Getting the best possible quality when it comes to exporting your animated graphics from After Effects is just as important as outputting regular footage from every other NLE. However, there are a few minor differences and some additional considerations that you definitely should keep in mind on these occasions.
Sometimes the task might get even more complicated and overwhelming when you need to deliver an animated graphics providing some sort of transparency in order to import these files in other NLE. Below is a quick tutorial by Ian Robinson, who showcases the optimal workflow of exporting animated graphics that are cross-platform compatible by covering three different options related to some of the most commonly asked deliverables.
The first scenario covers the render settings you need to apply when exporting a full resolution animated graphic over a background. First, make sure you’ve selected your timeline in After Effects, go to Composition and choose Add to Render Queue. As a general recommendation, you should leave the Render Settings as they are set by default. However, if you click on the Best Settings a Dialog Box will pop up where you can explore and further tweak some of the default settings.
All in all, make sure that the Quality is set to Best and you’re rendering at Full Resolution. Yet, if you are working with a UHD composition, for instance, and you want to deliver a 1080p version of the animated graphic you need to change the resolution to Half. This way After Effects is going to render half of the pixels of your animation, yet the rendered file will be resized by half as well, so you’ll still be able to get the maximum quality out of your composition just at half of the original resolution.
Another important setting that you need to consider is the composition’s frame rate. If you want to get the best results simply pick Use comp’s frame rate. In general, changing this setting at this stage of the process may introduce some unwanted artifacts in your final render.
The next step of the process is dealing with the Output Settings Module. By default, it should be set to Lossless. If you are working on a Mac under Format by default you should see Quicktime selected whereas Animation should be set as a default codec. If you are a Windows user than under format you may pick either WMV or AVI uncompressed as an option. I would also consider Cineform codec as a viable codec in case you have it installed on your system.
In this particular case when you need to export both the animated graphics and the background image, under Channel selecting RGB should be just fine. However, if you want to export only the graphics with transparent background and then use the file on another platform and throw other footage below then you should add an Alpha channel.
In this case, select RGB + Alpha setting and also change Depth to Millions of Colors +. When you are exporting a graphic that consists of only one solid color as in the above example then under Color changing the setting from Premultiplied (Matted) to Straight (Unmatted) should deliver better results. This setting simply overfills the area around your animated logo so in this case while exporting a graphic with an Alpha channel, After Effects will add some extra white around the edges of the graphic itself, thus reducing some possible artifacts of the rendered file.
A quick tip – just before hitting render remember that even if you create a new composition After Effects will use the location where you’ve already exported your previous file. You can easily change the destination folder and the name of the rendered file by clicking directly on the Output to file name.
Another option is rendering your graphic as a still image. Before you do that select a certain frame of the composition where there isn’t any visible blur applied on the graphic. To get the maximum quality, again navigate to Composition but instead of clicking on Add to Render Queue choose Save Frame As. This way the file still will be added to the render queue where you, this time, should see the following settings.
These are some of the common scenarios that you may stumble across while working with animated graphics in After Effects. As a rule of thumb always use a lossless codec no matter what operating system you are working with. This way you will get the optimal quality out of your composition so that you can continue working with your graphics in other NLEs while maintaining the maximum image quality in the final steps of the creative process.
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