What Render or Export Settings Should I Use?

While messing with some visual for the upcoming short film I am working on, I began to consider all the various render settings that were on offer within Adobe After Effects.

It feels like an overload of presets are on offer and if you're not sure what you're doing or which option to select you may be exporting your footage at a lesser quality.

Before you begin, there are a few questions that you need to ask yourself what is the best render settings?

Are you rendering on a single computer or on a render farm? If you're a lone soldier that's rendering on the one computer then a single file render if fine. However, if you are on a network a single file won't work because each computer will need to render a section (which cannot be done for single files), so your best option would be an image sequence through TIFF or PNG files as they are uncompressed opposed to a JPG.

Rendering in Adobe After Effects

If you are familiar with After Effects and render on a single computer setup, following these tips will help to get the best quality for your footage. Always render to the Render Queue never File > Export > QuickTime. To use the Render Queue, find it under Window > Render Queue.

  1. Drag the composition(s) you want to render into the Render Queue tab
    1. Under the Output To field, select the file name, and when prompted select the destination of the output file
    2. Next under the Output Module, click on the default name to bring up the render settings
    3. Under Format select QuickTime and select Format Options...
    4. Under the Video Codec drop down, select one of the following three codecs depending on your situation:

PhotoJPG (95% quality)

  • Smaller file size
  • Fast compression rate
  • Render took 1:26 to process
  • Output file can be recompressed around 3-4 times before noticeable quality loss

Portable Network Graphics (PNG)

  • Medium file size
  • Slow (like really slow!) compression rate
  • Render took 5:34 to process
  • PNG file is uncompressed so can be used over and over without any quality loss


  • Humongous file size
  • Fast compression rate [writing to external HD will slow render, but recommended]
  • Render took 1:43 to process
  • Animation file is uncompressed so can be used over and over without any quality loss

All compositions were 1 minute in length @ 1920x1080 25fps

When satisfied, select OK, and again to return to the Render Queue tab. Hit Render and relax a while until your file is completed.

It is recommended not to use your computer while the render is occurring as it will slow down the render time, as well as increase the risk of crashing as the render directly links to your RAM usage.

If you have the space on your hard drive (internal or external) use the Animation codec, but if memory and storage is scarce then PhotoJPG is a good export format too.

If you're short of time, and can sacrifice quality in future duplicates of the file then use PhotoJPG. For most average people the PhotoJPG is fine, and only evident to the real nit-picky people, for those high quality clients, there is Animation.

Quick tip on what not to do

Don't use a delivery format unless you need to - these files include H.264, MPEGs (any), or Sorenson. These file types are exactly for what the name suggests - delivery! If the video is going online then use these formats - H.264 or Sorenson - while DVD files are great if made into MPEG2 files. These files are not good is you're looking for the best quality (i.e. theatre screenings).

Final Cut Pro

If you are using a high end video editor (Final Cut, Avid, etc.) then use the same settings as above. For FCP it is File > Export > Using QuickTime Compression. Then under the Format line select options.

For the video box click on Settings, and select one of the above compression types, setting the Compressor at best. Last step is to untick Prepare for Internet Streaming (unless you are using the footage specifically for that).

It is similar for Avid with different setting names. Remember each video editor is exactly the same in its basic tools, and the high end ones are just there to help you process more (sometimes more than what you need to).

Help me write and make more!

You can help me continue to provide valuable content like this. If you found this article helpful, please consider supporting me.

Coffee Pizza Dinner