Joe Clay | Nov 20, 2018
We're coming up on the end of the year again, and it's a great time to sneak in some write-offs. Like we did last time, here's an updated list of plugins and scripts that we use in AE, as well as a shot of my layout so that you can match up scripts you might've seen in our tutorials. The numbered ones are listed first, but nothing is in any particular order.
I've put the current price of each plugin or script below as of the time of writing this, so you can figure out if it's worth it to you.
1. Expressionist $39.99
Expressionist is a replacement editor for expressions inside of After Effects. You can resize the font and it does syntax highlighting, so you can keep lengthy expressions straight. If you work with expressions, this is a no-brainer. You can also use it to run and write scripts inside AE.
2. FXConsole FREE
Video Copilot's FXConsole is my most used plugin. I use it constantly. It is insane that it is free. It basically allows you to type in the name of a plugin or even a preset and add it to a layer but it does SO much more. I'm not even going to explain the rest. Just go grab it now!
3. Flow $30
Flow is excellent. It makes graph editing inside of AE about a million times easier so you can get nice easing. You can save and download libraries of easing curves as well. Make sure to download them from Flow's page. Zack Lovatt and Tomas Sinkunas straight up killed it with Flow. I used to use Ease and Wizz years ago, and I haven't even touched it since buying Flow. It's almost sad since its functionality inspired Quiver. Best of all, Flow doesn't need to use expressions to accomplish easing, so if you have to hand off your project, it looks like you took the time to hand-ease everything.
4. Ray Dynamic Color 2 $29.99
Ray Dynamic Color is an awesome color palette script by Sander van Dijk. I use Ray every day. You can make palettes, pick colors off of it, use it to link colors, and easily change palettes and colors. It's very versatile. It's also great for use in team situations so people can share palettes and colors on projects. Note: if you want to pick using eyedroppers and you need color accuracy that seems to works fine on Windows, but there's sometimes a slight color shift in macOS. Using it as normal is color accurate, however. I think it shifts on macOS because macOS applies a color profile to the panel that you're trying to pick a color from.
5. Butcapper Name your price
By the same developer as Rubberhose and Overlord, Adam Plouff of Battleaxe, Butcapper is a great little utility script. It's name your own price, and it allows you to easily change stroke types in layers without having to drill down through a million shape layer elements. Anything that can stop you from having to do that is worth it.
6. Taxonomy Not available yet
Taxonomy is a script I'm still developing. It's used for retiming layers. While handy, there's a lot more I want to add to it and I'll probably change its name at some point, so keep an eye out!
7. Quiver 2 $15
Quiver is an extension made by, well, me. So I think it's pretty cool. At its core, it allows you to save expressions and apply them to any property inside of After Effects. Expressions are stored in files in a folder you can put anywhere, including Dropbox. You can even edit and save expressions to your library right inside of AE. Stop copying and pasting from that long .txt file you keep on your desktop—I know you have one because I had one.
8. Overlord $45
If you've ever wanted to bring vectors from Illustrator straight into AE, or you have an issue converting certain parts of AI files to shapes like gradients and live text, get Overlord from Adam Plouff. If you hate drawing in AE because AI has much better tools, get Overlord. Just get Overlord.
9. Toggle Shape Fill/Stroke Name your price
John Colombo has a ton of great scripts you can name your own price for. This one allows you to toggle on/off strokes and fills for shape layers. Get it.
10. Labels 3 $18
People always ask me what this cool looking script is. It's Labels by Tomas Sinkunas aka renderTom. Tomas makes excellent scripts so you can't go wrong with him. This one allows you to quickly color your layers, footage items, and it even functions as a script launcher like KBar. It saves a ton of time. You can also save 20% if you buy it with Prism.
11. Prism 2 $14.99
Prism is similar to Labels. Where Labels allows you to quickly color layers, Prism applies a logic to it. So you can color layers in a hierarchy, or by name, etc. It's developed in part by Andrew Embury so you know it's battle-tested.
12. NoSolids Not available yet
This is another script I'm currently developing. It's probably ready to be honest, but I haven't had time to finish it off. I developed it after I cleared some stuff out of a file and realized I had deleted a ton of adjustment layers that I needed. Now I don't need to worry about deleting things out of projects because I don't really use solids anymore.
13. Joysticks n' Sliders $39.95
If you're doing character animation, get Joysticks n' Sliders now. It's especially perfect for doing heads of characters that you want to look pseudo-3D when they look around. There are plenty of other uses for it as well in a more motion-graphic setup. Basically, you can use on screen controls to switch between keyframes you set up—like a character looking up or to the right. It's super powerful.
