Aug 03, 2021

After Effects vs. Fusion – Choosing the Best Visual Effects Software

Are you looking to add cinematic graphics, animation and other visual effects to your videos? Then you will need to find the right post-production software to fit your needs and workflow.

With Adobe After Effects and Blackmagic Fusion being the most accessible for those wanting to master digital image composition, we take a deeper dive into each to help you choose which one is perfect for you.

What are Adobe After Effects and Blackmagic Fusion?

After Effects by Adobe and Fusion by Blackmagic Design are post-production and image compositing software platforms with a similar offering, used to create clever and creative color, lighting, transition and animated visual effects typically found in films, TV, VR and advertisements. You can even use them to add arty visual effects to short videos and vlogs to help enhance a story.

Fusion Studio or Resolve Fusion? What’s the difference?

It might be confusing when you research the differences between After Effects and Fusion to find two different types of Fusion software. The leading software is Fusion Studio, but you can also find Fusion’s software built into the DaVinci Resolve Studio platform.

Don’t fret if you have one over the other since they are both the same software, just hosted on two different studio-type platforms.  In interface and usage, they both operate in the same way.

After Effects vs Fusion – How to choose what’s right for you

Have you ever wanted to add a cinematic movie title, animate objects or raise the creative stakes and add a transition or change the entire setting with remarkable visual effects? From single shots to complex projects, both platforms allow you to create the same visual effects elements, but two aspects differentiate them: the way the software creates a workflow and its best design components. 

Let’s look at the core differences and unique selling points of both After Effects and Fusion, and take a deeper look when it comes to functionality, usability, essential tools and price. 

Interface user experience

You are likely already familiar with basic video editing applications and how to navigate the multiple features, but how does high-level post-production software stack up?

After Effects Fusion
If you are used to the interface of Adobe’s other platforms like Lightroom and Photoshop, then After Effects won’t feel too alien. It’s also similar to Premiere Pro but can take your work to the next level. Files and projects are listed in the left-hand panels, the main toolbar with color correction, effects and presets is on the right, and the bottom panel shows the editing layers. The interface of Fusion is similar to After Effects in its initial layout. The 3D and animation tools are more visible with their own top row bar, and the color correction tool is also in a right-side panel, leaving plenty of space in the bottom panel for the node flow chart.
You can easily customize the interface to suit your way of working. Fusion’s interface isn’t as flexible for customization – it’s pretty much set.

Usability and the range of features

What’s the best design component of each software? It all depends on what you need to use it for.

After Effects Fusion
Advanced motion graphics toolkit. 

The industry standard tool for superb motion graphic, animation techniques and visual effects.
Advanced 3D rendering toolkit.

Better known as the tool for advanced 2D and 3D compositing and rendering models and the lighting and shadowing elements you can achieve with it.
Those looking to master animation and motion picture design will find there’s more to devour in After Effects. Those into 3D rendering will undoubtedly prefer Fusion.

Software workflow system: nodes or layers?

It’s a matter of personal choice in workflow whether you prefer nodes or layer-based software. What simplifies a sequence of edits for one person complicates it for another. Maybe trial both and see what works for you.

After Effects Fusion
Uses layers or stacking order. 

Each effect you apply becomes a numbered layer, and the individual layers make up the entire composition or image frame.
Uses a node-based compositing software.

The image composition processes and tools you have used are connected in a flowchart or spider graph system.
Pros: Layers are more of a timestamp tool and a more straightforward method for the list minded thinker and those who can remember which point of the sequence they added an effect.

Cons: Some people also see it as a complex task to go back and search for a single element amongst a layer cake of edits.
Pros: Nodes are faster when dealing with more complex tools and additions because it’s easier to see how one tool or process connects to another. Visual learners might find more simplicity and flexibility with this editing process.

Cons: There is no layered timestamp mechanism during editing so it may not suit those looking for a linear way of working.

Is color correction easy in post-production software?

You might not want to use the application for basic colour correction, but how easy is that feature to use if you do?

After Effects Fusion
After Effects offers basic color correction, from hue and saturation to highlights and shadows, very much in the same vein as Photoshop. Fusion’s color correction usage appears slightly more complex with ‘lift’, ‘gamma’, and ‘gain’ color wheels. It’s also a little complex if you only want to color correct a single object rather than the entire scene.

It’s easier to colour correct and colour grade your videos in Final Cut Pro or Premier Pro before moving onto adding animated effects.

Which platform is better for photorealistic rendering?

Rendering is a tool to create photorealistic 2D or 3D images of an object or a scene, much like when architects showcase a structure in situ or when a tech company releases visions of a new product. Both applications are capable of rendering, but which is better?

After Effects Fusion
Decent rendering capabilities, but the application overall is more geared towards motion elements. Advanced rendering capabilities, with a much larger toolkit for rendering and related visual effects for 3D objects.

Does the software support third-party plugins?

Both After Effects and Fusion allow you to install third-party plugins – customized templates and presets that can help streamline your workflow and have cool visual effects at your fingertips.

After Effects Fusion
Affect Effects wins hands down here. There’s a massive choice of plugins available – from animated light and shadow effects to detailed 3D objects – because it’s more commonly used in the post-production industry. You won’t find a huge library of plugins for Fusion. Fusion has retained a Hollywood-level exclusivity, and plugins are ultra-specific or kept to a minimum.

Compatibility: Graphics cards and file types

High tech tools working on large file types like 4k clips can slow your computer down – at a time when you need a speedy workflow for precision. A GPU graphics card makes an application run with incredible speed and optimizes files so you have limited glitches, yet it’s worth noting some applications also compress and save files to a specific type.

After Effects Fusion
GPU graphics card compatible. GPU graphics card compatible.
Files can be uploaded and edited on other application software. BRAW (Blackmagic Raw) is a particular RAW image file compatible with Blackmagic Fusion. So if you save this file type, it’s unlikely you can upload and edit it on another platform outside of the Fusion Studio series.

Price comparison: subscription vs single purchase

There’s little difference in price between both, which isn’t surprising given their similarities. Both work on Mac and PC.

After Effects Fusion
$20.99 per month as part of Adobe Creative Cloud – Adobe works via a subscription model. 

There’s also a free 7-day trial.
Blackmagic Fusion 16 Studio costs $295. 

It is available for free for those who already have DaVinci Resolve Studio (around $299).

Ready to create visually stunning motion images?

Adding special effects can help bring your videos to the next level, but knowing what software to choose is the first step. Those in 3D, VR and advanced image compositing are likely better off with Fusion, and those wanting to practice animation and visual wizardry will find their skillset shines with After Effects.Now that you are ready to up your graphics skills, check out how to streamline your video planning and production workflow so you have more time to be creative.

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