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Top 8 After Effects Plugins for Commercials [TV & Web]

Published on 7 May 2024


CG artists and designers extensively use After Effects Plugins for TV commercials and online marketing promo.

Adobe After effects is mainly used for its compositing and does come with some really cool effects that help you create stunning motion graphics and VFX.

But more often than not, these built-in effects fall quite short of what you’re trying to achieve, especially in the commercials or ad films. These short comings become particularly evident when you deal with footage, VFX and 3D models, all squeezing into one in no time.

So, be it a 3d render or a chroma shoot or a pack shot development for an ad film, from the visualizers to the graphic artists and motion designers, we all look out of some useful after effects plugins to streamline our workflow with their textended functionalities while scrambling with an-almost-missed-out-deadline, everytime.

Even the CG artists for 2D animated videos, these days, frequently deploy a few plugins for making animated explainers, fast and efficient.

In this piece, I’ll list out a few popular After effects plugins that find most of their applications in motion graphics and short film productions requiring use of VFX.

Using After Effects for commercials particularly necessitates using these plugins for budgetary constraints and fast deadlines. With added functionalities and 3d assets inside a 2.5D compositing program, nothing could come as more enticing for a creative agency.

This list of the After Effects plugins for motion graphics do no way suffice all the types of work you can imagine. But these are quite handful and adequate to start with. We’ll see the plugins and their applications in this article to get an impression how we could make the best use of these when needed.

One way to minimize your dependence on the plugins is to mater the expressions with math operators and others that create random patterns. But that requires a different approach altogether. We’re here focusing on how to level up our skills with After Effects plugins for motion graphics.

So without further ado, let’s get into the business.

1. After Effects Plugins for Commercials – Red Giant Trapcode Suite, a collection of 12 Tools

Red Giant offers an array of tools with distinct features through its Trapcode Suite. This set of tools, with each having unique function, brings particle simulation and 3D effects for motion graphics and VFX to the post production table.

In fact, Red Giant has some other tools too, including Universe. But I find the Trapecode suite is absolutely enticing for anyone into motion graphics and commercial video production.

Let’s run down the table below to see what function each of the tools has in its kitty.

Red Giant’s Trapecode Suite are one of the best set of After Effects plugins for Motion Graphics and Commercial Video Production

Not all of the above bring advantage of equal measure. But clearly, Trapecode particular is the hands down winner. There are plenty of applications for other too and I’ll surely visit some of them in coming days, mainly highlighting their application in relation to commercial video production.

For now, let’s see a clip that Red giant it self produced to showcase the functionalities of the Trapcode suite.

2. Element 3D of Video Copilot for 3D Asset Management inside After Effects

Not everyone is comfortable using 3D program, yet we often need to use 3d assets inside a scene. Video Copilot’s 2012 release has really been a game changer. It brings in an interface of 3D program inside After Effects.

This lets us use and manipulate 3d models with materials, lighting and shaders inside After Effects to simulate 3d scene without having to deal with programs like 3ds Max, Blender or Maya.

Element 3D is a 3D object based particle array system. Now, that could sound a bit technical. To decipher that in plain language, let’s see and assess what I did in the above animation, made with Element 3D.

The use is pretty simple, like every other plugin or effect. You apply the effect on one layer and then inside the Effects Control Panel, tweak the parameter. In this case, clicking on the Scene Setup pops up a whole new interface. What did I do here, with respect to the Coffee beans animation!

  • I have got one coffee bean model in .obj with its material map [Diffuse channel] and an Environment map. You would find it very easy, if you are familiar with any 3d program, especially Max
  • Replicated the model in Element 3D’s Particle system to generate copies/ clones
  • Used an After Effects Camera [Orbit tool] to rotate

The advantage of using Element 3D with such assets or resources is it offers extremely fast rendering.

Of course, it doesn’t offer a full scale features of a 3d program, no way. But you can bypass using a 3d program even to create a scene like this as that would call for hours of rendering, let alone the cost of hiring a render farm.

You can imagine how effective could this be when creating scenes for commercials or online marketing videos. All you have to do is manage your resources and a skill to master this interface.

So the idea is to collect different assets or 3d models and then use the materials and environment to create the scene. Once, that’s done, all you have to do is simulate with its clones (or without them). Finally, you have to use the camera (inside AE) to create a z-depth movement to give it e feel of 3d simulation.

Let’s see a show reel of Element 3D from none other than Andrew Kramer’s Video Copilot.

Let’s now move on to the next entry of the After Effects plugins for motion graphics and commercial.

