Originally posted on 18 February 2022. Scroll down for news of the Helium 5.0 update.
HeliumX has released Helium, a new plugin it describes as a “groundbreaking” 3D toolset for After Effects.
The add-on is intended to streamline the process of creating 3D animations inside After Effects for motion graphics work, and provides tools for manipulating 3D models, primitives, text, splines and terrain.
Created by the developers behind modular 3D particle system Stardust
Originally released late last year, Helium is effectively a sibling tool to modular After Effects particle system Stardust, which we’ve covered on CG Channel in the past.
Both Superluminal, its developer, and Helium developer HeliumX were co-founded by motion designer Aharon Shiker.
Dedicated tools for common tasks when creating 3D animations directly inside After Effects
The new plugin is intended to streamline the process of creating 3D animation for motion graphics work inside After Effects, rather than importing animated 3D content from other DCC applications.
Its basic functionality includes importing 3D geometry and setting up PBR materials and lighting, extruding and animating 3D text and paths, and distributing 3D models or primitives via Cinema 4D-style Cloners.
Helium can also generate 3D terrain from heightmaps, and has dedicated tools for common tasks like creating mirror planes and 3D page scroll effects.
The plugin is also designed to play nicely with standard After Effects workflows
According to HeliumX, users can create an entire Helium scene as a precomp inside an After Effects composition, resulting in “neat and uncluttered projects with a level of complexity never before possible”.
New in Helium 2.0: 3D wireframes, matte shadow material, initial FBX support
New features in Helium 2.0 include the option to render 3D assets as wireframes, and a matte shadow material.
The update also introduces “limited support” for the FBX file format, available as an alternative to the OBJ format for importing 3D content.
Updated 19 April 2022: HeliumX has released Helium 4.0.
The update adds a new ‘Abstract Effect’ system for generating a range of organic-looking effects, including animated cloth surfaces, FUI elements and motion graphics.
The results can be controlled via procedural noise parameters and texture maps.
Other changes include a new Stencil material and overrides for emissive textures. HeliumX has also reduced the recommended price of subscriptions from $99/year to $60/year, further reduced by a first-year discount.
Updated 17 June 2022: HeliumX has released Helium 5.0.
The update adds support for rendering volumetrics, making it possible to add smoke, clouds and similar effects to shots by importing simulations created in other DCC apps into After Effects in VDB format.
Pricing and availability
Helium 5.0 is available for After Effects 2020+ on Windows and macOS. The software is rental-only, and is available via aescripts + aeplugins, priced at $50/year for the first year; $60/year thereafter.
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