Tuesday, September 26, 2017

The Year of Plug-ins

I have to start out by saying that I was never a huge fan of plug-ins when I was first learning After Effects and animation. I mainly didn't like plug-ins because they cost money, and any animator starting out knows that that is something hard to come by. It also frustrated me to watch a tutorial on something cool, only to have the person in the video tell me to go and buy a plug-in to achieve the effect. It always seemed like such a copout. I wanted to learn how to make these things with the program itself, so that is what I did. The downside to that path is that it takes much more time and work to get the effect; however, the upside is that you gain a better understanding in how the effects are achieved. In the long run I would suggest that anyone starting out in After Effects at least try to make an effect yourself before going and buying a plug-in. Plug-ins are great, but they can really become a crutch if you don't know how to make them yourself.

Regardless, over the past year I have found myself buying more plug-ins and I have to say I've found some really great ones.

Duik

Duik has been the one plug-in that I've always had for character rigging. The reason for that is because it was free! Not only is it free, but it's actually an extremely robust interface for creating character rigs. This is what I learned on and would truly recommend it for anyone out there trying to get into character animation. I don't think there is anything as customizable or robust when you know how to use it. That being said, Duik can be quite intimidating to start out with.

RubberHose

This is where RubberHose comes in. I had been hearing a lot about RubberHose over the past few years but was always hesitant to try it. For one, I already had Duik, so I felt I really didn't need something that did essentially the same thing. The other reason was that unlike Duik, RubberHose cost money. Regardless, I finally took the plunge this year and I have to say that I am finding uses for RubberHose. When it comes to rigging legs, RubberHose just seems to have a smoother look to the animation, where Duik can sometimes have issues with leg locking. That being said, RubberHose is still a more basic program. It's definitely what I would recommend for someone just starting out with character animation because the interface and set-up are a little more user friendly than Duik. But, as I said Duik can be more customizable in the end.




Joysticks 'n Sliders

Ok. This is my favorite plug-in this year. Joysticks 'n Sliders is an awesome tool that allows you to do what the name implies - make joysticks and sliders. That being said, it's an extremely powerful tool for tweening character animations and making an overall more robust and professional rig. This is especially evident when it comes to face rigs. Duik and RubberHose work great for rigging bodies, but any good animator knows that the face can hold so much expression and emotion. Thus the need to easily animate things like eyebrows, blinks, and mouths. Up until recently, I would always animate these layers individually, which was honestly a time consuming chore. With Joysticks 'n Sliders I can now animate all the facial assets easily in one simple location. The possibilities are endless with this one.



Honorable Mentions

Butt Capper - Easily add caps to strokes in After Effects. Seems simple, but it's seriously so helpful.
Dojo Shifter - Easily sequence layers in After Effects. Another simple but effective one.
Motion - A robust plug-in for adding different motion to your elements using only a simple interface. Good for making complex motions easily.
Pixellate It - Simple for giving a pixel look in After Effects
Boil It - Simple for giving a wiggle look in After Effects

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