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the Best Free Software for VFX

We know how expensive adding visual effects to your films and videos can be. ProductionCrate started because utilizing VFX  was a difficult and costly process. In our journey to bring you professional and accessible assets for your projects we have come across software that shares a similar vision. Here is our list of the top free software options for video effects.

 


Hitfilm Express

If you’re not familiar with Hitfilm then you’re in for a treat. Hitfilm Express is an easy-to-use professional editing software, free for anyone to download. It’s packed with features, allowing any creator to build complex scenes with convenient tools. We gave Hitfilm Express the #1 Spot because of the overall flexibility and functionality it provides. If you’re looking for one software to add video effects to your projects, look no further.

Hitfilm Express is great for compositing, tracking, masking, transitions, and more. The Hitfilm community is fantastic, and you’ll have no trouble finding plenty of tutorials to get you started. You’ll also notice regular updates to the software, keeping it modern and up-to-date. It’s our favorite free VFX software. Check out this color grading tutorial for getting started.


Blender

Blender has always been the go-to software for free 3D work, but with recent improvements it has become so much more than just the “free-alternative”. Since Blender 2.8 has been released we can comfortably say that the software is as capable and functional as most 3D software out there. The user-community is absolutely massive, with a hardcore following and thousands of helpful artists. You can find tons of tutorials online if you’re just starting out and get on your feet fairly quickly.

We primarily use C4D and 3DSmax for most of our 3D projects, however the exciting updates in Blender were too good to pass up. Adrian decided to see how much Blender he could learn in just one month, see how he did in the video below.


GIMP

Whether for story-boarding, matte painting, graphic editing or concept art you’ll need a good 2D image editor. When it comes to a free option, there is none better than GIMP. GIMP has be around for decades. It is open-source, so you will see a lot of plugins and assets built and provided by the community. They have basic tutorials to get you started, but we always suggest searching on Youtube for the best educational content.

The learning curve is considered somewhat difficult, but once you’re used to the functions and interface you’ll be cruising. We use Photoshop at ProductionCrate, but GIMP is considered the best free alternative, and it’s always awesome to use open-source software. Here’s a great video to get you going.

 


Unreal Engine

We were a little hesitant to add UE to our list, since the software is primarily used for game development, but with the recent advancements we’re seeing from the Epic Games team we had no choice! UE offers the amazing abilities to create hyper-realistic scenes, live in-engine compositing, set extensions, particle systems, dynamics, and entire worlds. The learning curve is far more difficult than any of the previously mentioned software, but there are more tutorials showing up to get you started. Since launching RenderCrate we’ve been diving deeper and deeper into the 3D world, so grasping Unreal Engine and utilizing it for our projects is something we’re hoping to tackle.

Check out this insanely cool video for UE4’s virtual production abilities below (also this mind-blowing demo for UE5)

 

 

 

 

New Magic Effects Available

We are expanding our Magic Library with 2 New packs!

 

Our Magical Shielding pack is perfect for creating your own Harry Potter style short film. We have a variety of angles for the longer clashing effects, as well as the faster magic blocking assets. These are all pre-keyed and easy to use.

 

 

The Magic Energy-Ball Kit has 60 different elements. It includes various assets which you can mix and match to create your own custom energy-balls, as well as some fully built energyballs for some quick compositing. You can create Dragon Ball Z inspired Kamehameha effects, Sci-Fi blaster charge up effects and of course magical energy-ball effects with this variety pack.

 

 

We will continue to add more Magic VFX soon, so keep visiting for more!

 

 

Download Coronavirus Video Effects, Overlays and Backgrounds

Download loopable COVID-19 backgrounds, overlays and effects for your videos here.


We have recently received many requests to help editors create their videos covering the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

In response, we created a brand new collection of assets and stock footage that will help you create your information videos, PSAs, news reports, infographics and more. We have also created 2 unique 3D models of the COVID-19 virus.

These digital assets have been built to save time, as you only need to drag and drop them into your project. This can be done in almost any editing software, such as Premiere Pro, After Effects, Sony Vegas, Hitfilm, Final Cut Pro and more.

To maximize detail, the assets are provided in resolutions ranging from 1080p to 4K, ensuring you maintain a high-quality professional look in your project.

Many of these stock-footage elements are even loopable, meaning they can repeat for an unlimited amount of time without any “cuts” at the end.

