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I've seen "shatter" plugin do a pretty good job of explosions. Also you can make some smoke I'd say with Fractal Noise.
Lynda.com has a tonne of tutorials...
hey thanks alot! Yes, I've done the lynda.com tutorials, they're really good, just didn't have one on explosions! Thanks again
Explosions are typically created with particle generation systems, stock footage, or a combination of both.
Trapcode Particular has preset explosions built into it, but it's not a cheap plugin:
The existing Cycore particle systems in AE, CC Particle Systems II and CC Particle World, are good places to start for free.
You can buy stock footage of explosions from many sources. Artbeats is great but expensive.
Andrew Kramer has a great package called Action Movie Essentials which includes explosions, and its only 60 bucks, including tutorials:
Detonation Films sell stock footage of fire and explosions, but there are lots of freebies on their site. It's mostly DV footage, so not up to the standard of Artbeats, but its cheap and/or free, so who's complaining?
In general, I say that you should consider acquiring stock footage of an explosion before diving in to the difficult task of simulating one. As Andrew said, Artbeats and Detonation Films are great.
That said, if you need to simulate an explosion, there are _lots_ of ways to do this in After Effects. John Dickinson recently sponsored a contest on this very topic and provides nearly a dozen downloadable projects that were submitted: