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10x Your Rendering Speed in After Effects with 3 Simple Tricks!

Rendering or 'exporting' in After Effects is the process where a composition is converted into a streamable video format. After Effects renders your automatically, but you'll need to specify how and where you want your video to be rendered, and in this guide, we'll show you how to do just that in the most optimal way possible.

January 22, 2023
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If you've just learnt the basics of Adobe After Effects and you're looking to export your first ever video, this guide will show you exactly how to do just that and more!

Jack Wright, an experienced motion designer of 12+ years will guide you through the steps to convert a composition of layers, masks and effects into a video format so it can be saved on your file explorer.

How to Export/Render in After Effects - A COMPLETE Guide!

ie. How to turn your composition into a playable video located on your hard drive.

This is the only page on the internet that covers absolutely everything you need to know about rendering in After Effects. We'll cover the different methods, such as rendering directly to premiere pro and through Media Encoder. To start off, let's render directly from AE and into an MP4 file.

Render to MP4

This video tutorial will show you how to render your composition into an MP4 file. Here is a step-by-step breakdown on how to do it optimally:

Adding Animation To Render Queue

Go to the "Composition" menu and select "Add to Render Queue" or use the shortcut "Ctrl+Shift+/ (Cmd+Shift+/)". This will open the render queue window, where you can specify the settings for your export, such as the format, resolution, and frame rate.

Adjusting Render Properties

Once you're in the render queue window, click the render settings hyperlink underneath the composition name. Here you can adjust the quality, resolution, encoding and other properties of your fully rendered file.

Choosing Where To Save Rendered Video File

Besides the "output to" text, there will be a hyperlink with the name of your composition. Click this hyperlink to open up a file explorer window and select where you'd like the exported composition to be saved. You can also rename the video here.

Exporting to Adobe Premiere Pro

Exporting an After Effects composition to Adobe Premiere Pro allows you to use the composition in your PR video editing workflow. To export an After Effects composition to Premiere Pro, you can use the Dynamic Link feature. This useful feature by Adobe allows you to send the composition directly to Premiere Pro without the need to render and export a separate video file. This means that you can continue to edit the composition in After Effects, while working in Premiere Pro. That way you don't need to constantly delete and re-render the After Effects composition whenever you need to make small changes.

To use Dynamic Link, first, make sure that After Effects and Premiere Pro are both open and that the composition you want to export is open in After Effects. Then, go to the "File" menu in After Effects and select "Dynamic Link" > "Export to Premiere Pro." This will open a new Premiere Pro project and automatically import the composition into it.

Alternatively, you can export the After Effects composition as a video file and import it into Premiere Pro. We don't recommend this if you are still working on the AE composition while using it in PR. Unless you're 100% sure that the composition is ready to be used in your final video, you should use the dynamic link feature when working between either softwares.

Exporting as Image or Video with Transparent Background

Exporting a video with a transparent background in After Effects allows you to composite the video over other footage or graphics without the background being visible. To export a picture or video with a transparent background in After Effects, you'll need to use a format that supports transparency, such as PNG or MOV/QuickTime sequences, or Quicktime with the Animation codec.

Exporting transparent images or videos in After Effects is easy. Follow the same steps as you would when exporting a regular video, but in the output module settings, you'll need to make two small changes:

  1. Choose QuickTime as your format
  2. Select "RGB + Alpha" as your video output channels

As long as those two are set, your video will export with a transparent background.

Export from Media Encoder

Adobe Media Encoder is a separate application that can be used to export and render videos from various Adobe applications, including After Effects. By using Adobe Media Encoder, you can take advantage of additional export options and control the encoding process more efficiently.

Here's the most efficient way to export a composition from After Effects using Adobe Media Encoder:

  1. Open the composition you want to export in the timeline in After Effects.
  2. Go to "Composition" menu and select "Add to Adobe Media Encoder Queue" or use the shortcut "Ctrl+Alt+M (Cmd+Opt+M)".
  3. Adobe Media Encoder will open, and your composition will be added to the queue.
  4. In the Encoding settings, select the format and preset for your export. You can also adjust the resolution, frame rate, and other settings as needed. You should also adjust the target bitrate to achieve a smaller file size.
  5. Click on the "Start Queue" button to start the export process.

