Best After Effects Alternative (Free & Paid)
Photographers are increasingly moving into video to support their photography and to widen client services. With the development of digitisation, the gap between still and motion photography has decreased, and creativity often moves seamlessly between the two.
Hybrid cameras – which shoot both video and photography to an extremely high level – have been popular since the Canon 5D Mark II. They opened up new possibilities to shoot both video and photography at a professional and amateur level and are now the norm.
The best-known video editing and effects program, Adobe After Effects, is primarily thought of as a moving image toolset but has provided great opportunities for still photographers for some time.
But is it the only video effects program available? Not by a long shot. In this article, we’ll look at a wide range of Adobe After Effects alternatives, from those that are free through the mid-range prices and up to the professional level.
So, if you’ve ever asked yourself: is there an app like Adobe After Effects?… this is the guide for you ;-)
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Best Free After Effects Alternatives
After Effects provides users with a robust and wide-ranging set of tools that will enable both professionals and new users to create stunning visual effects.
It does cost money to use – but luckily, we’ve compiled a list of the best After Effects alternatives available for free!
If you’re looking for a free alternative to After Effects, we have to start with the open-source app Blender. Cross-platform – available for macOS, Windows, Linux – and incredibly versatile, Blender is much loved by many users.
Because Blender is open source, it’s free to download and use. It’s also incredibly versatile – you can use it for anything from simple real time video editing, to professional-grade visual effects.
Blender is also useful for modelling, sculpting, drawing and animations.
You can use Blender for film, video or video game design. So whether you’re looking to undertake rigging, texturing, compositing or UV unwrapping, Blender can fulfil all the tasks you need.
The rendering quality is also incredibly realistic, really helping you create effective video FX. What’s more, Blender includes camera reconstruction and object tracking (tracking can be set to manual or automatic).
All in all, Blender is an incredibly adaptable and responsive piece of open source software – and if you’re a beginner, there’s a full community support network available via the Blender website, to help you get started.
Wax is available for free, for personal or business use. Wax is a flexible piece of software, adept at video compositing and visual effects.
Both 2D and 3D visual effects can be created with Wax.
The software works in two different modes: the first is a standalone application (ideal for beginners and non-professionals), the second is as a “plug-in” to video editors (ideal for more professional use).
You can easily create, save and use presets in Wax which can then be used as a chain to help create unique effects, much like in AceMovi, another handy video editor.
Features available when using Wax include graphic acceleration enabling effects in realtime, unlimited tracks for audio or video which enable different compositing modes, and plug ins that enable full 3D compositing and 3D modeling, texturing and shadow manipulation, to name just a few.
It must be said that Wax only supports AVI and WAV when importing files. But overall, Wax offers a lot for no investment – so if you’re looking for free software for 2D/3D effects, Wax is well worth considering.
Natron is another free piece of cross-platform software to consider as an alternative to After Effects.
A node-based application designed to specialise in real time compositing, you can use Natron to create visual effects, with over 250 ready-made plugins to utilise.
Though it supports both 2D and 2.5D effects, this open-source solution does not offer 3D animation or 3D effects creation. Natron is comparable to Nuke in terms of usability and interface.
Hitfilm Express is available for both Mac OS and Windows. Hitfilm Express not only functions as free video editing software, but also includes professional VFX tools, making it a very viable Adobe After Effects alternative.
With Hitfilm Express you can create all manner of content, edit films, perform basic color correction or polish professional-looking FX.
A really creative tool, the features include high-speed FX making, 2D and 3D compositing, tracking without limits and a professional video editor so you can integrate your workflow.
Perfect for beginners, Hitfilm Express also has an active forum ready to support you. A paid-for version – Hitfilm Pro – is also available and widely used by professionals.
ButtleOFX is open-source compositing software available for Linux, so free to download and use. It can be used to create visual effects for both photography and video.
Features include a parameters editor, a dedicated effects interface, and a graph editor enabling you to connect nodes.
The idea behind ButtleOFX was to make sure it was simple and easy to use – but effective too.
As such, this Adobe After Effects alternative is a perfect piece of video editing and effects software for beginners or anyone looking for a streamlined user experience.
Best Paid After Effects Alternatives
You may think that After Effects sets the standard for professional digital visual effects. However, across the different creative industries, there are a number of paid-for After Effects alternative apps to consider. Read on to learn more!
FilmoraPro is a paid-for alternative to After Effects – though you can try it for free. FilmoraPro excels at creating animated titles and credits.
FilmoraPro also gives a full range of video editing options, meaning it can be used as an alternative to Final Cut Pro or Adobe Premiere Pro.
