Top 10 Best Special Effects Software in 2021

Edited by Ben Jacklin

April 21, 2021

Special effects software has allowed for the creation of some truly stunning pieces of media. As visual effect software continues to get more sophisticated, movie-makers and other creatives are able to use more and more tools to bring what were once impossible visions to life. From film to video games to advertisements, the use of VFX software is becoming an industry standard. As a result, it’s important to know what the best video-making software out there is. To get you started, this article will discuss popular special effects, how to use them, and how to choose the best special effects programs according to your user level.

Best Visual Effects Software for Beginners

While various types of visual effects software can be used by both beginners and professionals alike, some are tailored more for beginners than others. This isn’t to say that you get less out of software geared towards beginners, though, and Movavi Video Editor Plus is the program to prove it. This is one of the best video-making software platforms available for beginners for a couple of reasons.

1. Movavi Video Editor Plus includes plenty of effects in the app. It allows beginners to include things like titles, transitions, and filters in their videos. These are all easy ways to add a layer of excitement to your video. You can also stylize your video with different filters, which can also be easily applied.

As a bonus, you can actually go to the Movavi Effects Store to purchase even more effects. The store bundles effects into sets and packs, making it easier to choose what to buy according to your needs. Their sets include effects tailored for vloggers, lifestyle videos, and wedding videos. There are even some more niche sets that include fantasy effects, pixel-style effects, and supernatural effects. There is truly something for everyone.

Check out the packs that are available at the Movavi Effects Store!

Go to Movavi Effects Store

2. There is a free trial available! This means you can try it before you buy it. The trial version involves a simple free download and will give you a sneak peek into some of the features that are available.

3. Movavi Video Editor Plus has a user-friendly interface. This makes it easy to find exactly what you’re looking for while you’re using the program. This saves you time and lets you concentrate on actually editing your video. To read user reviews, follow the link below.

Read user reviews

4. Many of its key features include effects that beginners are looking for, including:

  • Scene detection: Movavi Editor Plus will automatically detect changes in the video scene and separate the video into different clips according to the changes detected. This makes it easier to keep your videos organized.
  • Overlay: This allows you to show videos or images over the main video without cutting the main video. With overlays, you can add things like watermarks or create a split-screen.
  • Slow motion: This feature lets you show moments that are usually too fast to see. It’s a great way to showcase special moments. While many VFX programs have this effect, including freeware, Movavi’s special algorithm will make sure that the result looks smooth.
  • Highlight and conceal: This tool makes it easy to blur or darken specific sections of the video. This allows you to control what is in focus in the frame.
  • Chroma key: As discussed earlier, the chroma key effect allows anyone to make use of a green screen (or whatever color screen you choose). Movavi Editor Plus makes it especially easy to use the chroma key effect because it will help you identify the exact color of your green screen, making it easier to remove from the video.
  • Audio effects: Movavi Editor Pro will allow you to easily edit the audio for your video, changing how things sound. These effects include changing pitches, making the audio sound like it’s coming through a radio, and even echo effects.
  • Vertical video: For beginners looking to quickly upload their videos onto various social media platforms, this feature is an absolute must. With Movavi, users can quickly choose the correct aspect ratio when uploading their video to Instagram, Facebook, or YouTube.

5. Lastly, Movavi Video Editor Plus is available for both Windows and Mac, making it an accessible video editor with special effects.

Best Visual Effects Software for Professionals: Programs for 3D Modeling

Visual effects software for professionals can get complicated, especially when it comes to 3D modeling. However, knowing your way around a 3D modeling program is an easy way to instantly boost your skill set. Here are five of the best video editors with special effects for 3D modeling all of which see regular use by professionals.