3. BCC Mocha Tracking – A useful After Effects plugin for surface tracking and 3D compositing in product commercial

BCC’s Mocha tracking has been a game changer. It acts both as an After Effects plugin and a stand alone program. The stand alone program is known as Boris FX Mocha Pro. Like an After Effects plugin, BCC has interface of mocha tracking for most popular NLEs like Avid, FCP, Premiere Pro, DaVinci Resolve and Vegas.

The function of Mocha (irrespective of its being an AE plugin or a standalone program) is extremely useful, if not indispensable, in commercial video production, where you need to combine footage, product, VFX and texts.

So it’s very important that you track your footage to combine other elements to make them look an integral part of the same scene. After Effects has it own built-in camera tracker, which is increasingly becoming more powerful with every release and version upgrade.

But they are rather simple and does fall short of complex tracking frequently needed during product compositing in commercials. You can use AE’s tracker in simple screen replacement, but Mocha is a full-fledged tracking program widely used in motion graphics and VFX industry. Let’s see one video, from no less than Boris FX itself by its former product manager Marry Poplin.

When you place a clip or footage inside a composition, you apply Mocha AE plugin (effects) and then launch to open its interface.

I find this program in extremely powerful for compositing and with not-so-steep a learning curve.

4. Plexus – An After Effects plugin for particle engine

Rowbyte’s Plexus brings in a different particle system to After Effects. It is widely used motion graphics and commercial video production. Currently, it’s running version 3.2.6 as of June 8, 2022. Let’s see an intro video of Plexus 3 and then I’ll discuss some of its features.

It creates data visualization and objects based on procedural data of the particle engine.

In plain language, the effects control parameters of this After Effects plugin lets you tweak those controls to generate data visualizations that you intended. The triangular facets have become a kind of signature for Plexus.

If you want to get more out of the Plexus using most of its parameters and are interested in its documentation, here is the link.

Interactions between the particles is one of the key things that separates Plexus from other particle systems. Lines, triangulation and 3D splines are the elements you can create stunning visuals with using Plexus.

Its ability to use Color map helps you change the position, color and scale of the points. It gives you the feature of using container to put all the particles inside and restrict the movement of the particles.

As a different kind of particle engine and one of the most used After Effects plugins for motion graphics, you could surely give it a try for your next commercial video production.

5. Animation Composer – The best After Effects Plugin to start with as a beginner

Mr. Horse’s Animation Composer is possibly the most used after effects plugin and the fittest to start with as a beginner. The best part is it offers both free and a paid version and the free version has plenty of features that you can use to create an appealing video.

What Animation Composer has essentially done is, it has brought bundle of After Effects expressions in its interface to ease the effort of a motion designers.

It has 2D Special Effects, Backgrounds, Essential Typography, Text Presets, Transitions, Shape Elements, Sound Effects, Green Screen you name it.

Animation Composer comes with tons of presets. You create a layer, vector, image or text and then apply the preset’s effects on that layer and go.

Besides, it has many different transitions, sound effects, text boxes, lower thirds, icons backgrounds and almost all types of graphic elements imaginable, with simple animated movements.

The pack shot or the concluding shot of a commercial usually has simple animated movement of the product, company brand or its logo and a few texts. Animation composer is an ideal plugin for applying simple movement of the layers in no time.

It extensively uses After Effects expressions and some slider controls are there in the effects control panel for most of the presets and effects. So you have the control over the layers’ movement.

As I said, this After Effects plugin is the best one to get started with and if you need any tutorial there are tons available on YouTube and other platforms. But here is the page where you could get their resources. The free version has adequate stuff to start playing around.

6. Sapphire – An After Effects plugin for VFX & Compositing

Sapphire was initially a GenArts product. In 2016, Boris FX bought it over and since then GenArts Sapphire has become Boris FX Sapphire. Apart from After Effects, this plugin works with Avid Media Composer, Final Cut Pro, Autodesk, Nuke, Premiere Pro and Sony Vegas Pro.

Sapphire is extremely popular among different leading production houses across the globe. I would attribute this popularity to Sapphire’s collaboration with Avid from the early days of internet and most of the production house’s inclination toward Avid Media Composer.

The Plugin brings effects, transitions and many add-ons for VFX that a feature film of today usually requires. It has over 3000 preset effects, each one of which has built-in Mocha planner tracker.

Sapphire has found many applications in the feature films of Hollywood and other regions. The plugin works in as many as 8 different categories. These are as follows.

  • Adjust
  • Blur & Sharpen
  • Distort
  • Lighting
  • Render
  • Stylize
  • Time
  • Transitions

Mocha Planner tracker.

Sapphire, although works as an After Effects plugin, offers a mountain of effects and transitions that, I think, calls for a separate packaging. Looking at the above video, you can clearly get the idea of what you can do with Sapphire as an After Effects plugin.

