Hours of tedious compositing have gone by and after having navigated the Adobe-branded world of masks, layers and effects, you’re finally ready to display all your hard work. Although, there is one final step before you can start sharing your project with others. Somewhat overlooked at times, the process of rendering (or exporting) plays a crucial role in the post production workflow.
If you don’t understand the settings you use, you may produce a video that tarnishes any effort you have put in, ending up with a potentially unusable or low-quality file. It is worth noting that even if you have prior experience rendering videos within other Adobe products such as Premiere Pro or Media Encoder, there are differences in how After Effects handles its own rendering processes.
While most of the differences are attributed to the user interface elements, it is important to see how After Effects handles exporting in order to create an output format that is optimized for your needs. Here is an easy-to-follow tutorial created by AdobeMasters on how to Render/Export in Adobe After Effects.
The first step in the rendering process is to add your compositions to the queue. Unlike in Premiere Pro, After Effects allows you to line up all the compositions you want to render in advance so that you don’t have to hit the export button more than once. To do this, go to your composition then navigate to Composition > Add to Render Queue. Repeat this for each of the compositions you wish to render.
Inside of the Render Queue, there are three important settings that you need to know about:
Output To: is the most straightforward setting. By clicking on it, you can set the name of the output file and the directory the file will be exported to.
Render Settings dictates how After Effects will be rendering the actual video. By default, the Render Settings are set to match the current project, composition, and switch settings. Normally, these are better left untouched although it is recommended that you set the quality to “Best” and the resolution to “Full” unless you want a lower quality render for something such as a Pre-Vis/Reference video.
Finally, the Output Module determines how the rendered file is processed for final output. This is where you specify the desired file, compression and color formats. By default, the “Output Module” is set to “Lossless”, which means that After Effects will not compress the file in any way and every bit of detail is kept in the output file.
Rendering in “Lossless” may be helpful for compositions that have effects with very minute details although this is not commonly recommended since the final product will be an extremely large file. Instead of rendering in “Lossless”, it may be wiser to switch to the “QuickTime” format, which is more suitable for platforms such as YouTube, Vimeo, etc.
Inside of the Format Options, you can select your desired compression options under “Video Codec”. While there are many different codecs to choose from, if your goal is an online streaming platform, it may be wise to use the standard “H.264.”
Compression option. Not only does this make the video file easier to stream, but it also allows for a smaller file size compared to Apple’s “ProRes”, Avid “DNxHD”, and especially compared to “Lossless”.
The final setting you want to think about is the audio setting. By default, After Effects will automatically detect if there is any audio in your composition. If audio is present, only then will the program export audio. Although, since After Effects is mainly concerned with the visuals, you may choose to manually disable the audio render by clicking on “Audio Output Auto” and selecting “Audio Output Off” in the drop-down menu.
Once you’ve finished changing the settings for each of the compositions in your render queue, you can either begin the render within After Effects or send all the compositions to render via Adobe Media Encoder. This would be the best option if you wish to continue working on other compositions while your selected files are rendering in the background.
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