The 2021 Guide to Motion Graphics Software

07/10/2021
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Motion graphics is fundamentally animated graphic design. So, the text is a significant component of it. Designers use motion graphic software to animate logos, images, little scenes that follow a particular character or story.

So, is it animation or not? What is motion graphics, after all? There is a fine line here, and the debate is still on as to what separates animations from motion graphics.

The most straightforward way to put it is this. Animations are a general term, while motion graphics are a type of animation.

For example, the opening credits to Alfred Hitchcock’s landmark “Psycho” thriller are an early form of motion graphics.

Source: Hollywoodrocks546

The cinematic sequence of those small grey bars rushing across and cutting the actors’ names, that hair-raising music, the way the letters twist out of place – this piece of motion graphics still amazes us 60 years later.

Another great cinematic example of motion graphics that give you goosebumps is this HBO’s True Detective opening credits.

Source: Cooper Hewitt

Yes, thrilling, stirring, electrifying, intoxicating. Motion graphics can deliver a truly emotional story, together with music or sounds and a powerful text.

The Main Purposes of Motion Graphic Software

So, motion graphic software is usually used in advertising, digital marketing, television, branding, product storytelling, and education.

A good motion graphic designer needs to understand what a good composition is and apply the basic core principles of animations. So, motion graphics imply a combination of 2D and 3D animation skillsets, from body mechanics to design, physics, etc.

One of the easiest types of motion graphics animations is whiteboard animation. So, this implies physically drawing a story on a whiteboard and recording the whole process. You could use a physical whiteboard or a digital tablet with a digital pen. When the drawing and recording are done, you get a time-lapse of the drawing process. It could be an explainer video or an educational training clip.

Today, the advertising niche relies heavily on motion graphics. They can deliver a message more effectively and get people’s attention. They are brief, intuitive, entertaining and informative at the same time.

motion graphics software apps

There are a lot of online sources of free motion graphics or marketplaces where artists can sell their artworks to end-users. So, the age of animations is now, and motion graphics are part of this digital art form.

Top 7 Motion Graphics Software

Of course, the discussion about the best app for motion graphics could last for days. However, we’re not here to waste anybody’s time. We’re here to talk about the seven most important Motion Graphics apps out there at the moment.

Some of these animation apps have been around for some time. You’re probably using one or two and wondering about alternatives. Well, here they are, with pros and cons.

1. Adobe After Effects – The best all-around

This Adobe animation software is probably the most-used one at the moment. It works as a hybrid of video editing, Photoshop and Illustrator through the Creative Cloud ecosystem.

What is more, it integrates well with Final Cut Pro and other 3D apps such as Cinema 4D, 3ds Max etc.

You can do quite a lot of stuff with it. It offers a lot of possibilities for creating visual effects, layouts, compositions, movements, object editing, colour corrections etc.

One of its significant benefits is the many third-party plugins that have been developed over the years. You can basically customize this software with additional timelines, composition panels, effects or even 3D capabilities.

So, one exciting plugin for Adobe After Effects is Bodymovin. With this plugin, you can create Lottie animations for your various web-based projects. The good news is, after completion, you can quickly edit lotties win other online apps like Vidalgo.  

Pros

  • 3D compositing
  • VFX
  • Countless effect possibilities
  • Kinetic typography
  • High flexibility and various integrations and plugins

Cons

  • Steep learning curve
  • The files might take up a lot of space
  • Very little audio editing capabilities

Check out these 25 kick-ass effects and how to do them in After Effects

Source: Black Mixture

2. Cinema 4D – Best 3D animation software

If you’re already mastering After Effects, then this is the normal transition to make for more elaborate 3D motion graphics.

Cinema 4D is quite intuitive to use and offers flexible integration with Adobe After Effects. You can quickly edit and duplicate various parameters. So, yeah, you can create top-notch animated graphics from the quirkiest to the most complex.

cinema 4D

Most industrial-level professionals from the modelling, texturing or rendering industries use Cinema 4D. As a consequence, you might be afraid to use this motion graphics software. However, you shouldn’t. Instead, you should have some fun creating excellent 3D motion graphics with it.

You can start small. Don’t go head-on into the dark side of 3D rendering. Again, if you master Adobe After Effects, then make the transition to Cinema 4D and learn the ropes of this fantastic 3D animation software.

Start with basic modelling and tinker with the Cinema 4D modelling tools first. Secondly, start exercising with the monograph tools and create some abstract effects. Learn more about the depth and the principles of composing and colouring techniques.

Thirdly, start with simulations and dynamics. Cinema 4D has plenty of those. You can learn the different behaviour of materials as they crash into one another, break or fall. This way, you’ll learn how to animate the hair of a character, for example.

So, let’s check out this little Cinema 4D introductory video!

Source: InspirationTuts

Pros:

  • Professional use
  • Ease of use
  • Powerful and fast
  • Integrates perfectly with After Effects
  • Versatility

Cons:

  • Steep price
  • Designing complex modelling for 3D rendering might be challenging

3. Adobe Premiere Pro – Best for Motion Graphics Templates

Yes, this is another Adobe software. Adobe Premiere and After Effects work pretty well together. So, you might prefer After Effects, but you should not ignore Premiere either.

