18 Free Effects for After Effects & Premiere Pro [Plugins]
After working on VFX intensive feature films like: Deadpool, Gone Girl and Sharknado 2, I’ve learned the power of both subtle and overt visual effects. Below you will find some of my favorite free plugins and effects that I use when editing feature films.
When editing any project, there are moments when a visual effect can be applied to help the story be told. These effects can emphasize something to make it more evident, subtly isolate a certain element or blend several assets into one shot. Sometimes these effects are added only as eye candy to add production value to a project. Ideally, you are not adding visual effects to hide mistakes or to cover up deficiencies in the story…but this has been know to happen. (Guilty as charged!)
Plugins help us accomplish effects that are often too time consuming or expensive to create from scratch.
Free plugins make it possible for everyone to harness their power and apply them creatively.
The task of VFX has steadily fallen more and more onto the lap of editors. It is our job to deliver as much of the final image (within reason) so that the director/client/agency has an accurate assessment of what it will look like. Plugins allow us to create stunning visuals right inside our NLE or one of the numerous VFX programs available. You can deliver broadcast quality footage for a TV show or a feature film right from the confines of your apartment, cave, home, hotel or other dwelling.
A lot of editors (who enjoy paying gigs) are now expected to be “one-man shops” that can handle picture edit, VFX, sound design and even music/score. It is not the ideal situation as each one of these elements is their own discipline that takes years of experience to comprehend and master. Add to that an understanding of ever-changing skillsets, acquisition formats and delivery requirements…and your brain can literally overload and shut down.
The dance between creative and technical is one that every editor strives to conquer and make instinctual in their work.
I’ve been asked lately by a lot of fellow editors and filmmakers what specific plugins I use. I wanted to share with you my favorite free plugins for Adobe Premiere Pro and Adobe After Effects. I use many of these on a daily basis…and because they are free, I can take them with me and install on any system and not worry about serial numbers or registrations or footage not rendering due to missing plugins.
The default effects in Premiere Pro and After Effects are the root of most plugins (paid or free) once they are combined, “built” and applied to footage. Custom GUIs, how an editor interacts with them and the architecture of the plugin engine are how they differ from one another.
There is a time and place for complicated or expensive effects but for most tasks I lean on a core of common and simple effects that do most of the work.
Here are my personal favorites.
FREE PREMIERE PRO PLUGINS / PRESETS:
My friend and editor Jarle Leirpoll created 7 custom handheld camera presets for the film DEADPOOL that could be applied directly onto clips and played back in real-time in Premiere Pro.
Jarle shot footage with real cameras and mapped both the position and rotation of the handheld footage into his presets. These presets are organic and real. This is information captured by a human being and not the result of random computer generated data like the wiggle expression that After Effects would create.
This plugin has 3 free effects that are powerful and effective. Feathered Crop gives you an advantage over Premiere Pro’s crop effect because you can feather any of the 4 sides. This is essential for split screen effects when you are combining 2 takes of locked-off shot and want to use different performances on each side of the frame.
David Fincher’s editors Angus Wall and Kirk Baxter are both 2-time Academy Awards Film Editing Winners for The Social Network and The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. They utilize an ironclad workflow forged over years of experimentation that obviously works quite well but is also always evolving. The mastermind who keeps their workflow working smoothly is their Assistant Editor, Tyler Nelsen. His knowledge base is as deep as it gets and he is always looking for ways to streamline and optimize the workflow.
On every David Fincher project the editors are asked to blend different takes of multiple performances into one shot. They adjust the reactions of the actors’ readings to suit the timing of the scene. When using Premiere Pro, I installed the Feathered Crop free plugin and achieved the same result of blending shots and hiding the split screen. This plugin created an invisible effect that allowed me to rework performances to fit the scene and cost me nothing. Win-win. Enough said.
Creative Impatience also offer a Power Window plugin and a Vignette plugin that were both updated recently for faster performance inside Premiere Pro.
UPDATE: Creative Impatience has added Temperature – a free plugin that lets you quickly adjust color temperature.
This is a collection of 63 free presets that I use every day on every project. Included is simple color correction presets, LUTs for ARRI or Cinestyle, S-curves or varied intensity and dozens of Looks that can be applied to an adjustment layer and dialed to taste. Something for everyone and a huge timesaver. I have mentioned them before for a reason…they are amazing.
UPDATE: JARLE’s PRESET version 4.0 is now available. 98 presets for free!
