Why should every motion designer should try a plugin detox?

after effects motion design process plugins workflow Sep 21, 2021
After Effects plugins

Plugins are very common in our motion graphics design industry. Some of them are mainly used to speed up your After Effects workflow; some are here to help you achieve a cool niche effect.

I like plugins.

But that shouldn't t stop me from having a plugin detox, especially when there's no time pressure on the project. I think every animator should try to go on a detox plugin in their motion design journey, just for once.

When I just started, I thought in order to make great work in After Effects, I needed the biggest, badest plugins. Plexus, Particular & Element 3D were the big names in town back then.

The truth is... I've never worked on a commercial project that needed them.
When I saw good animation in the early day, the first thing that came to my head was "wow, what plugins did they use?" I figured because, I couldn't make that in After Effects, they must have some secret ingredient that I don't. And they did. But it wasn't software. It was years of experience, dedication to studying the craft & a workflow that allowed them to spend time on what mattered. 
Now, don't get me wrong, I love plugins. Ease Copy, Flow & FX Console deserve a Nobel prize. But they're a certain type of plugin -- a tool that helps you do what you need to do, just faster. They're not animating for you. 
I used to use easing plugins all the time that would add an ease or bounce to my animation. And the result... well, you've probably already guessed it. All my animation ended up looking the same. The same pace, the same motion. It was flat because I let the plugin make the decisions for me.
Remember, one of the few things humans still have an advantage over computers is our creative choices.
I also had no idea what I was doing inside the graph editor when a specific motion needed to be made... That was when I decided to quit. Cold turkey.
I went 8 weeks without using a single plugin. And it was one of the best things I've done to improve my skills.
Yes, it was annoying to have to jump into the graph editor and tweak the curves when I could have just clicked 1 button & gotten the same result for a simple motion.
But I spent so much time in the graph editor, that by the end of the 8 weeks, I knew it like the back of my hand. I was finally making a motion that was custom to the scene and it made a huge difference. I stopped avoiding complex motion because I thought it would be too difficult. To make it sound like the cheesy climax to a cliche montage... I was free.


Disney didn't need plugins 100 years ago. And you don't need them now. The technology they used was closer to cave paintings than the powerhouse computing power available to us now with digital animation. All they needed was an idea and the will to make it happen. Don't need to let the plugins hold you back.

So that's my challenge to you. Over the duration of my course, 8 weeks. Leave the easing plugins alone and push yourself to get more comfortable in the graph editor than you ever had before. It might be hard at the start, but it WILL make you a better animator. It did for me.

I will go into more detail about how to survive & thrive without those plugins in my upcoming Master course.

Master Motion Design is an in-depth advanced animation course that focuses on key animation techniques & practical After Effects skills to elevate your motion design to the next level. 

Find out more

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