Adobe After Effects has long been an industry standard for professional and amateur visual effects artists who want to create high-quality effects for their projects. However, one area where After Effects has left itself vulnerable to competition is its 3D building and editing capabilities. That’s where relative newcomer Blender is ready to strike up a challenge.
Blender is an open-source 3D animation software that constantly evolves to be an affordable alternative to expensive 3D animation platforms like Maya and After Effects. It utilizes a clean interface and lots of customization options, making it a great platform for beginners and pros alike. Don’t let the low price point fool you; this platform packs a serious punch.
So, if you’re a visual effects artist or animator, which of these platforms should find a home in your workflow?
In this guide, we’ll put them head-to-head to compare their strengths and weaknesses in crucial feature categories to help you make the best decision for which platform to create your next masterpiece with.
What Do Blender and Adobe After Effects Do?
Adobe After Effects is an all-in-one visual effects platform designed for video editors and filmmakers who want to add cinema-quality visual effects to their video projects. After Effects is also designed to work seamlessly with other Adobe editing products such as Premiere Pro and Photoshop.
Blender is a 3D animation platform that utilizes open-source software to make it highly customizable. It can also handle some 2D animations and visual effects, but its real focus has been to be a 3D animation platform that can grow alongside animators.
The Main Differences Between Blender and Adobe After Effects
After Effects is a one-stop visual effects platform designed to meet most animators and visual effects artist’s needs; essentially, it does a lot of things pretty well in the world of VFX and motion graphics.
Blender went a slightly different route and decided to focus its features heavily towards 3D animators and to make their software open-source, so it can be infinitely customized by those who like to tinker. If you do more 3D animation, digital compositing and effects work than general editing, Blender may be a great platform to add to your repertoire as it’s both powerful and affordable.
Let’s see how each program stacks up in a head-to-head comparison in some of our key features.
Ok, here’s what you’ve been waiting for. It’s time to put these programs up against each other and see which ones excel in each of our key categories:
Ease of Use
- Winner: Tie
- Why: Both After Effects and Blender have made strides to make sure their platforms are relatively easy to use for beginners and pros alike. Both programs get high marks in overall usability with available tutorials and vibrant support communities, not to mention clean, easy-to-navigate workflows.
Which one you find most easy to use will likely come down to personal preference, as they use distinctly different interfaces.
Quality of Support
- Winner: After Effects
Why: Adobe’s customer support is top-notch. Adobe.com has hundreds of tutorials for all its software to help guide you through the different available features before you ever have to pick up a phone and talk to support or go digging around online.
If you get stuck on how to solve a particular editing problem, you can use the Adobe community to ask questions or browse previous questions and answers to help you get un-stuck. If all else fails, Adobe’s support team is available by chat, email, or phone 24/7 to help you through whatever issue you may be facing.
This isn’t to say that Blender doesn’t have high-quality support, but Adobe’s vast array of resources and robust community edge it out in this category, especially for beginners.
Create together remotely, in real time
- Winner: Tie
- Why: As you slowly build your knowledge of the platform, you’ll find the primary effects included in After Effects to be reasonably intuitive and allow you to start creating visual effects with relative ease.
However, Blender has also gone out of its way to create a platform that makes creating basic 3D effects and animations fairly easy and accessible for beginners and pros alike. So when it comes to basic effects, we’re giving both Blender and After Effects high marks.
Advanced Visual Effects
- Winner: After Effects
- Why: Since After Effects works more like a visual effects program and Blender works more like an animation platform, we’re going to define “advanced visual effects” as effects designed to enhance video-based projects and not animations. In this category, After Effects really shines.
- Winner: Blender
- Why: Blender has really put in the effort to be an incredible open-source platform for animators. This is especially true for 3D animations, as Blender is stacked with tools to make 3D animation easy.
After Effects also has some powerful animation tools but is overall best suited for 2D animations and is more limited when it comes to 3D animations, which is why we’re declaring Blender the clear winner in this category.
- Winner: Adobe After Effects
- Why: G2, one of the most trusted sources for software reviews, rated Adobe as a solid 4.6/5 stars, while Blender trails slightly behind with 4.5/5 stars. This shows how, when it comes to user satisfaction, both these programs largely hit the mark. Part of Blender’s lower rating is also likely due to its relatively new presence on the market and lower overall popularity vs. After Effects.
- Winner: Blender
- Why: While After Effects is still a relatively affordable platform, there is one price point it can’t beat, and that’s free. Blender is open-source software that is available completely free for download, so that makes it the obvious winner in this category.
On the other hand, Adobe uses a subscription-based (SaaS) pricing model. The cost per month for After Effects alone is $20.99, but it can also be bundled with other Creative Cloud programs for a reduced rate.
Who is Blender Best Suited For?
- 3D Animators: Whether you’re just dipping your toes into the water of 3D animation or have been at it for years, Blender is a fantastic low-cost option for tinkering with 3D objects and their effects to your heart's content.
- Game Developers: Blender is a great way to create 3D assets without breaking the bank for your next gaming project. This is an awesome tool to have in the arsenal for any indie game developer.
Who is After Effects Suited For?
- Filmmakers: After Effects is a great platform for filmmakers looking to assemble a video project from start to finish and want to incorporate cinema-quality special effects with relative ease. Thanks to its NLE workflow and seamless integration with Premiere Pro, one-stop-shop filmmakers will likely find everything they need to complete their next project with After Effects.
- General VFX Artists: If you’re passionate about visual effects, chances are, After Effects is one of the first names you’ve come across for professional-grade VFX. Whether you’re adding muzzle flashes or portals to a different world, After Effects really tries to ensure that the only limits to what you can do within the program are your imagination.
So, Which One Should You Choose?
These programs are largely divided when it comes to their workflow and price point. If you’re looking to dip your toes into the world of animation without a huge investment or are just starting to learn how to build 3D models, Blender is an incredible low-cost option that gives you all the tools you need to get started.
However, suppose you’re an experienced visual effects artist that wants to work with a platform that seamlessly integrates into the overall video editing workflow. In that case, After Effects continues to be the reigning industry standard, it also boasts a relatively inexpensive price point, so it’s not cost-prohibitive for students or amateurs who want to start working with visual effects.
Hopefully, this head-to-head comparison will make choosing the right software for your next project a breeze, allowing you to unleash your creative energy and focus on telling the stories that matter the most to you through stunning images.
If you’re looking for a better way to bring your remote editing team closer together and collaborate more efficiently from a distance, check out Evercast. Evercast allows you to stream your edit sessions in HD while video chatting and exchanging notes with your team, all under one platform. Because we believe collaboration is the magic behind the movies.