With advanced editing modes, FilmoraPro has inbuilt audio sync technology, effective audio noise reduction and detailed color correction.
You can also add customisable video effects. Overall, it’s a less complex piece of software compared to After Effects, but it’s very user friendly and has a good learning curve.
FilmoraPro is available for Mac/Windows.
2. Fusion 16
Fusion 16 by Blackmagic design is a professional alternative to Adobe AE for Windows and Mac, and is used in Hollywood and by filmmakers the world over.
It’s perfect for special effects artists and graphic designers – also for those specialising in 3D animation.
Using a node-based interface, this application gives you access to a large number of tools, including VR and 3D support.
More than just a video editor, you can create graphics and animations of broadcast quality with Fusion 16 – it really is a high grade piece of software.
Fusion 16 is, in fact, even more advanced than After Effects. You will have seen commercials, films and television programs time and time again that have utilised Fusion 16.
So if you’re looking for the most professional and advanced After Effects alternative, we highly recommend Fusion 16.
3. Apple Motion
Apple Motion runs in conjunction with Final Cut Pro. It allows you to create motion graphics that can be taken straight into Final Cut Pro.
Just like After Effects, Apple’s Motion allows compositing which enables you to create animation, motion tracking, video tracking, titles and other video special effects.
It’s an easy-to-use application, and if you’re using Final Cut Pro already, it’s a great add-on to have.
Available only for Mac, Autodesk Smoke is a very powerful piece of software.
Aimed at professionals and studios to allow better productivity, it combines editing workflows. Just as Adobe After Effects works perfectly with the timeline in Premiere, Smoke does the same with FCP X.
It’s a professional piece of software and the price reflects this (it currently has a yearly charge of US$1,620).
There’s also a steep learning curve. Once mastered, however, Smoke will help speed your working practice along.
Like many other AE alternatives recommended here, Smoke is node-based. This means that you can quickly lay out complex effects without leaving your timeline.
Nuke works alongside NukeX and Nuke Studio. As with other software mentioned here, Nuke is a favourite of the film industry and can be used to create amazing effects.
Nuke is available for Windows, Mac OS or Linux.
Just like Smoke, it isn’t cheap! But unlike Smoke, there’s an option to buy it outright, as well as paying monthly or yearly.
Nuke is similar to After Effects in that it can be used for compositing and creating special effects. You can build your scripts with the node-based interface and you have access to numerous ‘toolkits’ to speed your editing and creating along.
The node interface means you can easily perform batch edits to compositing – you can save scripts as well and reuse them on other projects.
Nuke is also fully customisable and very flexible in the way you can use it. This means you can set your workspace exactly how you want it, to suit your workflow and way of working.
Nuke also prides itself on its full retention of quality in terms of colour. You will not suffer colour shifting or any loss of quality – whatever you feed into Nuke will come out the same quality, colour wise.
Nuke Indie is also available, aimed more at solo artists rather than production studios, so is a more affordable alternative.
After Effects Alternative FAQ
Can you buy After Effects permanently?
You pay monthly for After Effects through Adobe Creative Cloud. You can do this cost-effectively with a bundle of creative suite programs – if you already use Lightroom or Photoshop, you can easily add After Effects on.
Can Blender Replace After Effects?
Blender is a powerful video editing tool. Many people use Blender instead of After Effects for tasks such as compositing, so yes, you can choose Blender over After Effects if this suits your way of working. Best of all – it’s free to use!
Is there a free version of After Effects?
You can download a free trial of After Effects, but after the trial expires you will need to pay to continue using it. Above you can find a variety of great alternatives to AE – including some free ones – so you can consider all options when making your decision on which video effects software to use.
We hope that after reading our guide on alternatives to After Effects, you now feel spoilt for choice! But when all’s said and done, it’ll be about finding something to fit with your set-up and your way of working, all at a price you can afford.
Adobe After Effects is one of the best video effects editors in the business and probably the best known. It provides users with a robust and wide-ranging set of tools that enable both professionals and new users to create stunning visual effects
But as we’ve shown above, there are so many alternatives to try, from the powerful and free open-source app Blender, to the extremely effective FilmoraPro, to the class-leading Nuke, Smoke and Fusion 16.
Just remember, working with effects software isn’t just about getting your work to ‘look right’ at the end – the experience becomes part of the creative process which will help you take better photographs and videos, with a view to how you’ll eventually edit and manipulate them.
So, why not download some trials of the software we’ve highlighted above to begin finding the best After Effects alternative for you.
If you have any questions at all, please leave them as a comment below and we’ll get back to you ASAP.