Motion Array has many free presets and templates for Premiere Pro and After Effects and this is one of my favorites.
The 5 Free Glitch presets add chaos and frenetic energy to your images, video or even text files that will all play back in real-time. Enjoy!
FILM IMPACT Transitions
This is a free download pack that has 4 free transitions and 6 demos that you can buy later if you want. Premiere has excellent stock transitions (Film Dissolve is my favorite) but for anything flashier or more intricate (some may say cheesy, but I’ve snuck a Star Wipe into a broadcast ad before!) these 4 free transitions give you a nice option to have inside Premiere that saves you a trip to After Effects using Dynamic Link.
The key is speed and instant accessibility in one host application. Give it a shot and see if you like it.
Just scroll to the bottom of the page linked here ^ to download my 12-pack of audio presets for free. Drag and drop these onto your audio files within Premiere Pro.
I created these 12 presets to solve a majority of audio issues and make your videos sound so much better.
7 unique film roll emulation effects that mimic the gate weave, shake and blur of film rolling through a projector. Color shifts replicate old film and add a nice look to any project.
FREE AFTER EFFECTS PLUGINS / PRESETS:
Make your video layer flicker the exact amount of frames on/off you would like to create a spooky horror film or music video effect. Has a Random Freak parameter to give additional chaos to the effect.
Energetically animated and dynamic transitioning template for video / photo / text.
Create a diseased or zombie look that isolates just the skin tones of your actor.
Andrew Davidson created this free plugin to generate gorgeous animatable colored fractals.
Computer on-screen typewriter look that mimics vintage computer terminals from the 1980s.
Duplicate 12 famous Instagram filters in AE or Premiere Pro with these free LUTs.
This plugin set contains 44 effects that include:
- Light effects
- Filmic transitions
- 10 Text presets & Instant Montage presets for video
If you cannot find a use for one of these effects then please pour yourself a tall vodka and try again.
BTW…these effects also show up in Premiere Pro if you hold the shift button on launch to refresh the effects list.
Andrew Kramer has been providing clear, concise tutorials of the highest quality that every filmmaker should use or at least be aware of.
These 19 After Effects presets cover a lot of varied ground and have helped me in both simple and complicated situations. They are an amazing resource.
VFXBRO – Camera Shake
These 2 plugins offer the advantage of using real camera shake that was tracked from actual handheld motion and not a computer simulation. The result is an organic motion that is not random like the wiggle expression…but in fact the motion of a human being. The difference is tangible and feels authentic because it is authentic.
In the regular Camera Shake plugin there are 6 distinct handheld settings that can be adjusted to whatever amount you like. I used this plugin on a film I directed and edited that won the 2012 Adobe Film Festival. It turned static, green screen comp shots, into living and breathing, believable handheld footage. The Pro Camera Shake version of this plugin allows for 3D movements that follow the optical physics and science of real motion and parallax when applied to computer-generated assets.
For free. Technology…embrace it.
I created this free plugin for use on your HD or 4K footage to emulate the look and feel of the Panavision 40mm anamorphic lens made famous by Wes Anderson in his films. The plugin duplicates the image warp, blurred corners, 2.39 aspect ratio and slight vignette of the famous lens which is used for a vintage film feel.
The included After Effects project is ready to go and all you do is drop in your footage and export.
DOWNLOAD VASHIMORPHIC 40 HERE
Easily add camera motion swish pans in all four directions: up / down / left / right
Simple control of the speed and transition of the shot movement.
Within the FX FACTORY free app which works within After Effects and Premiere Pro you can apply this camera transition effect to blend two shots together as it emulates a camera pan.
As an added bonus I want to include links to several free Light Leak video files I have used on several different projects.
Light Leaks have been very popular over the last couple years and they add a pleasing vintage and organic feel to any project that could benefit from their use. There are many computer generated Light Leak plugins and presets…but the real deal always feels better. Try them out and let me know how they work for you…
Free Light Leaks
Thank you again for taking the time to visit my blog and read my ramblings. I hope you found some helpful information and some solid assets that you can use to make your projects look more professional and more realistic. Remember…all the plugins above came from the generosity of passionate filmmakers and companies that enjoy giving back to the community.
Please share this with anyone you think would enjoy or learn something from these valuable filmmaking tips and techniques.
Originally published April 15, 2013 and updated November 26, 2017.
Until next time…