3D Artists can access 2 unique COVID-19 virus models here

Download Coronavirus Stock Footage Videos here

You can also download the coronavirus videos in 4 different file formats to maximise compatibility including:

  • MOV – Maximum quality, with pre-keyed alpha backgrounds for instant application
  • .MP4 – Compatible with most software, with a built-in green screen
  • ProRes – Best format for Apple devices
  • PNG – Individual frames in a file, with pre-keyed alpha backgrounds.

ProductionCrate is a collection of over 10,000 stock video elements, VFX assets, sound effects, 3D models, graphics and more, helping over 700,000 creators like you. Feel free to explore our huge collection of content!

With the help of these stock footage elements, we hope you’ll be able to level-up your projects. We ask you kindly not to spread any misinformation related to COVID 19. Remember to stay safe!

 

You can also enjoy our recent interview with ShutterAuthority here.

Interview with Jared Rowe – VFX Artist and Motion Designer

I came across Jared’s work not so long ago and was instantly impressed by his style and skill. Jared was kind enough to take the time to answer a few questions for us. If you’re looking to enter the field of Visual Effects or Motion Graphics then this interview is a must-read. Jared’s answers were enlightening and honest, and are helpful whether you’re just starting out or have been working in the field for as many years as I have.

 

Chris:

Thanks for doing this Q&A, Jared! Love your portfolio and all the work you’ve been doing. What software do you tend to use most often for your VFX and Motion Design work?

 

Jared:

Thanks, Chris! Stoked to be noticed and share my story.

 

Adobe After Effects is my compositing tool of choice, complemented with various plugins and scripts. All depending on the project I’m working on, of course.

 

If we’re talking my favorite workflow, that usually starts with either Cinema 4D or a similar 3D application which I use to create my main scene work – then finish with compositing and effects in After Effects.

 

I’ll admit though, I’m a sucker for experimenting with a wide range of software types. I even used the Unreal Engine recently for a big Esports client! With Unreal I was able to compile a 3D environment, which I then transferred to After Effects. I mixed in a barrage of ProductionCrate compositing effects, together with some of my own that I’ve created over the years. The final product turned out pretty awesome. The video below gives you a brief look into the making. 

 

 

Chris:

A lot of our users are interested in pursuing a career in this field. Any tips for getting started?

 

Jared:

Especially for new artists, there is an overemphasis and over-reliance on tools. I remember early on in my career, many in the community determined ‘skill’ by the software you used or the conferences you attended. I’ve seen this trend diminish recently, but there is still this expectation that you are required to have a specific application or plugin to be the best at what you do. This is false.

 

For me, the greatest teacher hasn’t been a course, or a mentor, or a YouTube tutorial. My greatest teacher has been failure. Don’t get me wrong, there are some incredible resources out there for learning to master specific effects and techniques. But there is no ‘one way’ to do anything in this field. 

 

The best way to build real-world skill is to get out there and just do it. You’re never going to be any good until you’ve tried and failed. And I mean failed a lot. You need to fail in your own unique way, on your own unique projects. And no tutorial is going to teach you that.

 

Here’s a fun anecdote to illustrate my point. I once worked on a project for Disney, where I needed to pull off a dynamic water effect on a super-quick deadline. I wouldn’t have the time for liquid simulation, so I needed to think resourcefully. I decided to take my iPhone and go out to our office sink. I turned off the lights and recorded a simple setup, recreating the intended water movement. I recorded the scene in slow motion, using only the light on my camera. Little did I know that this simple solution would far exceed expectations. After compositing the capture into my scene, the end result was even better than any water simulation would have been.

 

I like to share this story because we learn best in these resourceful moments. And it is going to take a few big moments like these in your career to build your arsenal and confidence as a visual artist. My advice is to try your best to pull off a big idea, whether you know how or not. In doing so, you will figure out a way. At first, it may not seem like the ideal ‘way’, but over time these experiences will add up and lead to mastery.

Chris:

Did you go to school, or are you self-taught?

 

Jared: 

A mix of both. I suffered a football injury in high school which left me on crutches for a long time. That free time gave me an opportunity to focus on video editing, which was my favorite hobby and eventual career path.

 

I began as an intern at a local access television station, then continued my education at the Valencia Film Program back in 2005. At the time, my passion was cinematography. In particular, I loved using scene lighting to tell a story, through setting, blocking, and practical light solutions. It was an incredible experience being on set for 36 hours and witnessing a film set in action. I really learned to appreciate everything that goes into film production. 

