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  • Writer's pictureEric J Anderle

Opacity Buddy: A Free After Effects Tool

Updated: Apr 21, 2023

I had a rare chance to sit down for an old-fashioned Q&A with Brandon Dohner, creator of the new and innovative Adobe After Effects tool, Opacity Buddy.

Totally kidding. Brandon and I actually share an office wall, so we talk a lot. We talk about movies and TV, Mark Price, cycling, yoga, food, Paco the dog, general life stuff, and work, of course. But rarely do we talk about developing and releasing a motion graphics tool. Mostly because A) this is Brandon's first one and even more so - B) I could never hold my weight in a conversation about software plugins or scripting. However, I'm a forever student, so I really enjoyed learning about it.

Q: How does it feel to release your first tool for After Effects?

The After Effects community has always been full of really helpful people, so it's exciting to release tools (expect to see more in the coming weeks) that can help speed up workflows. Best part is that they’re completely free! These tools won’t produce mind-blowing animations, but they can help you to create them a little quicker.

Q: How did the tool Opacity Buddy come about?

Personal need, mostly. If you want layers to fade out together in After Effects, you have two options: pre-comping all of your layers or keyframing each layer individually. I’m constantly tweaking and refining my work, whether it's motion graphics or vfx work. Being able to take control of multiple layer’s opacity has been a game changer, especially for longer duration motion graphics videos.

Two months ago, I created a preset that just made a layer follow the opacity of the layer that it was parented to. We used it here at Pixel Planet Studios, and I shared it around the After Effects community. I got some really positive feedback like, “I can't express how much time this is going to save me” and my favorite, “Well, that's bloody brilliant.”

Of course, there were a few drawbacks. It followed the parent layer exactly, so you could no longer change the opacity of the layer if you wanted it to be semi-transparent or if you wanted to keyframe the opacity.

Opacity Buddy solves that issue, with added options like being able to keyframe and offset time. Maybe you don’t want to parent a layer because you don’t want it to follow the other transform properties. In that case “Layer Below” or “Select a Layer” might become really useful. In the video, I show you some of what you can do with those options, but really this versatility benefits people in all sorts of projects.

Q: How do you make these sorts of tools?

Well, it starts with learning expressions in After Effects. Like I said in my video, Ukramedia’s YouTube channel is a great place to start. They also offer a course on Expressions, which I’m slowly making my way through. While it's something that I’m passionate about, I realize a lot of people won’t want to go into Expressions. My hope with tools like this is that they can help speed up your workflow in the same way that learning Expressions can.

And, even for the people who do know Expressions in After Effects, a keyframable one-click solution is still a time saver.

Download Opacity Buddy for free HERE.

Brandon also has some additional After Effects tools launching in the next few weeks. Make sure to come back to catch the next interview with Brandon where we dive into Text Buddy over a cup of coffee.

And, subscribe to the Pixel Planet YouTube Channel - so we can be real friends.

And reach out to us with any questions, comments or suggestions for future content or just to say hello. We're friendly.

Cheers, ya'll.


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