3ds Max is a 3D modeling and rendering program and can be used for animation, games, and for design visualization. The key features of this program include:

  • Modeling and texturing tools
  • Tools for animation and effects
  • Rendering
  • Tools for improved workflow and pipeline
  • Design visualization tools

Cinema 4D includes many tools sought after by professionals while being easy to use. The key features of Cinema 4D include:

  • Tools for polygonic, parametric, and volume modeling
  • Tools for sculpting
  • Texturing
  • Animation tools
  • Rendering
  • Tools for smoother workflows

Houdini focuses on procedural generation, making it stand out from the crowd of 3D modeling programs. Procedural generation allows creators to make content faster. Animation companies like Walt Disney Animation Studios, Pixar, DreamWorks Animation, and Sony Pictures Imageworks use Houdini. Houdini features include:

  • Procedural modeling
  • Direct modeling
  • Tools for look development artists (or Lookdevs)

Maya is a 3D animation software that allows you to create incredibly detailed worlds and characters. The features of Maya are:

  • Effects and dynamics tools
  • 3D animation tools
  • Rigging
  • 3D modeling tools
  • Tools for 3D rendering and shading
  • Motion graphics tools

Blender is a video effect software for free that allows creating and animating in 3D. With features that support the entirety of the 3D pipeline, Blender is one of the best free special effects software for 3D available. Blender has been used to make many short features and has made a variety of indie projects possible. Blender’s features include:

  • Effects and dynamics tools
  • Rendering
  • Modeling
  • Sculpting
  • Animation
  • Rigging
  • Simulation
  • VFX tools

Best Visual Effects Software for Professionals: for Compositing

Compositing using visual processing software allows professionals to combine multiple layers of images to create a final product that looks more cohesive. Compositing helps to really pull together the final look of an animation. Here are some of the best software you can use for both 3D and 2D compositing.

Nuke has been around for over 20 years. It has a suite of features that make compositing easier, but where it shines is in its ability to make collaboration between team members quick and easy. The features included with Nuke are:

  • Nodal toolset
  • Deep image compositing
  • Machine learning tools
  • 3D workspace
  • 3D camera tracker
  • Performance and pipeline tools
  • Tools to support collaboration and editing

Fusion has been around for about 30 years and has been used in both film and television. Fusion’s ease of use makes it ideal for studios that have to pump out projects quickly. Fusion’s features include:

  • A node-based workflow
  • 3D workspace
  • Virtual set extensions
  • Tools for working on VR projects
  • Tools for broadcast designers

Adobe® After® Effects® has a variety of tools for 2D and 3D compositing. It includes a free trial, meaning you get a chance to check out the trial version before fully committing to buying it. It should be noted that Adobe® After® Effects® isn’t meant to be used as a way to edit footage; it’s meant to be used after footage has gone through a rough edit (hence the word “After” in the name). Adobe® After® Effects® features:

  • Text animation
  • Visual effects
  • Motion graphics
  • Rotoscoping
  • Motion tracking

Best Features of Visual Effects Software

There are a few special effects that pop up over and over again in the media that’s seen today. Here are just some of the effects created by VFX software that you may have seen in your favorite pieces of media.

Stop motion is an animation technique that involves playing many still images in a row, giving the still photos on the screen the illusion of movement. In movies, stop motion used to involve someone moving a clay figure or puppet between frames to achieve this illusion, as was done in The Nightmare Before Christmas. Nowadays, much of this can be achieved through CGI, like The Lego Movie. Having said that, some video-creating software will make it simple for you to create stop-motion animation without having to learn the ins-and-outs of CGI.

Bullet-time, which is also called time-slicing, grew popular after its effective use in The Matrix trilogy. Bullet-time allows for the extreme distortion of time and space, giving the audience the illusion that they’re able to see events that are normally imperceptible, like a bullet flying by. To achieve this effect without video effects software is extremely difficult since the camera would have to go impossibly fast, or you may have to purchase extremely expensive camera equipment. Bullet-time effects can also be found in broadcast advertisements and video games.

Slow motion is different from bullet-time since it doesn’t aim to make the audience feel a distortion of time and space. Bullet-time involves the camera panning around a subject in real-time while the subject itself is going super slowly; this creates that “distorted” effect. Slow motion usually involves a simple static or tracking shot that can be slowed down using special effects software.

Chroma key, more commonly known as the use of “green screen,” is widely used by professionals in the movie industry and by online video-makers at home. This allows you to composite two images based on color hues. Many movies make use of chroma key, since they mitigate the costs and labor that’s needed to create huge set pieces. Movies with exotic or fantastical locations are a great example of this; think The Lord of the Rings or the Harry Potter series, which uses chroma key effects to give the illusion that the actors are standing in huge castles or inside gigantic caverns.