 

It was my film experience that inspired me to branch into animation and motion design. I came to a realization; telling a story in the film industry was incredibly complex, with lots of moving parts. You need a LOT of people working simultaneously to turn your vision into a reality. On the other hand, I was finding that motion design allowed me to bypass a lot of these complexities. I started dabbling in CGI environments and animation, telling my own stories that were just as effective as those on set – only made in a fraction of the time and with more creative freedom. It quickly became my favorite art form of storytelling and expression.

 

From here my skills became almost entirely self-taught. The passion was there and I saw my talents improving rapidly. I became obsessed with improving my techniques, soaking up every bit of knowledge I could. I imagine this is a natural progression for most motion artists. No matter your formal education, at one point or another you’ll experience that ‘lightswitch’ moment. The ‘self-teaching’ instinct suddenly takes over out of passion and a desire to master your craft.

 

Chris: I love what you and the people at Visuals by Impulse are doing. Were you freelancing before working at VBI?

 

Jared:

Thanks, Chris. It’s been a wild ride for VBI. To date we’ve worked with over 60,000 streamers, gamers, and creators. Across Twitch, YouTube, and Facebook Gaming, VBI is raising the bar on branding and visual presentation. Internally, we’re lucky to have an incredibly talented team and strong leadership. What impresses me the most though, is the company culture. It’s one of the most unique and strongest I’ve ever experienced in a remote team (and an international one, at that!).

 

 

Personally, it’s been many years since my last freelancing experience. For the past 15+ years, I’ve been partnered with my brother, Derek Alan Rowe. Together we founded the company Doctrine Creative, a creative team focusing on VR/AR and interactive experiences. 

 

More recently, I spent four years with Eezy as their Director of Video. There I worked to build Videezy’s libraries of free stock videos and After Effects templates. It was a dream come true to give back to the design community; a community that I had learned so much from over the years. But then VBI showed up and offered me the role of Marketplace Director. I couldn’t say no

 

It’s all been history since then. With VBI it’s an opportunity to innovate and – essentially – reinvent the world of broadcast design. The timing couldn’t be much better. Live streaming and esports gaming is growing faster than ever before. I count myself very fortunate to be part of that movement.

 

Chris: Any big projects on the horizon?

 

Jared:

Big time. 2020 is going to be a big year for Visuals by Impulse. We have ambitious plans to take streaming into an entirely new space; a next level. No spoilers yet, but it will be big. And it will affect both our graphics library and custom design services. 

 

Over the years, VBI has been lucky to team up with some of the biggest celebrities and brands in the game. This January we unveiled a new collaboration with 100 Thieves, the legendary organization founded by Call of Duty legend Nadeshot. You can check out some of our work in their new studio tour below! Stay tuned – there’s much more in the works that I’m stoked to reveal.

On the flip side, my brother Derek and I have been working on an exciting new project. We were recently awarded an Epic Games grant for our WildEyes project – an initiative focused on connecting people to the natural world through technology. The goal is to produce an immersive new VR experience using the Unreal Engine. It’s a daunting task for sure, but something we’re both stoked to see through.

 

Needless to say, it’s going to be an exciting year for myself and the entire VBI team.

 

Chris: I first came across your work after noticing you were using ProductionCrate goodies. Do you have any favorite assets?

 

Jared:

Some time ago, I stumbled upon ProductionCrate while working on an experimental project. I was looking to achieve some very specific effects, without having to invest time creating them from scratch myself. Some lightning and magic assets, if I remember correctly. ProductionCrate had exactly what I was looking for, and much more. I immediately saw the potential for my workflow; not only for this project, but for future projects as well.

 

I’ve spent enough time in this industry to understand the importance of a high-quality effects directory. Over the years I’ve developed a lot of my own baked effects and backgrounds, for use in compositing over time. But ProductionCrate dwarfed my own library, and I’ve kept coming back ever since that first encounter.

 

For me, the real beauty of ProductionCrate is the impact on my efficiency. I can achieve my overall scene without having to reinvent the wheel, saving me loads of time and energy. This allows me to focus on higher priorities, like the overall direction, composition, and feel of my work. 

 

It’s also an excellent tool for previsualization. I often use ProductionCrate assets during early project stages, inserting placeholder effects to sell the overall idea of my pieces. It’s a win-win; clients and teammates can easily grasp the story, without requiring massive time investment on my part. For this fact alone, ProductionCrate is essential to my creative pipeline.

