layer you want to use as your Universal Audio and then it will automatically update all your precomps with the audio and ensure the timing is correct to their relative position in the main composition. What about comps that are stretched or time remapped? It’ll use some fancy maths to work that out too.
Anyone that’s ever used the ageing graph editor will realise it desperately needs an update. Flow solves that problem by bringing an intuitive, easy to use interface to AE. It allows you to quickly select a curve and apply it to your animation. Not only that but it also allows you to create custom presets. It seems so simple but it really is a huge time saver.
In 2015, Adobe rebuilt AE’s render engine and for some bizarre reason decided to remove the multicore processing. Essentially, this meant it would only use a single core from your CPU to render. I have an 8-core machine, so instead of using all 8 of them, AE would only use 1. They’ve been promising that they’ll add it again but we’re almost 4 years down the line and it’s still strangely absent. Fear not, as BG Renderer can solve this problem. All you need to do is select ‘multiprocessing’ before each render and it will use all of your cores. As an added bonus, it will render in the background so you can carry on using AE.
I’ve been using Windows machines for a few years now and there’s one thing I miss the most about macOS (other than stability) – the ability to use ProRes codecs. Animation files are fine but they have a tendency to be on the large side. This incredible plugin solves this issue and finally brings native ProRes to Windows. What makes it even better is it somehow manages to get files down to a fraction of the size when compared to Adobe Media Encoder.
This has to be my new favourite script for After Effects. It’s not perfect (I will you could have multiple KBars on one panel) but it saves so much time. Need to clear all the caches? Don’t hunt for it in the menus, just add it to the KBar and then it can be done within 1 click. Do you have an expression you use all the time? KBar it and it’ll be there to select in your toolbar. I’ve barely scratched the surface with this gem but it continues to impress and, more importantly, speed up my workflow.