14. Lazy $29.99
StackIt takes your selected layers and arranges them in a grid. The grid can be uniform or staggered. It can also duplicate layers to fill the grid, and you can set up spacing the way you want it on x and y axes. I've used it to lay out really dense grids that I'd never lay out by hand. This script has saved me a ton of time.
16. Explode Shape Layers 3 $29.99
While I've been using Overlord more for some of the things that Zack Lovatt's excellent Explode Shape Layers does, I still find it useful to explode and implode groups of shapes to and from different layers—especially text. And it can even get rid of those annoying extra boxes that AE adds after converting some vectors.
17. Select Nth Not available yet
OK, so I thought I had made this one available. I guess I'll have to remedy that soon. Select Nth is a simple script that allows you to select layers from the selected layer skipping n layers in between. So you can select every other layer, or every third layer, etc. It's very useful if you have groups of layers and you need to do something with a certain part of each group.
18. Key Cloner Name your price
Funny story, Paul Conigliaro and I were apparently both developing a tool like this at some point. It was a while ago, but I think we both helped with aeQuery's key class. Anyway, grab Key Cloner from Paul! It lets you clone keys, reverse keys, and clone + reverse keyframes. Unlike AE's reverse keyframes command, this preserves timing for groups of keys so you can completely reverse an animation without having to mess with the timing again.
19. Universal Audio $9.99
Universal Audio helps you to get audio into all of your precomps so that you can maintain timing. It can even handle remapped time. Do you ever get doubled-up audio on a long render because you forgot to mute a track? This sets all audio layers that aren't in the main comp up as guide layers automatically, so you only hear your original audio track in your render. You can't go wrong for $9.99 with the amount of time this will save you.
20. Wayfinder $25
Sadly, I've had this in my UI, and I haven't had the chance to use it yet because the projects I've had lately didn't require it. But I got Wayfinder from Paul Conigliaro as soon as it was released because it allows you to link things to live shapes. That means you can have parametric layers, modifiers like zig zag, etc. and have other layers follow the paths. That's cool.
21. GifGun $29.99
If you're making gifs, get GifGun by Nik Ska. Never waste your time again by roundtripping through Photoshop to make a gif. Without GifGun, it's unlikely that the tutorials on this site would have gif examples.
Color Vibrance FREE
Video Copilot's Color Vibrance plugin has helped me on a few projects where directors were looking for certain colors to pop. You can also use it to subtly unify the colors in a composite. It's actually helped me quite a bit more than expected to save some projects by adding an unexpected dimension to the design.
Saber, also free from Video Copilot, is quite useful. You can use it to stroke a mask, add in energy effects, etc. And it has an excellent library of different presets. Andrew Kramer shows off a lot of cool uses in his introduction for Saber, but there are a lot of cool ways you can use it. Check out our Ring of Fire tutorial for example.
Another free plugin from Video Copilot, Orb is a way better version of CC Sphere designed to build orbs with bump maps, reflectance, and atmosphere. It's insanely great and insanely free.
Element 3D $199.95
You've probably seen the excellent Video Copilot plugin Element 3D, but if not it allows you to bring a model into After Effects and then texture, light, animate, and even clone it. In my opinion, it's a little quirky about some things—like anchor points—but once you figure that out it works pretty well. If you're wondering, it's usually just better to make nulls for your object groups and animate those instead.
I had a project where I needed to animate a bunch of 3D devices, and it was so much faster for me to model them and then bring them into AE with Element for simple texturing and animation. It made changing anything a lot easier, and I didn't have to deal with frame sequences.
Optical Flares $124.95
Optical Flares, also from Video Copilot, is the best flare plugin in the game. That is all. If you don't have it by this point, go get it. I recommend grabbing it with the presets for the extra $40.
Rubberhose is another excellent script from Adam Plouff. It is extremely helpful for character animation. If you need characters to have stroke torsos or arms and legs, Rubberhose is perfect for you. You can also attach custom feet and hands easily. There are also other uses beyond characters. For example, anything you would have done with the Beam effect with null controls would likely be better done with Rubberhose.
AE Pixel Sorter 2 $39.99
If you need some distorted techy looks, grab AE Pixel Sorter. You've probably seen this effect elsewhere, but this appears to be the first plugin for pixel sorting inside of After Effects. And version 2 makes it a lot easier to get the sorting look you're after.
Randomizer shifts layers randomly in time. It's been hugely helpful in my workflows, saving me tons of time. While the functionality of Randomizer has been absorbed into Taxonomy, I always protect your investment. So when Taxonomy—or whatever I name it when it ships—comes out, you'll get at least a $5 discount on it. So feel free to grab it now without worry. It still works, and it still saves you time.
