Favorite Third-Party Plugins, Extensions, and Scripts For Adobe Premiere and After Effects
Plugins are great tools. They assist in producing amazing looking video, along with helping make tedious tasks and actions manageable and repeatable. I even believe that it's totally fine to use templates in certain situations where something straight-forward needs to be created on a tight budget and deadline, as long as you're not calling it your own custom design. Unless the client is giving you absolute creative freedom and money is no problem, then every single piece of work does not need to be built from the ground up, or else we would never get any of our projects done.
With that being said, I still think it is a good idea to know the principles behind the actions of the plugins you are using. If you are using infographic templates in your daily workflow, then you should at least know how to create a trim path with shape layers in After Effects. The same goes for lower thirds. You should have a solid grasp on track mattes and easing before using a ton of pre-made lower thirds. After you understand the skill foundations of what these plugins are assisting with, then I feel like it's okay to use them to speed up your workflow. Don't just download a bunch of free plugins and use them without a grasp of what's actually being done to make it happen, it's bad practice.
Here are some plugins and effect packs that help me make video clips look cool and polished, while speeding up the way I can create. Most of them do cost money, but I use them enough on a week to week basis that they are all worth the cost in my opinion.
Premiere Composer - Free Interface, $50-70 for Packs
Mister Horse's Premiere Composer is an incredibly handy plugin to have around, along with Animation Composer for After Effects (listed below) that helps animate transitions and text, along with adding graphic overlays, lower thirds, and sound effects. There is a free version so you can try out a few of the effects, and then paid packs that include a bunch of others. I really like to use this primarily for the transitions, but the L3 presets and SFX have been useful too. So rather than having to build custom animations from scratch, you can just look up what you need in here, and quickly apply it to your layer.
LensDistortions - $129
There are a time and place for light flares, and Len Distortion Light Hits are the packs you want to use when that time comes. They come as separate $130 light hit packs, one called Classic and another titled Modern. I recommend starting with the Classic Light Hits 4K Pack and trying it out by overlaying on appropriate footage. If the sun is in the shot, try adding a lens flare on the opposite side of the frame to simulate sunlight reflecting off the glass of the lens. Or use a quick lens flare flash right next to an area that you want your viewer's eyes to look over at. You will find that sometimes a flare is all a shot needs to take it to that next level.
Red Giant Denoiser III & Renoiser - $1000 for Magic Bullet Suite, $50/month for Red Giant subscription
When footage is too dark or grainy, adding Red Giant's Denoiser III helps remove it, which improves the quality. This can help clean up some footage that is considered noisy, or that was shot in too low of light. The same goes for adding Red Giant's Renoiser as a final step to the grading process. Sometimes, throwing in a little bit of grain can actually add a more cinematic or artistic look, giving it texture and making it just what footage needs to bring it more to life. These are both parts of Red Giant's Magic Bullet Suite, which includes a handful of incredibly helpful, industry-standard plugins. But beware, they are also both system resource hogs. Make sure you have the proper system to run them, or have a lot of time on your hands when it comes to exporting.
Red Giant Cosmos II - $1000 for Magic Bullet Suite, $50/month for Red Giant subscription
Red Giant has another really helpful plugin called Cosmo, which is also in their Magic Bullet Suite. Adding Cosmo onto interview shots helps brighten a person's face while making any blemishes less noticeable. It smooths and softens everything out, and makes certain details more flattering. And it can be used on any shots with faces in it, not just interview shots, but that's where I find myself using it the most. No one will ever turn down having this effect added to them, and it makes your overall video have a more professional "polish".
There is no shame in using premade assets if the project calls for them. And there's no sense in creating custom graphics every time if they are used repeatedly, or the turnaround time is quick. Motion Factory's Infinity Tool is a continually updating pack of animated backgrounds and icons, logo templates, diagrams, line callouts, and more. My only disclaimer on this one is that there are an overwhelming amount of assets in this one, most great, some not so much. But still, it's a handy pack to have around, sometimes even just for an idea on design, so save yourself some time and pick this one up.
Boombox - $65
I like being as organized as possible, so Mt. Mograph's Boombox helps me with that for my sound effects library. It's essentially a clean looking user interface panel to sort through your SFX, instead of having to use a finder folder. This works well for me with being able to filter to find what sounds I want, along with adding my own sounds as my library constantly builds. It also updates with additional free built-in sound every now and then. It may seem steeply priced at $65, but I've personally grown to love it and use it with every video project I produce.
