This page is part of my largerResources For Film Makers section.
There are a lot of different software tools, plugins and stock footage packs I use for my film and visual effects projects. While there might be a few items that I forgot to mention, the list below contains pretty much everything I use on a fairly regular basis.
Adobe After Effects CC is my weapon of choice for creating visual effects and all matters of cool motion graphics. After Effects is a video compositing tool that enables you to layer different visual elements on top of each other, e.g. videos, images, text, filters, effects, and then blend them together to create a final composition.
I have been using After Effects since CS5 and every iteration adds cool new features that I can't wait to get my hands on. Note that After Effects does have quite a steep learning curve, but if you're just getting started, I would recommend you check out my After Effects Beginner Series to learn how to use it.
Adobe Premiere Pro CC is used for video editing. Where After Effects excels at merging multiple layers on top of each other, Premiere Pro shines when it comes to organising, cutting, aligning transitioning between consecutive clips. It does have some basic layering functionality to add titles and some simple effects, e.g. for colour correction and colour grading, but anything more complex than that you'd probably want to do in After Effects.
While I focus on videos rather than still images, it all comes down to visual elements and quite often I have to create background images, prepare clean plates or do other image editing work for my video projects. For those tasks I use Adobe Photoshop CC.
Probably the best known powerhouse for image editing, it provides all you need to layer, clone, blend, paint, process, correct and otherwise modify your images. I've used it to remove objects from my scene or create entire landscapes using the clone stamp and a few photos I took in different locations.
I reckon I probably only use 1% of the capabilities of Adobe Audition CC, but the task I use it for often proves invaluable: noise removal. When I record my own audio I often end up with background noise, static hissing or hums from electrical lines and Audition is excellent for removing this type of background noise. You can import your audio clip, take a sample of some recorded noise and then strip it from the entire recording.
Badly recorded audio will generally remain badly recorded audio and you can't push the noise removal in Adobe Audition too far or it will start sounding rather electronic and unnatural. However, for most of my basic audio noise removal needs this tool is a life saver.
I do NOT recommend buying all the Adobe products listed above separately - you'll be paying a lot of money for individual licenses. Instead, I recommend signing up for the Adobe Creative Cloud. It's Adobe's subscription based model where, for a monthly fee (I pay AUD $50/month) you get access to all of their products as well as all updates and new version they ever release instantly.
I am not a fan of the Adobe Creative Cloud Manager as it's a bit like iTunes: a necessary evil to get to the great software it contains, but I am a fan of having all of Adobe's tools accessible directly via the internet at the click of a button.
Not only does Video Copilot create amazing visual effect tutorials, they also create great plugins for Adobe After Effects! I do own and use quite a lot of their plugins including Twitch, Element 3D and Optical Flares.
On top of their plugins, Video Copilot also sells great stock footage and sound packs that I have used in one form or another for almost every single film project I ever created. If you're looking for action stock footage like explosions, gun fire, smoke and more go and get yourself a copy of Action Essentials 2. For cinematic scores and big impact sound effects have a look at Pro Scores and Designer Sound FX.
Red Giant creates a number of powerful plugins for Adobe After Effects and Adobe Premiere. Probably my favourite plugin from them is the popular particle generator Trapcode Particular. I use this plugin a lot for different smoke, sparks or fire elements and have even created a full tutorial on how to create fireworks with Trapcode Particular.
I also make a lot of use of the Magic Bullet Suite from Red Giant, which has since been split into a few different related products like the Colour Suite and Magic Bullet Looks. I also use Trapcode Shine and Trapcode Form from time to time.
Red Giant actually offers all sorts of different packages for the plugins and the one I can certainly recommend is the Red Giant Trapcode Suite.
Film Riot has released a number of pretty massive sound packs under their company Triune Films. As part of a collaboration I did with them, I did get a free copy of their core sound packs Lord of War, Fighting SFX and the Cinema Crunch film scores.
I have always struggled to find good free gun and fighting sounds and I think I'm sorted since I got my hands on those packs. They contain a huge amount of great sounding effects and Triune Stores offers these packs in all sorts of different shapes and sizes so you can pick the one that fits your budget.
If you are looking for a music pack that contains a lot of variety (Video Copilot and Film Riot tend to focus on action and suspense music), then I can highly recommend the Audio Elite Sound pack by Connor Berge.
Again, I did get a free copy of this pack in exchange for a review on my website, but for the price and the huge amount of music included I can highly recommend it. There are so many different styles and pieces in this music pack that you will certainly find something that suits your film project.
Steinberg Cubase is a DAW, a digital audio workstation. A DAW is a tool for music production and I use it to create, arrange and process the audio and music for all of my film projects and all of my tutorials. You can import a video directly into Cubase and then sync the video up with any number of audio and music tracks.
I own a copy of Steinberg Cubase 5, but the software has gone through a number of new releases since I bought it. The current version is Steinberg Cubase 9.
Cubase, like any other fully fledged DAW, is not an easy tool to learn, but it provides me with much more flexibility and control than editing my audio in Adobe Premiere or Audition.
Autodesk 3D Studio Max is a very powerful, but also a very complex tool used extensively in the professional film and visual effects industry. While the interface alone is enough to make your head spin, once you get a hang of how things work and you start using tools like the VRay renderer, the Rayfire destruction plugin or FumeFX for smoke, fire and explosions you can create some really awesome looking 3D visual effects!
My skills are limited, but I have managed to create some pretty cool things with After Effects and 3D Studio Max like our Dissolve Into Crows visual effect.
Cinema 4D Lite is included for free in After Effects CC. You can use the Cineware plugin to embed and render Cinema 4D scenes directly within your After Effects compositions. While I like using Cinema 4D and feel it is much more intuitive and easy to learn than 3D Studio Max, I do feel it can be a bit limiting at times, especially when you are trying to create destruction effects, smoke, fire and explosions or work with particles.
Since I admit that this might be due to my lack of skill in using Cinema 4D, I recommend giving the free Lite version a try to see if you like its workflow and rendering engine.