If you want to grab your audience’s attention and keep them on the edges of their seats, having the best video effects software is essential. Effects are preset adjustments that can be applied to your video to alter its look and feel. This can range from simple colour correction effects like sepia and black-and-white to stylised animations like the strobe flicker effect.
An effects library is a collection of visual effects that can be applied to your video via your video effects software. By combining different visual effects together, you can achieve all sorts of unique and fascinating results. Many video effects programs synergise well with the best video editing software, allowing you to streamline your workflow.
In this article, we take a look at some of the best video effects software right now. Each of these applications comes with a huge number of preset effects that you can apply in a few clicks, changing the visual direction of your entire film. If you know that you want to go Adobe then you can see the deal below, or skip straight to our download After Effects walkthrough or Creative Cloud discount page.
Buy After Effects from $20.99 per month (opens in new tab)
Adobe’s industry-leading visual effects, motion graphics and compositing software enables you to create animations and VFX that are as simple or as complicated as you want. A single-app subscription starts from $20.99 / £19.97 per month.
The best video effects software in 2021
Adobe After Effects (opens in new tab) is the premiere visual effects, motion graphics, and compositing application for PC and Mac. It’s used across a wide range of industries, including film production, animation design, and video game development. It’s been around since 1995 and is currently 35 years old.
After Effects is huge. That means it comes with a steep learning curve. But for those with the time and patience to learn its many processes, After Effects is the only tool needed to create effects worthy of the Marvel Universe.
After Effects also comes with a huge collection of plugins, which enable you to not only expand its collection of visual effects but also improve its core functionality. In addition, there’s a growing library of online tutorials and full-fledged courses to help you learn the ropes if you are new to this kind of software.
Sadly, the only way to use After Effects is via a monthly subscription. Adobe Creative Cloud offers a standalone plan that lets you get After Effects for $20.99 USD/mo. But if you’d like to use other Adobe software, Creative Cloud charges $52.99 USD/mo for an All Apps subscription.
Apple Motion (opens in new tab) is an excellent choice for creative users looking for a powerful visual effects and compositing tool to accompany Final Cut Pro on Mac. You can use it to create titles, add transitions, and produce interesting visual effects. The interface is very similar to Final Cut.
Apple Motion is perfectly optimised for macOS. From the native interface design to seamless performance across playback and rendering, it’s as smooth an experience as you can expect. There are real-time previews so you don’t have to wait for animations to be rendered before you can view them.
But there are limitations. For one, you can have only one timeline per project, and your ability to combine different effects is also pretty restricted. However, 360° support is a welcome addition, and there is a vast library of well-animated elements to choose from.
Apple Motion costs $49.99, one-time. With that price tag, it’s a great choice for users who have already been using Final Cut Pro. The two applications work very well together to create a native video editing experience on Apple devices.
Hitfilm Pro is a non-linear alternative to After Effects. It can perform various functions including video editing, compositing, and VFX. It’s a favourite among creative professionals, independent filmmakers, and small-scale studios, who don’t always have the funds to invest in a recurring subscription. YouTubers also favour this software.
Hitfilm Pro features 2D and 3D motion tracking, and has powerful screen simulation and sky replacement capabilities. It’s excellent Chroma Key function gives you complete control over colour correction and edge detail, while the VFX effects library stands strong with over 875 different options.
Hitfilm Pro also features powerful plugins—both official and unofficial—that you can use to modify its core functionality. Also included are lens flare, lighting, and particle effects. Meanwhile, the built-in video stabiliser helps you reduce camera shake and make your video look more professional.
Hitfilm Pro 2021 costs $349 USD. It comes with 12 months of free support and updates as well as permission to run the software on up to three devices. The Pro Video Bundle is available at a packaged pricing of $583.20 USD. It also throws in $299 worth of plugins to use with Hitfilm Pro.