Frame.io - Free up to 2 Projects, $15/month Unlimited Projects
Frame.io is an easy to use service where groups of people can all look over and provide notes and revisions to a video, even add simple drawings, while keeping it all in one place. I'm pretty sure this one is industry-standard too. It's convenient to be able to upload a video straight inside of Premiere, instead of through the web interface, so I recommend downloading the Frame.io Premiere plugin. Sure, it only saves a few seconds, but it keeps me from having to jump out of Premiere and go into Chrome, which can sometimes buzzkill my focus and motivation. It's just nice to have handy.
FilmConvert - $140
Need a fast way to color correct and grade your footage? FilmConvert is a great tool for doing just that. It's a plugin for Premiere where you can add specific camera profiles, even tune them into specific camera settings, and within a few clicks make for an easy color grade to LOG or neutral looking footage. As the name suggests, it produces a very filmic look, adding in grain and amping up the contrast. I'll admit that I don't use this plugin as much as I used to, since I've become more comfortable doing it myself inside of Lumetri, but it's great if you are just starting out, need to quickly convert LOG footage to Rec.709, or just want to slap a quick grade on while editing for reference.
Animation Composer - Free Interface, $50-70 for Packs
Mister Horse's Animation Composer is the After Effects version of Premiere Composer. It has all of the transitions, animation presets, L3, and SFX that Premiere Composer has, just with an AE interface. Again, this plugin has been invaluable and has saved me hours of time with simple text animation and basic L3s.
Motion 3 - $65
Motion 3 is an INCREDIBLY powerful and awesome After Effects extension, probably my favorite to be honest. I only found out about it because of its keyframe easing capabilities, but the plugin is so much more than than that. It makes changing your comp name, adjusting anchor points, adding color themes, vignettes, dynamics, and nulls, all a breeze, along with other really useful shortcuts. I use it on almost every keyframe, and you can still go into the speed graph if needed to be even more precise.
Element 3D - $200 for Interface, $250-300 for Packs
I've just started learning how to utilize Element 3D in my video projects, but what I do already know is that this plugin is outrageously powerful and one-of-a-kind. The interface allows you to import high-quality, razor-sharp 3D objects into an After Effects composition with the press of a few buttons, then add and adjust textures onto each layer, creating a fully realized 3D object inside of a natively 2.5D program. Usually, you need a separate dedicated program to work with actual 3D models, but Element 3D makes it possible even inside of After Effects.
Overlord - $45
Overlord helps with transferring shapes from Illustrator to After Effects. Open the extension, open both programs, click upload, then all vector shapes are transferred, that's it. It a giant time-saver and literally works instantly. It is magic, and I'll even say that it's a "game-changer".
True Comp Duplicator - $25
Just duplicating a comp in AE doesn’t also duplicate any pre-comps inside of it. Using True Comp Duplicator makes an actual genuine duplicate of a composition, in case you ever need identical comps, but need to make changes to just one version of it and don't want all other versions to change along with it. I use it quite often and recommend it if you've ever been in a similar situation.
Mocha AE - Free for Basic, $295/year for Pro
BorisFX's Mocha AE is another amazingly powerful plugin for After Effects. It allows for precise tracking of movement or objects inside of a video. So for example, if you want to add a custom phone screen to someone holding a blank iPhone, Mocha AE is the program for that. It uses data from the planar surfaces and corners of shapes to track and lock on points, then you add that data to the graphics that you want to composite. The interface takes some practice and training to get used to, but once you know what you're doing, the possibilities are virtually endless. A free basic version comes with After Effects, and a fully-featured version from BorisFX costs $295/year.
VoluMax is a neat plugin for AE that helps turn static images into 3D. It's essentially a template that you import your image into, tell the plugin where the different 3D layers (depth mattes) are with built-in masks, and voila, you have a 3D image! You can still do this one on your own by starting from scratch using the pen tool and the depth matte effect, but this plugin does all the upfront heavy lifting for you, leaving you just needing to point where you want the 3D effect to happen! It's pretty useful, especially if you do these types of projects often.
I'll keep adding to this list if I find more crucial must-haves that need to be shared. Otherwise, these are my top third-party plugins and extensions that are used often in my workflow. Thanks for checking it out, and let me know if I'm missing anything you consider is a must-have at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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