In Premiere Pro, you can create dynamic links between After Effects and Premiere Pro so you can make quick final adjustments with your team.

So, Adobe Premiere Pro is a video editing application with a video timeline. As a motion designer, you will use Adobe Premier to bring your video and audio together. Then, you can add the final touches to the video, the music, the transitions.

Moreover, you can import free motion graphic templates into Adobe Premiere Pro to make your work a lot easier.

Source: Dusty Porter

Pros:

  • Video Titling and graphics
  • Effects, transitions and labels
  • Video timeline made easy
  • Motion graphic templates capabilities
  • Easy to work on simultaneous projects

Cons:

  • It might demand a lot of computing power
  • Somehow, the design and workflow it offers seem a bit unintuitive

4. Adobe Spark – Best for Beginners

So, this adobe animation software is pretty straightforward to use. It offers royalty-free images and some music that are ok for high-quality motion graphics.

Moreover, the learning curve is not as steep as you might expect. You can use Adobe Spark to create some pretty amazing short videos and graphics for your Social Media channels.

Furthermore, the app offers excellent portability, meaning you can continue your project on the web or your mobile devices.

It’s true, Adobe Spark is quite limited and straightforward, but if you’re a beginner, it will help you create videos based on professional templates.

What is more, there is a web-based version of Adobe Spark called Adobe Spark post perfect for beginners.

Source: Claudio Zavala Jr.

Pros:

  • Easy to use
  • Access to Royalty-free music and imagery
  • Syncing between devices
  • Easy to share preview links

Cons:

  • Limited complexity
  • No versatility

5. Mocha Pro – Advanced visual effects and motion tracking

So, Mocha Pro or Mocha AE has been bundled with Adobe After Effects CS4. From there on, it is available as a plugin for Adobe After Effects.

Moreover, Mocha Pro is an Academy Award-Winning planar motion tracking software recognized in the industry for its visual achievements. That sounds super-professional. However, if you master After Effects and Premiere Pro, you can use Mocha Pro too.

Actually, it lets you do some pretty advanced tricks. You can remove unwanted objects or perform post-production camera stabilization. Yeah, this is some pretty complex stuff. So, how does it help you as a motion graphics artist?

First of all, it does screen replacement like no other motion graphics software out there. So, with a few clicks, you can remove unwanted pixels, objects, and even shadows. You can clean up backgrounds, remove logos, characters with a flick of the wrist. However, the coolest thing is the face swap feature. You’ve got to try it.

Check out this cool rotoscope animation with Mocha and After Effects

Source: Boris FX

Pros:

  • Advanced Stabilization, calibration capabilities
  • GPU accelerated object removal
  • Edge-snapping masking
  • Support for Stereo 360/VR
  • It integrates perfectly with Adobe After Effects and Premiere

Cons:

  • High costs
  • Steep learning curve

6. Adobe Photoshop – The Jack of All Trades

Yes, Photoshop is the Jack of all trades, and you can’t really live without it. Photoshop is highly versatile when it comes to creating textures, manipulating images, removing objects from photos, creating new designs using various filters.

What makes Photoshop a motion graphics software is the Photoshop timeline and its ability to create storyboards. You can do quick sketches and compositions that you can then animate or quickly import into After Effects and continue from there.

Adobe Photoshop

However, Photoshop’s video timeline is the perfect place to start if you are a beginner and want to try your hand with some motion graphics for social media.

So, let’s take a look at this tutorial below!

Source: Angelo Montilla

Pros:

  • Easy to create GIFs and rotoscope animations
  • Texture and Image manipulation capabilities
  • Design board
  • Video timeline for video composing

Cons:

  • So, it is a bit-map based application

7. Blender – Best Open Source Motion Graphics Software

So, this is an open-source, free 3D creation suite that supports a lot of modelling, simulations, compositions, motion trackings or video editing.

There are plenty of addons for motion graphics that you can use with Blender, such as Animation Nodes. This addon brings some really cool motion graphics capabilities to the table, such as physics simulation tools.

What is more, Blender comes with CPU and GPU rendering capabilities. It also packs advanced sculpting tools, production-ready visual effects, rigging and plenty of texturing and modelling tools.

While navigating through its interface is reasonably straightforward and intuitive, you will need some time to master all its capabilities, especially if you’re new to motion graphics software in general.

For a start, check out these five easy motion graphics effects in Blender

Source: Wintermute Digital

Pros:

  • Totally free and open-source
  • Quick exports and renders
  • The basic capabilities are easy to master
  • It accepts graphic formats such as TIFF, HDRI, IRIS, TGA, JPG
  • It boasts an integrated 3D game engine

Cons:

  • For more advanced control, some knowledge of Python is necessary
  • Challenging to learn all its jargon, shortcut keys and features

This is all folks…for now. So, if you’re looking to master all these motion graphics software alternatives, you’ve got some work to do. Do you have others that you really like and are good at? Let us know, and let’s bounce some ideas!

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