Getting Started in VFX: 7 Software You Should Use to Build Your Skills

VFX software for beginners

Highlights

Learn why you should use VFX software for your videos
Follow our pro tips to find the best Visual Effects software for you
Discover the top free and paid VFX software for beginners
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Visual Effects are everywhere, from your latest Marvel movie to adverts we see on TV. Creating a world from scratch or taking actors from a green-screen studio to an alien landscape is an exciting and creative career. Still, it can be challenging knowing where to start. The first step is choosing the VFX software you want to use. To help you out, we’ve created a list of tips for selecting the right VFX software for you and a list of our favorite Visual Effects programs.

How to choose the right VFX Software for you

Cost

The cost will always be a consideration for any beginner, and it can be challenging to know that you’re making the right choice. So before you invest in special effects video editing software, you should do as much research as possible.

Many of the programs offer free trials and versions to get you started. Take advantage and test as many VFX programs as you can to learn the differences first-hand.

System Requirements

Before choosing the visual effects software for you, an essential thing to consider is the device you want to edit on. All software has minimum system requirements. If your preferred program doesn’t work on your device, you may need to upgrade your hardware or choose a different program.

Similarly, some VFX programs only work with specific operating systems. If you are a Linux user, for example, and don’t want to make the trade to iOS or Windows, you’ll be limited in the programs that will work on your device.

What you want to Achieve

The most important thing to consider when choosing the best video effects software for you is what you want to achieve. Some programs may be more cost-effective or better suit your device, but you need to be sure you can achieve the results you need.

Most VFX software have 3rd-party plugins and presets you can add to your toolkit, but these can be pretty expensive and have their own system requirements. Consider your goals as a VFX artist and make sure you’re investing in the gear and software that will help you achieve them.

7 Visual Effects Programs to build your skills

Now you know what to consider when choosing the right Visual Effects Software for you. Here are our recommendations for the 7 best free and paid VFX software to build your skills with.

Adobe After Effects

after effects is one of the best vfx software

By Maryr21, CC BY-SA 4.0

 

Pricing: Starts $20.99/mo

Platforms: macOS and Windows

After Effects is fantastic software used by both VFX artists and Motion Graphics animators. As a part of Adobe CS, the dynamic workflow between Photoshop, AE, Premiere and Illustrator is second to none.

After Effects has many visual effects tools with incredible keyframing, motion tracking and rotoscoping functions. Still, for those serious about Visual Effects, you may need to consider plugins such as Trapcode and Co-Pilot to achieve the results you want, which can quickly increase the cost.

Pro: Easy to use with plenty of support groups, tutorials and plugins

Con: Monthly ongoing cost can quickly add up

Blackmagic Fusion Studio 17

fusion is one of the best video effects software

Pricing: $295

Platforms: macOS and Windows

Blackmagic Fusion Studio is a visual effect and digital compositing program with an impressive list of credits to its name, including The Hunger GamesGuardians of the Galaxy and, Ant-Man.

Fusion offers the full range of VFX tools, including compositing, motion graphics, 3D, for a one-off cost of $295, offering excellent value for money. The software is intuitive and easy to navigate for beginners, with a wonderful support community and how-to guides.

Pro: Intuitive software, easy for beginners with a one-off cost

Con: Interface lacks customization

Blender

blender is one of the best vfx programs

Pricing: Free

Platforms: macOS, Windows, Linux

Blender is different from all other VFX software and is challenging to learn, even for a professional animator. Despite that, the open-source software offers powerful tools for visual effects, including keying, rotoscoping and fluid and smoke simulations.

The user-built platform is constantly updated and improved, with a supportive and loyal community behind it. While Blender might be more difficult to learn than other programs, the rewards are endless VFX possibilities.

Pro: Free software with powerful tools

Con: Huge learning curve, even for professionals

HitFilm

hitfilm

Pricing: Free

Platforms: macOS and Windows

HitFilm is VFX in an app-like system; incredibly easy to use with basic compositing and motion graphics tools. The free software is ideal for creators producing quick turn-around web-based content.

HitFilm offers a range of drag-and-drop effects, including weather conditions, blood effects, de-aging, lighting and fire. If these become limiting, you can upgrade to HitFilm Pro. Overall, HitFilm Express is a fantastic starting platform for those beginning their VFX journey.

Pro: Incredibly easy to use, ideal for content creators looking to level up

Con: Can quickly become limited

HitFilm Pro

hitfilm pro

Pricing: $9.90/ month

Platforms: macOS and Windows

HitFilm Pro offers the same intuitive usability as the free version but has a host of powerful tools for advanced compositing and VFX work. Whatsmore, you can test everything HitFilm Pro has to offer, only needing to pay when you want to export your work.

HitFilm Pro offers many of the same features as Adobe After Effects, including Chroma and Keying tools, motion tracking, and particle elements. So naturally, HitFilm Pro is the ideal upgrade for editors already using Hitfilm’s free version.

Full disclosure: Since 2021, Artlist owns and operates the HitFilm editing suits.

Pro: Ideal upgrade for free users

Con: No further expansion on tools or capabilities

Nuke

nuke is one of the best paid vfx software

By IzletaCC BY-SA 3.0

Pricing: £5,518

Platforms: macOS, Windows, Linux

Nuke is the most expensive piece of VFX software on our list, and for that reason alone isn’t a beginner’s piece of kit. However, Nuke is well worth mentioning, especially for those considering a long career in VFX work.

The cross-platform industry favorite has everything a VFX artist could want, with the bonus of a fully customizable interface. Nuke is a serious piece of kit but a fantastic investment for beginners looking to learn and stick with the same software.

Pro: Powerful tools for advanced VFX work

Con: Expensive and challenging to learn

Natron

natron is the best vfx program

By Jean-Christophe LevetCC BY 4.0

Pricing: Free

Platforms: macOS, Windows, Linux

Natron is another open-source VFX program built from a user community and a fantastic choice for beginners giving things a go as a free platform. Natron offers a fair range of tools but comes into its own with the Rotoscoping functions.

While the software can be challenging to learn, if you want to work in VFX using Green Screen, Natron’s powerful Chroma and Keying capabilities could make it the ideal software for you.

Pro: Free Open-source platform, ideal for developers

Con: Challenging to learn, does experience some glitches

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Wrap up

Choosing the best VFX software for you is the first step in becoming a Visual Effects Artist. The next is learning world-building skills to create stunning compositions. Check out this handy guide for more about the different types of animation.

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Chris Suffield is a London-based writer, editor, and voice-over artist at Jellyfielder Studios; he also writes entertainment news for Box Office Buz and enjoys making things from stock footage.

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