The Basic Tools You Should Have for After Effects

As more and more photographers dive into motion graphics, I thought I’d mention some utilities that can help get the job done.

I’ve been working with After Effects since CS4. While a lot has changed over the years, there are still a select few scripts and plugins that I always want to keep on hand. In fact, if any of these appeal to you, then I’d recommend keeping them in your Creative Cloud storage. That way, they’re accessible on any machine, and you’ll never be stuck without them.

Creating an Array

React is a thoughtful plugin that allows users to create an array from their layers and in turn, animate them. It will work with regular old layers, 3D objects, and even text. However, if the $25 price tag is a bit rich, then be sure to check out Array and Layers2Grid. They’re both scripts that don’t need any installation process. This can be extra convenient if you’re working on a client’s machine. While you can “name your own price” on AeScripts, I’d obviously encourage readers to pay what they can afford.

Find and Replace Text

The worst has happened. A client has requested a name change, and now every comp is filled with the incorrect word. This plugin can make life a lot easier. Its benefit is so obvious that I wish Adobe had it built into the entire CC suite. This also comes in handy when re-skinning old projects for new clients. Just be sure to check over every instance of your word replacement. Issues like anchor points and scale may need to be fixed. You can also find a fancier version of this here.

Bringing Old Projects Into 2022

After Effects has been around for a while now. Remember when it competed with Apple’s Motion? As a result, you may find yourself working on an old project. It may need to be scaled up to 4K and brought into the new decade. While it doesn’t happen often, if you’re going to have a couple Swiss Army Knife scripts, then these two will help.

Firstly, Un-PreCompose can be super helpful. At times, it’s a little finicky, but with time, you understand what it can and can’t do. Essentially, it can help untangle a myriad of pre-comps. Sometimes, you only need certain parts of a project, or old plugins have broken the project.

Similarly, Recursive Scale Comp can be a real time-saver. After Effects’ built in “Scale Comp” has its limitations. This script essentially works the same way, but it also scales any pre-comps beneath the surface. Again, this can trip up and you’ll have to do this manually. However, when it works, it’s a really helpful way to get things up to 4K in a pinch.

Does anybody have their own must-have plugins and scripts? Feel free to mention them in the comments below. I’ll also give a bonus shout out to AutoFill, AEInfoGraphics 2, and Matte Tool 2. If a beginner asks me a motion graphic question, these three tools will often get the job done.

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