Unlike Filmora, Wondershare FilmoraPro (opens in new tab) is aimed not at consumers but at advanced filmmakers and creative professionals. It’s a timeline-based, non-linear video editor that comes with an excellent collection of titles, filters, transitions, overlays, and effects.
FilmoraPro is good not only for advanced but also intermediate users. Its timeline-based video editor is easy to use, and you can have an unlimited number of video tracks in a single project. There’s also full support for 4K 100FPS editing, with the ability to set custom frame rates and resolutions.
Effects include two tone, film grain, and light leak, whereas features of note include auto colour correction, audio sync, and noise reduction for audio. FilmoraPro may not be the best choice for larger studios, but independent filmmakers and small studios – as well as creative freelancers working with video editing—should find everything they need here.
FilmoraPro by Wondershare costs $149.99 USD one-time or $89.99 USD per year. It comes with a healthy collection of free online tutorials and premium technical support. There’s also a free trial that doesn’t have a time limit, but exported videos do end up with a prominent watermark.
PowerDirector 365 (opens in new tab) is the subscription-based version of the video editing application Cyberlink PowerDirector. Along with the core video editing software, the subscription-based service comes with access to early updates and downloadable content. It includes a huge collection of effects, titles, and music that can breathe life into any film project.
Cyberlink PowerDirector is the perfect video effects solution for “prosumers” – creative users looking for professional video editing software who don’t quite work on the studio level. It’s a non-destructive video editing tool with latest features like mask design, colour matching, and sketch animation.
PowerDirector 365 has an easy-to-use interface and doesn’t feature a strong learning curve. It doesn’t quite have the same depth as professional video editing tools like Premiere Pro or visual effects suites like After Effects, but still features plenty of tools to play around with to create stunning effects and videos.
Cyberlink PowerDirector 365 costs $69.99 USD a year or $19.99 USD a month, but discounts and promotions with significant reductions are usually available. You can also buy Cyberlink PowerDirector for the one-time price of $99.99 USD. However, it won’t come with early access to updates or the downloadable content library.
Corel VideoStudio Ultimate (opens in new tab) is a very powerful but easy to learn video editing package that gives Adobe a run for its money. However, it’s still aimed towards casual filmmakers and amateur creatives rather than hardcore professionals.
VideoStudio Ultimate is a powerful video editing suite without the hassle of After Effects or Premiere Pro. It’s powerful enough to support 4K and 360-degree video editing, while boasting an effects library that’s 2000-strong. It also includes enhanced lens correction, 3D text editing, and multicam support.
However, unlike most video editing programs directed towards amateur users, this one doesn’t feature any artificial intelligence-based tools. It is also Windows only, unfortunately for people on other platforms like macOS or Linux.
Corel VideoStudio Ultimate comes with a one-time price tag of $79.99. There’s also a slightly downgraded version called VideoStudio Pro, which is available for $63.99. However, the Pro version doesn’t feature Ultimate’s colour grading and advanced stabilisation features. There’s a 30-day free trial available for those interested.
Blackmagic Fusion (opens in new tab) describes itself as “the world’s most advanced compositing software for VFX artists.” It’s hard to disagree. Over the past few years, it has been the go-to software for some of television and cinema’s biggest franchises, including The Hunger Games, Guardians of the Galaxy, Ant-Man, and American Horror Story.
If you’ve used the video editor Da Vinci Resolve by Blackmagic Design, Fusion’s interface will feel very familiar. It’s easy enough to get the hang of, with a node-based system that makes combining different effects a breeze.
With Blackmagic Fusion, you get full 3D support. There’s a 360-degree workplace that allows you to edit VR scenes in real-time, in addition to support for Metal, CUDA and OpenCL GPU acceleration. The software also supports multiple displays and a split view for A/B testing.
The best part about Blackmagic Fusion, however, is the free version. It remains free forever with no watermarks to sully your beautifully rendered commercial projects. The only real limitation in the free version is the resolution, which is maxed out at 1080p. You can get the full version of the software for a one-time price of $299 USD.