This is the last one of my own scripts that I'll mention. It's super simple. If you hate having to flip back and forth between apps so you can see your scripts, or if you need a place to store some text temporarily without leaving After Effects, check out Scripty. Currently it's mainly just a text box. However, I am working on a paid upgrade that will expand the functionality considerably.
Stardust burst on the scene a couple of years ago as a competitor in the particle generator world, and for the price, it's definitely worth it. It has a different node-style interface so it can be used to make interesting things. The node-based workflow allows you to generate many different particles. Some particles can have turbulence while some are unaffected. There are attractors, 3D object support, and all sorts of things. It seems to be like a Particular/Form/Plexus hybrid that has different customizations. I do find the setup to be a little more complex than Trapcode plugins. Trapcode and Stardust offer different things so it's kind of up to you to see which one fits your needs, or to just get both. Thankfully, they're both GPU accelerated.
Trapcode Suite $999
Full disclosure, I was given a copy of the last version of the Trapcode Suite—and I need to pay for the upgrade because the new fluid dynamics stuff looks amazing! I'd also like to note that I did purchase Mir separately. Anyway, while I think Stardust is excellent, I find Particular and Form—the two particle plugins I use the most from the suite—to be easier to set up for many different animations. I've used Form to generate fields of particles on some spots lately and it was ridiculously easy and fast to get what I needed. Trapcode and Stardust offer different things so it's kind of up to you to see which one fits your needs, or to just get both. Thankfully, they're both GPU accelerated.
Paint from Paint and Stick $99.99
I've only used Paint a little bit so far due to time crunches, but I had a great time with it. If you're looking to do some cel/hand animation in After Effects, look no further. I was using it on my iPad Pro + Pencil through Astropad. I had an issue with that completely unsupported setup, and the developers even got back to me to let me know about changes they were going to make. Any plugin with that active of a developer is worth a look. I haven't had a need for the Stick portion of the plugin, but I'm sure it's excellent if you need that functionality.
Origami is an excellent script by Nik Ska, the developer of GifGun so you know it's well built. It makes an interesting folding affect by splitting up layers. While that may slow things down if you have a ton of layers, you get a lot of animation for that render hit.
I grabbed CompCode a bit ago so that I can use it to package different products. It's excellent, but I'm not because I haven't had much of a chance to use it because I just haven't had time this year. So when you finally, if you see branded script panels from me, know that they'll be the direct result of CompCode. And it's made by Tomas Sinkunas, developer of many kickass scripts like Flow, so you know it's rock solid. It's a script that can build scripts. That's some Inception-level coding.
m's Halftone $19.99
After unsuccessfully trying to resurrect Pete's Halftone plugin, I made a preset that worked really well. But nothing is faster and better than a single plugin. And m's Halftone fits the bill perfectly.
Composite Brush $99.99
Composite brush is a great color selector for building mattes in AE. So far, I haven't been able to get as amazing results as shown in the video, but I have definitely built usable mattes. I should also note that the footage I've used this on so far has a lot of similar colors, so that's not doing Composite Brush any favors. Chris Vranos, the developer, has been pretty active with it, so I feel good recommending it.
Cartoon Moblur $29.95
Sadly, I haven't had a lot of chances to use Cartoon Moblur from the excellent devs at Plugin Everything, but that's more due to the projects I've had recently. It creates an excellent echo-like effect for shape layers. It has a ton of uses faking 3D as well. And it's extremely fast.
ReelSmart Motion Blur $89.95
Sev uses ReelSmart Motion Blur from RE:Vision Effects when we need motion blur on 3D renders. He uses the pro version when he needs it to be more accurate since it lets you use motion vectors.
JSplacement Name your price
JSPlacement from Grigori Shevtsov, aka Windmill, allows you to generate 8K textures to use for displacement. I definitely recommend supporting Grigori through his tip jar. We use it all the time—so much so that I'm even happier to include it on this list so I don't have to list it into every other tutorial! It's got a lot of features, and it's still in development. I get very excited when I see a new update is available. Also, his art is pretty awesome, and his experiments with screwing up video signals really makes me want to experiment.
So there you go. That's a pretty lengthy list of some very awesome scripts and plugins that will save you some time. All together, if I didn't miss anything, that's $2,500.63. So if you want some write-offs, don't forget software! And if you have any suggestions for stuff I missed or left out—cue the dude who's going to say I left out FT-Toolbar or KBar!—put them in the comments below!