You can also use Adobe Media Encoder to export multiple compositions at once, or to export a sequence of compositions as a single video file. Additionally, Adobe Media Encoder allows you to create custom export presets, so you can save your frequently used settings and easily apply them to future exports.

Another advantage of using Media Encoder is that you can queue multiple exports, and it will work in the background, so you can continue working on other things while your exports are being processed.

Target Bitrate

In Media Encoder, you'll notice the 'target bitrate' controller.

Bitrate is a measure of the amount of data used to represent a certain amount of video or audio content. It is typically measured in bits per second (bps) or kilobits per second (kbps). The higher the bitrate, the more data is used to represent the video resolution, resulting in a higher quality and larger file size. The lower the bitrate, the less data is used, resulting in a lower quality and smaller file size. The 'target bitrate' controller essentially let's the quality, and thus, the file size of your video.

H.264 AVC

You may have come across the hype for H.264 video compression. This video explains it very well:

H.264 is a video compression standard that is widely used for the delivery and playback of high-definition video. It is also known as MPEG-4 Part 10 or AVC (Advanced Video Coding). H.264 is a standard that was developed by the ITU-T Video Coding Experts Group (VCEG) and the ISO/IEC Moving Picture Experts Group (MPEG) and was first published in 2003.

One of the main advantages of H.264 is its high compression efficiency, which allows it to achieve high-quality video at lower bitrates than previous standards, such as MPEG-2. H.264 uses inter-frame compression, which means that it only stores the changes between consecutive frames, rather than storing each frame in full. This allows H.264 to achieve a high level of compression while maintaining a high level of video quality.

H.264 is also highly flexible, and can be used for a wide range of applications, including streaming video, high-definition Blu-ray disc, and digital television. It is supported by a wide range of devices and platforms, including smartphones, tablets, cameras, and video editing software.

It's also worth mentioning that there is another standard known as H.265 or HEVC (High Efficiency Video Coding) which is an upgrade from H.264, it is more efficient in compressing videos and reducing the bitrate, but it's not as widely supported as H.264 yet.

Exporting to Other Video Editing Software

There is no way to export directly from After Effects to other video editing softwares. If you wish to render a composition to use in another editor, we recommend you to export the video through media encoder prior to manually importing it in your other editor.

3 Tricks For Faster Rendering In After Effects

Lower Your Target Bitrate

Lowering your bitrate will result in a lower video quality, but unless the bitrate is exceptionally low, the reduction in quality is almost invisible. The benefit of doing this is that you'll have a much smaller video file size which will render in less time.

Use Proxies (Yes, even for exporting)

If you're rendering directly from After Effects, we'd recommend you use proxies to speed up the rendering on parts of your video that don't require such attention to detail. Proxies in After Effects are like shortcuts for your footage. They're lower resolution versions of your videos or images that can help your computer work faster when editing and compositing. It's like a temporary replacement for the original footage. It's especially useful when you're working with high-resolution or high-bitrate footage that can slow down your computer.

Clean Up Composition Prior To Rendering

Before rendering your video in After Effects, make sure to clean up anything that could increase your render time. This includes:

  • Extra keyframes
  • Effects that are not applying anything to the layer
  • Excessive cuts and pre-comps
  • + many more

Following these tips will make sure your composition is as easy to render as possible. This will help you to render your videos faster without straining your CPU.

So, in short, After Effects has got you covered when it comes to rendering and exporting your animations. You can use the Render Queue, which is a built-in feature that makes it easy to export your comps. If you want more advanced options and the ability to queue up multiple exports, then Adobe Media Encoder is your go-to. And, if you're working with Premiere Pro, you can use the Dynamic Link feature to send your comps directly over without having to render them first. And, lastly, if you want to export your animation with a transparent background, you can do that too by using specific formats like PNG or TIFF sequences or Quicktime with Animation codec. The choice is yours, choose whichever works best for you.