 

Chris: Thanks, Jared! 

Blood Explosion Video Effects

Download 4K Blood Explosion VFX Assets here.


These new Bloody Explosion Effects are pretty intense. They’re almost comically excessive and extravagant. Blood mist and splatter, soft body dynamics and realistic jiggle, dust elements and ground-splashes all add to the absurdity that makes these effects unique.

We love action-comedy. Some scenes are so over the top that you just have to shake your head and smile. Check out our video showcasing some of these effects and what sets them apart from anything else we’ve made.

We’ve made over 30 of these video effects. Pro Users have access to 4K Blood Explosions. Basic Users can download 3 of these new VFX for free.

While overblown was the goal, we still made these to be professional-grade effects. The Mini Blood Explosions will let you customize your bursts, you can cover up any seams or start the explosion in various points. The full Body Blood Explosions come with a shadow catcher, the fully combined elements and realistic lighting.

Adaptable lighting has been built into these assets so that they fit into your footage with minimal compositing. The different variations we provide will also give you the freedom to specifically choose which one best matches your scene.

You can import and use these blood effects in most compositing programs, such as Adobe After Effects, Premiere Pro, Nuke, Hitfilm and more.

Download these blood VFX assets today, and show us what you create with them!

If you’re interested in even more horror related video effects, check out our high-quality blood graphic textures from GraphicsCrate.

SciFi Weapon VFX

We have traveled to the farthest corners of the galaxy. We have visited parallel dimensions and seen worlds previously undiscovered. Throughout our journeys we have been collecting assets for our latest collection of Visual Effects.

The SciFi Weapons Firing Bundle

become iron man, download these VFX

This new bundle let’s you become the hero (or the villain) of your favorite SciFi films. Lasers, blasters, shockwaves and more are all available. These video effects all come with an alpha channel for easy compositing.

We are having an awesome time building these assets out, keep checking back as we add more in the future.

You’ll be needing some Sound Effects to go along with those SciFi weapons. Make sure to visit our SciFi Sound FX page for all you’ll need.

5 New Storm Cloud Effects

We have 5 New Storm cloud effects available for download.

These overlay style effects are built with compositing in mind. Instead of containing an alpha channel (transparency) as most of our VFX assets do, these storm clouds come with a black background. Black backgrounds make it easier to adjust color and luminosity channels to fit whatever your scene calls for.

(UPDATE: A user requested some storm-clouds with transparency, so those options are also available!)

stormy vfx

Blending modes such as screen, add or lighten will work best for you. Blending modes are available in most common editing software, including Premiere, After Effects, Final Cut, Vegas, Hitfilm and more.

The new storm cloud assets work best with night or overcast scenes. The lumenance channel is the only visible channel, so blue skies will not work with these FX! If you are not getting bright enough results try curves, levels or duplicating your storm cloud layers.

STORMY LIGHTING CLOUD VFX

These files are H264, we often avoid this codec for VFX because of the compression. However, for these storm cloud assets the real value is in the greyscale. With a high bitrate no useful information is being lost for these files, and you’ll be able to use them with ease!

 

Download Nature and Leaf Video Transitions

Download HD Nature and Forest Transitions here

ProductionCrate is here to offer you a collection of beautifully built transitions that bring an exciting twist to your editing.

Each asset has been tuned to precisely match the vibrant colors from the real world.

With multiple variations to choose from, you can use several of these at different transitions in a single video and still keep it fresh!

Download HD Leaf and Nature Transitions

All of our transitions have been pre-keyed, which gives you the full power of the alpha channel. Thanks to this feature, you won’t need to tediously key out the background and deal with messy compositing. Your workflow will speed up considerably!

So how can you use these effects? You first need an editing program – we recommend anything that supports multi-layered editing, such as Premiere Pro, After Effects, Sony Vegas or Final Cut.

Download one of the transitions. If you haven’t already, you will need to make a ProductionCrate account (which is completely free!). Upgrading to the Pro option will let you download the entire library, though you can still download plenty of effects for free. What a deal!

Once you have imported the transition into your project, put it in the layer above the two clips that you will be switching between.

Download HD Leaf and Nature Transitions

Each transition has at least one point in time in which there is no alpha visible. This is the magic moment in which the two clips swap with each other. Align this with the moment you want to see the cut.

Download HD Leaf and Nature Transitions

It’s as simple as that!

