Here’s some of the tools that helped me out.
I’ll keep adding to the list so hopefully they’ll help you out too!
Some of the links below are affiliate links, which means that if you choose to make a purchase, I will earn a commission. This commission comes at no additional cost to you. Please understand that I have experience with all of these companies, and I recommend them because they are helpful and useful, not because of the small commissions I make if you decide to buy something. Please do not spend any money on these products unless you feel you need them or that they will help you achieve your goals.
BUILDING A PORTFOLIO WEBSITE
Having a decent online platform to show your work is extremely important, so throw out those business cards and get online with these great tools!
For web hosting and domains
I’ve tried a lot of hosting companies in my time, but after much trial and error I can honestly say Bluehost is the best I’ve used so far. They make it incredibly easy to get a new site up and running with their one-click automatic WordPress Blog installation.
You can also use your Bluehost account to host multiple domains—no need to pay more for hosting when you’re ready to start another website. Also, they provide outstanding customer service, I usually just use the online chat feature.
I highly recommend using Bluehost for your first website, and you can get started now at $3.95/month!
For professional wordpress templates
You could design your own site or use one of the free templates that come with WordPress – or you can save a lot of time and buy a prebuilt template from Theme Forest! With prices ranging from just $13, do yourself a favour and grab one of these so you can concentrate on the CG and Motion Graphics! You could even grab the one I used for the CG Shortcuts website here!
The best platform for building a website
WordPress is used by 30.6% of the top 10 million websites as of April 2018. As such, WordPress is the most popular website management or blogging system in use on the Web, supporting more than 60 million websites.
Build a simple online portfolio
Behance is a great tool for show casing your still and video work, and best of all it’s free!
According to Behance they are the leading online platform to showcase & discover creative work. Companies can also explore the work and access talent which means you might get work out of it.
I personally prefer to have my own custom site with my own domain, I think it makes me look more professional, but it may well be fine for your situation – if your work is amazing it will speak for itself!
AFTER EFFECTS PLUGINS AND SCRIPTS
After Effects is extremely powerful by itself, but if you’re ready to take it to the next level and streamline your workflow, give these a try.
Awesome workflow plugin for After Effects by Video Copilot
Speed up After Effects by making it work your way! Manage design progress with the new Snapshot tool and find the effects you need instantly!
Awesome Energy Beam plugin for After Effects by Video Copilot
Create High quality energy & lights beams, Realistic Glow falloff, Advanced Core Settings, Built-in Distortion, 50 Presets (View Gallery), Dynamic Text and Mask Outlines, Stackable FX with Add mode
Awesome Planet Creator plugin for After Effects by Video Copilot
Create 3D planet scenes directly in After Effects
Optical Flares by Video CoPilot
Plugin for epic cinematic lens flares!
This is one of the plugins I still find myself using all the time, if used correctly (and not too over the top) it can make your work instantly better!
And it plays well with comped 3D elements too. Unleash your inner Michael Bay!
Reelsmart Motion Blur
Plugin for adding natural motion blur in post
Rendering 3D passes with motion blur can take forever! But motion blur can realy help sell a shot!
Some of the GPU renderers (like Octane) handle this prety well but most of the time it’s faster to add blur in post. If you do a lot of 3D comping this will be your best friend!
CINEMA 4D PLUGINS AND SCRIPTS
Cinema 4D is extremely powerful by itself, but if you’re ready to take it to the next level and streamline your workflow, give these a try.
My go to plug in for photo realistic 3D rendering
The speed of this renderer is insane! You need a compatible graphics card and a decent workstation, but Octane makes lighting and look development sooo much quicker then the C4D standard renderers.
If you do a lot of 3D work I highly recommend looking into this, all of my work these days is rendered with Octane!
Cinema 4D plugin for advanced particle effects
Easily create amazing particle effects right within Cinema 4D!
X-Particles is a fully-featured particle and VFX system for Cinema 4D. Using a unique system of Questions and Actions you get full control over your particle simulations without the need for Xpresso or Cinema 4D’s native particle system.