Digital Compositing involves using video effects software to assemble multiple images to make a final image. Both print media and movies use digital compositing. Independence Day used digital compositing to brilliant effect, making viewers feel like they were truly seeing an alien invasion in action. The digital compositing in Independence Day seamlessly combined digital movie effects with miniatures and real actors.

CGI has exploded in popularity, thanks to studios like Pixar breaking new ground in the world of computer animation. Just take a look at movies like The Incredibles or Monster’s Inc to get an idea of what CGI can do: both movies include hair and fur that reacts naturally to its environment and fabric that folds and tears realistically. This type of animation would only be possible at a large scale with the use of special effects programs. CGI can also be used in print media and video games.

Frequently Asked Questions: Visual Effects Software

What are the best software options for visual effects?

Here are some of the best apps you can try:

  1. Movavi Video Editor Plus
  2. Adobe® After® Effects®
  3. Houdini
  4. Blender
  5. Fusion
  6. 3ds Max
  7. Cinema 4D
  8. Maya
  9. Nuke
  10. Final Cut Pro

What software is used for visual effects?

The software used by professionals varies depending on the industry and on personal preference. Here are some that are used in films, video games, television, and other creative industries:

  • Maya and 3ds Max have been used by big-name video game companies like Ubisoft, EA Sports, Bioware, and CD Projekt Red. Both programs have been applauded by developers for their speed, pipeline integration, and tools for 3D character creation.
  • Maya has also been used in several blockbuster movies, such as Guardians of the Galaxy, Avengers: Infinity War, Wreck-it Ralph, and the award-winning Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse.
  • Adobe® After® Effects® is a popular choice for flash animated cartoons. Shows that were created using Adobe® After® Effects® include Teen Titans Go!, Rick and Morty, the 2014 version of The Tom and Jerry Show, and Bojack Horseman.
  • Nuke has been used in several Emmy-winning television shows, including Game of Thrones, The Crown, and Boardwalk Empire.
  • Mocha has been used in both the television and film industries and has brought several international hits to life. These include Stranger Things, Avengers: Endgame, and The Mandalorian.

Why are visual effects important?

The importance of visual effects has been well-documented and studied by professional film critics and hobbyists alike. Here are just some of the reasons why it’s important to have polished visual effects in your videos.

1. Increased Recall of Information. Visual effects are a powerful tool that can help you visually and emotionally stimulate your viewers. This makes it easier for them to recall information. Ever notice how modern movie trailers use very few words, or how sentences tend to be disjointed from one another? That’s because they make use of powerful visuals and visual effects to evoke strong emotions instead, ensuring that audience members will remember their movie.

2. It Saves on Costs. Instead of shooting on location, many film companies and amateur directors use chroma key effects instead. If you were shooting a scene set in the Arctic, for example, it’s much easier to use a combination of SFX and chroma key effects to simulate being in the Arctic, compared to flying your entire crew and all their equipment there. There are even instances where you can use CGI to do things like creating a crowd of people in the background of a shot instead of hiring hundreds and hundreds of extras.

3. You Can Create the Impossible. If you need a dragon, sea monster, or other mythical creature to appear in your movie, you can’t exactly go out and get a real one. This is where visual effects come in. Visual effects, like CGI, allow you to create things that just don’t exist in real life. This has allowed for more stories with fantastical elements to be created for movies and television.

4. You Can Captivate Your Audience. Good video effects create media that’s powerful. When done correctly, video effects can enhance the realism of a film or show so much that the audience feels like they are actually “in” the movie.

Video Effects Software Make Videos Better

Using video-editing software with effects is an easy way to really make your visuals really pop. From stop motion to chroma key to slow motion, adding effects to your video enhances what your audience experiences and can make your message even more powerful.

Whether you’re a seasoned professional or just a beginner, there’s no denying that there are so many VFX programs to choose from. If you’re looking for a place to start, use Movavi Video Editor Plus for a program that’s easy-to-use, but will give you plenty of tools and options.

Ben Jacklin

Ben is a writer from the UK with qualifications in Media and Music Technology, he specialises in software reviews and tutorials. Ben has been blogging about media and tech subjects since he was a teenager from his base in the East of England.