One doesn’t have to think hard why this is one of best After Effects Plugins for commercials and product animation videos. Just in case, you’re interested in their learning material, go to Boris FX’s page, where you could get the resources of essential training.

Some salient features of Boris FX Sapphire

  • As many as 270 effects in the suite for image processing that renders Hollywood-level film quality look. All effects are GPU accelerated using NVIDIA CUDA technology.
  • Over 3000 preset effects, even the beginners can use with ease.
  • An excellent online library of tutorials on each effect and its controls, parameters.
  • Each of the Sapphire Effects comes with Mocha’s planner tracker that makes the isolating an area with tracked mask easier.

Boris FX’s Sapphire is surely worth of trying for big shot film or commercial video production. As I already said, apart for After Effects, it seamlessly integrates with other top-notch NLEs of the industry.

7. iExpressions – A Collection of After Effects Expressions Commercials

You can’t go and shoot videos outdoor or on a chorma every time. You may have to use concepts for your creatives just with vectors or other graphic elements for social media campaign.

Now, how do the After Effects plugins for commercials come to your aide in those cases? Mamoworld’s iExpressions could be an excellent tool in your arsenal. You can get the plugin at aescript with learning material and documentation guide.

This is a collection of After Effects expressions that makes your life easier with different application-ready presets.

Now, what the point of bringing two similar looking After Effects plugins for commercials? I have already discussed Animation Composer above and now this iExpressions!

There are differences. Animation Composer has more of a Graphical User Interface, compared to iExpressions. Even a non-techie, without any idea of After Effects expressions basics can use the GUI

The latter is more suitable for the pros who are familiar with After Effects Expressions. This After Effects Plugin has complied series of expressions into convenient categories and ready to be applied.

There are tons of applications you could think of while making an animated explainer in After Effects.

  • Product animation videos on product usage, video guide suing vector illustrations of products, its different parts to make demo videos
  • Online marketing video using vector animation with third layer information – a perfect fit for inbound marketing and leads
  • Concept videos for consistent online marketing campaign with simple graphic elements on different events (“the World Environment Day, June the 5th”)
  • Combination of footage/ image with graphic elements as the overlays – for quick and easy animation of the overlay elements

You have to spend a little time to get familiarize and use this link of the Mamoworld to get the overview. After you install the Script and the access through Windows> iExpressions.jsxbin you will see an interface that I docked on the right beside the Cookie.

Clicking on the library will pop up a dialogue that has the ready-to-apply expressions with descriptions. Like all other plugins or effects, you apply this one too over a layer.

The best part is you can even tweak the parameters after applying the expression on a layer to get to your desired change. And that’s pretty easy.

iExpressions, like the easy ease expression, make the life of graphic designers and CG artists easier with less time and effort.

8. Optical Flares – Video Copilot’s dedicated After Effects Plugin for Lens Flares

Like other Effects or Plugins, apply on a layer and go to the Effects Control Panel to modify the parameters.

When it comes to adding and tweaking the lens flares, Video Copilot’s Optical Flares is one of the most used After Effects Plugins for Commercials.

Adding light leaks and lens flares are very common in TV commercials and production animation videos. Optical flares comes to

your rescue during commercial video production. It ships with presets and many different lens flare controls under the Global Parameters.

If you’re accustomed with the After Effects Effects Control dialogue and their modification, it would pose no challenge before you to master the features of Video Copilot’s Optical flares.

Like other plugins, this too renders fast which is crucial for making TV commercials or product animation videos. Visit this Video Copilot page for the video tutorials from no less than Andew Kramer, who (and his team) built this plugin. Not to mention, this plug too has seen application in a number of big shot production.

Optical flares truly brings light leaks and lens flares to your table along with excellent controls and a hell lot of presets. No wonder, it’s one of the most favored After Effects Plugins for commercials and product animation videos.


Scripts and Plugins are there to make our life easier and doubtless, you’ll lag far behind if you don’t make the best use of them. It’s particularly apt when you are jostling with an immense time pressure.

Commercial video production is highly competitive a niche and tons of After Effects plugins for commercials out there to cater to different domains. Although I have covered from my own perspective and it’s somewhat generic in terms of popularity and ease use, it’s no way a complete list altogether.

With everyday, AI emerging and reshaping the VFX and motion graphics industry, it’s high time that we keep abreast of the changing scenario and the latest trend.

After Effects is updating with every release and so are these plugins. It’s important that we streamline our workflow and find the most suitable ones that best fit the production pipeline.

With ready assets and plugins at your arsenal, it’s just the matter of time that you deliver what your client aspires and what you achieve.

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