Particles, fluids, and gaseous simulations all in one place.
Realistic fluids, vapor, dust and particles directly in Cinema 4D
TurbulenceFD has all the features that a visual effects artist needs to create organic looking particles. Get unparalleled realism and control with voxel-based gaseous fluid dynamics, a physically-based fire shader, Particle Advection, and Multiple Scattering. TurbulenceFD is easy-to-use, with an intuitive workflow, and is extremely fast, designed to exploit high-end GPUs and CPUS with even vast simulation data.
The Gelatin Deformer
Plugin for adding an elastic effect to your animated objects
Similar to the Jiggle deformer, it brings several other features:
- Gives a much more flaccid effect.
- Works on multiple objects at the same time.
- The outlets are defined on the object, as if it were held by defined points.
- Simple use and easily adjustable attenuation.
Here’s a bit of a reading list, not exclusivly CG related, but I was inspired anyway.
Creativity Inc – Ed Catmull
A behind the scenes look at the best animation company in the world – Pixar
Creativity, Inc. is a book for managers who want to lead their employees to new heights, a manual for anyone who strives for originality, and the first-ever, all-access trip into the nerve center of Pixar Animation Studios―into the story meetings, the postmortems, and the ‘Braintrust’ sessions where art is born. It is, at heart, a book about how to build and sustain a creative culture―but it is also, as Pixar co-founder and president Ed Catmull writes, ‘an expression of the ideas that I believe make the best in us possible.’
The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck – Mark Manson
A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life
There are only so many things we can give a f**k about so we need to figure out which ones really matter, Manson makes clear. While money is nice, caring about what you do with your life is better, because true wealth is about experience. A much-needed grab-you-by-the-shoulders-and-look-you-in-the-eye moment of real-talk, filled with entertaining stories and profane, ruthless humor, The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F**k is a refreshing slap for a generation to help them lead contented, grounded lives.
The War of Art – Steven Pressfield
A book that will help you stop procrastinating and start creating
Whether an artist, writer or business person, this simple, personal, and no-nonsense book will inspire you to seize the potential of your life.
The $100 Startup – Chris Guillebeau
An inspiring book about turning what you love doing into a business
In The $100 Startup, Chris Guillebeau shows you how to lead of life of adventure, meaning and purpose – and earn a good living.
Lets face it, modelling can take a long time! when budgets are tight and deadlines are looming, it’s often better to buy (or download free) rebuilt models. Here’s some sources I use..
Extensive library of stock 3D models
I’ve bought loads of models from these guys in the past. When you consider the time it takes to model from scratch this is often a cheaper alternative. Just have your client factor it into their budget.
STOCK PHOTOS AND FOOTAGE
You’ll probably need stock photos and video once in a while here’s some I like…
Over 1.4 million free to use stock photos
This site is fantastic! Very high quality images available to download at huge sizes, and best of all – they are all free to use however you like!
EDITING AND AUDIO APPS
While editing and sound mixing isnt something you have to do often in motion graphics, it’s a good skill to have.
Free program for audio editing
Audacity is a free and open-source digital audio editor and recording application software, available for Windows, macOS/OS X and Unix-like operating systems.
3D SHADERS, TEXTURES AND HDRI MAPS
You’ll need a library of shaders, textures and HDRI maps to save you some time
My favorite source for free 3D textures and materials
Over 300 Free PBR Materials, A new one every day. No sign-up. No attribution required. How good is that!!
Free library of HDRI maps for lighting your scenes
HDRI Haven is a little site where you can find high quality HDRIs for free, no catch.
All HDRIs here are CC0 (public domain). No paywalls, accounts or email spam. Just download what you want, and use it however courtesy of CG Artist Greg Zaal.
If you find it useful please consider supporting him on Patreon!
Create PBR materials from images
Bounding Box Software has released Materialize, a free standalone tool for Windows that allows the user to create materials for use in games from images.
It is possible to create an entire material from a single image or simply import the available textures and generate only those that are missing.