We have hundreds of HD transitions that you can download from our motion-graphics category. You can also check out our backgrounds which can bring great production value to your projects.

Download Apocalypse Matte Painting VFX

Download Apocalypse VFX matte painting assets here

ProductionCrate has just released a huge new bundle of apocalyptic assets!

Transforming an entire scene into a wasteland is one of the most enjoyable VFX projects you can take on. You can bring destruction to buildings, roadways, cars, plants, and just about anything that you like, taking inspiration from the Walking Dead, the Umbrella Academy or 28 Days Later. Though often this can involve many hours of tedious work to create each individual feature of the scene.

Thankfully, we’re here to help. We’ve created over 50 set extension assets to help you construct your post-apocalyptic VFX shots. Let’s take a look at some!

Download HD Apocalypse VFX Assets

This apocalyptic city is perfect for distant set extensions. All our assets have been pre-keyed and are ready for you to import into almost any compositing software, whether that is After Effects, Hitfilm, Fusion or Premiere Pro. We even have several different lighting variations, so that you can choose the one that best matches the environment of your shot.

Download HD Apocalypse VFX Assets

We also have over 25 damaged car assets for you to download and composite onto your empty roads. There are two different car types, all with a huge range of angles, lighting conditions and shadow mattes – so you can be sure that these will blend into your shot without any trouble. For even more variation, you can even change the hue and saturation of the car paint! Download these destroyed car set extension effects here. 

Download HD Apocalypse VFX Assets

We’ve also added some awesome large-scale smoke plume graphics! These PNG effects are perfect for distant smoke and are incredibly easy to use with their transparent backgrounds. We also have several HD animated smoke plumes if you want to include motion in these effects which you can download here. Use these to help create an atmosphere in your scene that no other practical effect can!

Download HD VFX Smoke Plume Assets

Time for an in-depth look at how you can composite these into your scene! Chris and Adrian cover all the techniques you will need in this especially awesome Saturday Morning tutorial:


We’ll love to see what you can create with these stunning effects! If you want to learn how you can composite a nuclear blast into this post-apocalyptic landscape, check out this tutorial here. 

How to add Snow to your videos – VFX Tutorial

Download HD snow effects for your videos here

With only a few days to go until Christmas takes over, it’s time to go over one of the most fundamental uses of VFX compositing – snow!

Whether you’re shooting a Christmas comedy or a reflective and chilling scene for your film, snow can always help add value to your project. But not everyone has access to weather manipulating machines or industrially sized snow cannons, and so in these cases, we must rely on VFX to composite the snow into our footage.

FootageCrate has a huge library of snowfall effects, ranging from realistic to cartoon styled. Similar to all of our content, these snow effects are pre-keyed, meaning that transparency is preserved when you drop the snow footage on top of your shot without any further hassle! You can take a look at our collection of snow effects here.

Let’s get started with the tutorial! You can use almost any software for this, including After Effects, Hitfilm, Nuke and Premiere Pro!

I’ve taken this stock image from Pexels.com, so if you want to follow along, be my guest and download the image.

How to composite snow VFX into your video tutorial

One step I’ve often seen people skipping is that they don’t add depth to their snow effect. What I mean by this is that it’s quite clearly visible that there’s just a snow effect simply being placed on the footage, giving it a “flat” feel. We’re going to give the snow volume by first creating a solid that matches the colour of the lighter clouds, and making it so that the further away the footage is, the higher the opacity. This can be done through masking or opacity painting.

How to composite snow VFX into your video tutorial

Already we’ve given a nice volumetric feel to the scene. This will look like snow that is too distant to be seen by the camera individually, and so appears like a cloud.

We can now mask out or rotoscope the foreground so that it doesn’t sit behind this fog.

It’s now time to drop the snow effect into our video. I’ve taken two different effects from the FootageCrate website, which is the “snow background” and the “slow snow falling”. I’ll have the first placed behind the foreground, and the second in front of it. This makes it appear as if the subject is sandwiched between the two snow assets so that they feel part of the scene!

How to composite snow VFX into your video tutorial

Apply these snow effects with an add/lighten/screen transfer mode so that the dark halos around the snowflakes are invisible, and admire your now far more chilling scene! You can add further colour corrections to then cool the image with bluish tints.

How to composite snow VFX into your video tutorial

Thanks for reading this tutorial! If you’d like to learn more VFX, take a look at our helicopter compositing tutorial!