There are many plugins for After Effects, in fact if I am brutally honest there are too many. To ease both my integration when I am working studios and from a cost benefit to myself I try to keep my plugin use to a minimum. A good case in point recently, was when I came across a comp using the lenscare plugin, which I didn’t have on my machine, which was creating blur derived from a zdepth pass. Knowing that the standard Lens Blur filter would in this instance achieve the same result, I used that instead and everybody is happy.
So the plugins that I use, either offer a new subset of features that don’t come as standard with After Effects, a great example is the dynamics plugin Newton, or Form from Red Giant, which I have yet to have a proper play with. Or alternatively a plugin that so blows the capabilities of what is within After Effects to the curb that in a perfect world it would be bundled with AE.
A great example of the latter is ReelSmart Motion Blur Pro by RE:Vision Effects Inc, this amazing plugin creates convincing motion blur from a range of footage, which can be very handy but where it comes into it’s own is if your a 3D artist with a deadline, and don’t have the time to render out a full set of motion blurred elements from your 3D app of choice. As rendering convincing motion blur does have a habit of sending render times north of Oslo.
RSMB and its Pro variant, can just add motion blur to an existing piece of motion, using exceptionally clever algorithms (aka magic) to track the motion in your render and add a suitable blur. However, when added with a motion vector pass (using the RSMB Pro version only), which is just another render pass in your render pass output, a much greater amount of realism is added as RSMB Pro derives it’s setting from the Motion Vector Pass (as long as you render everything in 16 bit) and provides you with a motion solution based on the actual 3d scene, rather than a clever ‘guess’ which is effectively what the basic RSMB is doing.
RSMB Pro version also has many more options from deriving motion from shape layers in After Effects, as well as much more granular control of your image using foreground and background mattes, but even the basic RSMB is useful to adding basic motion blur to your 3D renders and it also give you the ability in some cases to remove motion blur by using minus numbers in the input pallete. The default setting of .50 imitates a 180 degree shutter, but with most things vfx, if it looks right it is right, so having the ability to play is always nice.
But the most important aspect of having this amount of control of your motion blur is very straightforward, it gives you control in the composite, and also allows you to not have to worry (too much) about compositing your motion blur from a 3D app, as the blurs are now handled directly in After Effects making any potential roto a lot easier, (for an excellent tutorial on solving potential edge artefacts created with C4D and RSMB Pro, see this video by isotope theory).
If your using various 3D apps to generate your animations, having the motion blur controlled within the comp means that consistent appearance of motion is controlled by you in after effects rather than leaving you at the whim of the 3D package. Therefore, you don’t need to worry about whether the feather on the motion blur from modo matches the one from cinema (usually they won’t)
So you get the gist, if you use 3D for animations and if you use After Effects and you want to save immense amounts of time and gain greater efficiency in your render workflow just do yourself a favour and get RSMB Pro, and gain control of your blur’s.