How to render in After Effects®

Edited by Geoffrey Scott

June 25, 2021

Adobe® After Effects® is a video editing and visual effects application used for editing film and handling post-production, as well as mastering audio, generating animation, and creating motion effects. It’s a professional-level video modification tool, and if you know how to export video from After Effects®, then you can quickly share the high-quality media you produce using it. So read on to learn how to render with Adobe® After Effects®, how to export After Effects® video, and how to compress After Effects® video.

How to export video from After Effects® using the Render Queue

Because understanding how to render a video in After Effects® is fundamental in knowing how to export video in After Effects®, we’ll now explain the steps simultaneously.

Step 1: Download and install Adobe® After Effects®

The first step may seem obvious, but we’ve included it in case you still need to download After Effects® to your current operating system for any reason. If you’re ready to export via After Effects®, download the latest version to get started.

Go to the After Effects® download page

Step 2: Click Composition in the menu

Begin the process of rendering in After Effects®. To render in After Effects® – which lets you adjust the duration, resolution, output frame rate, and layer quality of your project – check out the top menu and locate Composition. Composition is the dropdown to remember for your rendering, encoding, and exporting needs. Once you click the dropdown, you’ll see several options – select Add to Render Queue in After Effects®.

Step 3: Add to Render Queue

The Render Queue is a window at the bottom of your screen that lets you adjust Render Settings, set your Output Module, and choose where you want to export your video (by clicking Output To). Before you render the video in After Effects®, take a minute to explore these settings.

Note that you can also navigate to the Render Queue by clicking File, Export, and Render Queue as well.

Step 4: Adjust your render settings if necessary

For beginners and most people in general, Best Settings are called best for a reason. Unless you have specific rendering needs, then leave this as it is.

And for the Output Module, you can leave it on Lossless if you’re looking to export the highest quality video file. Or you can click Custom in the dropdown and select details like the codec, color range, and audio-related settings.

Step 5: Export from After Effects®

Now that you know how to render video in After Effects®, it’s time to export video out of After Effects®.

Click the dropdown arrow next to the Output To text, and press the plus sign if you want to render and export multiple versions with different settings. Choose where on your computer you’d like your new video exported, and once it’s complete you’ll be able to access it at that location.

This is the fastest way to export a composition in After Effects®. And if you’re curious about how to render in After Effects® without using the Render Queue, you can try rendering your composition using Adobe®’s Media Encoder. While not technically the same application, Media Encoder comes included If you download and pay for Adobe® After Effects® ($20.99 / month), and you’re even able to access the encoder tool from within After Effects®.

One of the benefits of the encoder is that using it to render compositions lets you continue to work within Adobe® After Effects®, whereas rendering video in After Effects® stops you from working on your composition until the render is complete. If you’re busy using AE and don’t want to interrupt your work with bulk rendering, try Adobe® Media Encoder instead.

After Effects® best render settings

Regardless if you’re editing videos of high-resolution computer games, actual film, or creating video presentations for your online classes, render settings in After Effects® should generally always be on Best Settings, and Lossless (with lossless being preset to use the QuickTime video format).

You can tweak Best Settings and Lossless if you have specific aims in mind – like adjusting the frame rate or the color depth – but these base settings should work for the majority of your needs, and offer a nice balance of quality and file size so you’re not stuck in render limbo and only export high-quality video.

Difference between exporting, rendering, and encoding

By this point, you’ve heard the terms encode, render, and export thrown around quite a bit.

On a very surface level, you can think of rendering as the whole process of taking your video editing work and transforming it into a single file. Whereas encoding and exporting are more specific, with encoding about compression into a specific file type, and exporting about turning that file type into something you can watch and moving it somewhere you can access it.

After Effects® alternative

While learning how to export in After Effects® and how to render in AE isn’t too hard with a bit of practice, the actual learning curve of the complete tool is steep. Plus the UI doesn’t do a lot to make life easy for users.

If you’re looking for another option for exporting and encoding videos that’s a bit more straightforward, you should check out Movavi Video Converter.

Go to the Movavi Video Converter download page

Although Movavi’s tool lacks the range of customization available in After Effects®, most of this customization isn’t needed by the average person.

Movavi Video Converter is exceptionally fast at encoding video and audio, supports 180+ file types and codecs, and can be used to crop, rotate, and stabilize video files if you’re in the mood to edit. It’s available on all major operating systems, has a sleek UI, and receives frequent updates as well, making it a safe and easy way to encode and export.

If you have more questions about the After Effects® app, like how to save After Effects® as a MOV file, and how to play video in After Effects®, check out the FAQ section below.

Geoffrey Scott

A prolific content creator and copy editor with 5+ years of experience writing blog posts, landing pages, product reviews, product copy, and more. Graduated from the University of Nevada with an MA in History in 2014 and got swept up into the world of digital marketing not long afterward. Geoff is a regular contributor on GoDaddy.com’s Garage Blog and has been quoted on major websites like Adobe, Monster, Recruiter, and GlassDoor.

Frequently asked questions

How do I play a video in After Effects®?

The way to play a video in After Effects® isn’t very clear at first glance, but it’s straightforward once you learn how. Simply click on the Window dropdown in your main menu, and then click Footage: (none). This pulls up a panel where you can now preview a video once you’ve selected it.

To select the video, find the footage you want in your Projects panel near the top left of your application and double click it. Then simply hit your spacebar and the video will begin to play.

How do I export After Effects® to MP4?

Exporting After Effects® compositions to MP4 is actually done on the Adobe® Media Encoder. In After Effects® with your composition open, click Composition and Add to Media Encoder Queue. This opens the Media Encoder and a new panel with Format, Preset, Output File, and Status as the settings you can adjust.

Set Format to H.264 (a codec that often functions as an MP4 file), adjust your quality presets if you want, then begin the export by clicking the green play button at the top right corner of the panel.

How do I save After Effects® as MOV?

If you know how to export a video in After Effects®, then you already almost understand how to export After Effects® to MOV. The only difference is one step at the end.

  • Click Composition
  • Click Add to Render Queue
  • Click on the blue text that says Lossless
  • Check the Audio Output box
  • Click Ok

Now look at your file in the render queue – your composition should have “.mov” at the end of its name. It’s now ready to be saved as a MOV file.

What are After Effects® render settings for YouTube?

After Effects® render settings for YouTube are pretty similar to the settings for other types of exports. However, the way you can get the most out of your render is to go to the Adobe® Media Encoder and adjust the Presets.

Click the dropdown to reveal a huge list of render settings to choose from – you can find the YouTube ones at the bottom because they’re in alphabetical order. Unless you specifically need something super-high resolution, YouTube 1080 Full HD should meet your needs in terms of quality and size.

Why can't I find H.264 in After Effects®?

If you can’t track down the no. h.264 codec in After Effects®, it’s possible that there’s an Adobe® Dynamic Link error, in which case you can try restarting your computer to fix the issue.

You can also just use the Adobe® Media Encoder, which comes with Adobe® After Effects® and more clearly displays h.264 as an exporting option. Simply click on Composition and Add to Media Encoder Queue to get it going.

How do I compress an After Effects® video?

Compressing a video file with Movavi’s Video Converter is simple. Just download the program and follow the steps below.

Download Movavi Video Converter for Windows
Download Movavi Video Converter for Mac

  1. Add the video file you want to compress
  2. Choose the file format you’d like the finished product to be
  3. Adjust compression details like bitrate and file size
  4. Compress your video