Working in a digital world, we’re all accustomed to using a broad range of software to help our creative visions come to life. Sometimes, though, the software you’re using for a given task just doesn’t quite do what you need it to do. That’s where plug-ins come in.
The ability to extend software beyond its original capability certainly isn’t unique to creatives. Recently, we asked our creative community for their favorite plug-ins. Here’s the top five.
GuideGuide holds the honor of being the only design plug-in to make it into our community’s top five plug-ins. Developed by a creative over at GitHub, Cameron McEfee, GuideGuide is an entirely free for Photoshop that helps you simplify designs by automating your guide creation process.
For example, if you’re working on building a three-column layout, instead of trying to calculate how many pixels each column should be, use GuideGuide to create the guides for you as a starting point.
It even supports advanced formulas, called grid notations, to let you create any sort of grid you can think of. If you’re doing any kind of design work, GuideGuide is a great extension to add to your arsenal.
Learn more: http://guideguide.me/
Although not nearly as popular as some other renderers out there, the team at Refractive Software saw the future of rendering wasn’t on the CPU but on the GPU. While many other renderers are rushing to implement GPU rendering capabilities into their existing software, Octane Render has the distinct honor of being the first GPU-exclusive unbiased renderer to be commercially available.
In 2012, OTOY acquired Refractive Software and has been developing Octane ever since. Since Octane was built from the ground up to take advantage of your GPU, its users love the power they get over many CPU-based renderers.
“[Octane] makes my life easier when it comes to showcasing how work can be presented,” an Octane for SketchUp beta user said. “Even though it’s still in beta, the tools are already faster and more reliable than primitive CPU rendering.”
If you thought V-Ray had a ton of plug-ins (and it does), Octane’s list of plug-ins is equally impressive. Octane’s host apps are 3ds Max, AutoCAD, Inventor, Maya, Blender, Carrara, CINEMA 4D, DAZ, ArchiCAD, Houdini, LightWave, MODO, NUKE, Revit, Rhino, SketchUp, Poser and even the now-defunct Softimage (too soon?), Octane stretches into a lot of areas that have no other GPU rendering alternative.
Learn more: http://home.otoy.com/render/octane-render/overview/
As one of the most popular renderers out there, it came as little surprise to see Chaos Group’s V-Ray show up in our community’s favorites. With plug-ins for 3ds Max, MODO, Maya, SketchUp, Blender, Softimage, Rhino, CINEMA 4D and even NUKE and Katana, many artists probably don’t even realize V-Ray also has a standalone version.
“I love V-Ray’s shading and lighting,” one voting artist said, “that’s why it’s my favorite plug-in.”
As with most renderers, the V-Ray’s features integrate deeply into the host application, even replacing a lot of the existing. Simply put, V-Ray is arguably one of the most versatile renderers on the market. Because of it’s versatility, it’s seen production work in just about every industry – from feature films to architectural visualization.
Learn more: http://www.chaosgroup.com/
See it in action: http://www.digitaltutors.com/software/V-Ray-tutorials
Sitni Sati’s powerful fire and smoke simulation engine were the most popular dynamics simulation plug-in for our community, and it’s easy to see why. FumeFX was born in the production world and although it started off as a 3ds Max plug-in, it has since been ported to Maya.
Beyond the impressive simulation capabilities, FumeFX also boasts powerful rendering integration with renderers like mental ray and finalRender. From Suckerpunch to Thor, over the years FumeFX has garnered a reputation for explosions and destruction in the feature film industry that could rival Michael Bay.
Learn more: http://www.afterworks.com/FumeFX/Overview.asp?ID=1
See it in action: http://www.digitaltutors.com/software/FumeFX-tutorials
Far and away the most votes came for Video Copilot’s powerful Element 3D plug-in for After Effects. While After Effects has some very limited 3D capabilities out of the box, Element 3D extends its 3D capabilities by allowing you to import 3D objects and work with them directly inside of After Effects.
“Element 3D completely revolutionizes 3D in AE.”
That statement, taken from a community member and motion graphics artist, sums up why After Effects artists around the world love Element 3D. Element 3D works with OBJ and C4D files (R12 and up) and is targeted at artists who are working on VFX and/or motion graphics projects.
“[Element 3D] brings true 3D to After Effects,” one VFX artist said, “It increases the speed of your workflow, which unleashes your creativity, plus you can see final results very quickly before rendering. This makes After Effects a strong contender to NUKE.”
Another big benefit of Element 3D aside from the obvious 3D capabilities is that it can take advantage of your killer GPU for a much faster experience overall.
Learn more: https://www.videocopilot.net/products/element2/
So that’s the top five creative plug-ins, as voted by our community. Didn’t get a chance to vote? Is there a plug-in you think didn’t make it onto the list that should have? Add it to the comments below!