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Export quality in After Effects

Feb 10, 2010 7:27 AM

I'm using After Effects CS4 and have exported as an MPEG-4.  The quality of the final movie is very poor.  It looks like a low quality JPEG.  In After Effects preview, it looks fine.

 

I'm familiar with exporting quality videos out of Premiere.  Is the usual workflow to open AE projects in Premiere and use the options there to export?  Or am I missing something in AE?

 
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  • Currently Being Moderated
    Feb 10, 2010 8:00 AM   in reply to brettr2

    I'm going to borrow advice from my friend Dave LaRonde over at CreativeCOW.net. He has answered similar questions so many times this has become known as

    Dave's Stock Answer #3:

    Don't use AE to compress files for final delivery. The various compressors are there only to make quick 'n dirty files showing a project's progress to producers, clients, the kids, etc. AE is incapable of doing multipass encoding, a crucial feature that greatly improves the image quality of H.264 and MPEG-type files in particular.

    Render a high-quality file from AE, and use a different application to do the compression. Popular ones are Adobe Media Encoder, Sorenson Squeeze and Apple's Compressor, which comes bundled with Final Cut Suite. Even compressing in Quicktime Pro is better than compressing in AE.

    Making good-looking compressed files is almost as much an art as it is a science. It is NOT straightforward at all.

     

    There's even a forum over at the COW entirely based around compression techniques in video and audio.

     

    So it's up to you if you want to import the AE project into Premiere or just to export a lossless file from AE to use in Premiere. I, like Dave, prefer rendering a lossless file out of Premiere rather than having Premiere link to the AE file. If Premiere is linking to the AE file, it basically launches an instance of After Effects in the background to render it and now you've got two rather RAM-intensive programs running at once.

     
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    Feb 10, 2010 9:37 AM   in reply to brettr2

    When you add a video to the Render Queue, the default option is usually a lossless avi or .mov.

    Whichever format you choose, make sure you're using a lossless codec. Quicktime's Animation codec or the PNG codec at 100% quality (not PNG image sequence, but a Quicktime video with the PNG codec) are both popular options. File sizes may be quite large if you're in HD and often will not be able to be played back due to hard drive speed and the high data rates of lossless files, but when you put it into your encoder and do a nice MPEG-4 or .H264, it should be beautiful.

     
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  • Currently Being Moderated
    Feb 10, 2010 11:38 AM   in reply to Szalam

    Szalam is definitely pointing you in the right direction. See this section for the basics and details of rendering and exporting: "Basics of rendering and exporting"

     
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    Feb 11, 2010 5:27 PM   in reply to Szalam

    this was helpful, thanks a batch

     
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    Feb 12, 2010 8:15 AM   in reply to brettr2

    > Is it possible to include the audio with Composition >> Add to Render Queue?

     

    "FAQ: Why is there no sound (audio) in my output file?"

     
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  • Currently Being Moderated
    Feb 12, 2010 9:56 AM   in reply to Szalam

    When you add a video to the Render Queue, the default option is usually a lossless avi or .mov.

    Whichever format you choose, make sure you're using a lossless codec. Quicktime's Animation codec or the PNG codec at 100% quality (not PNG image sequence, but a Quicktime video with the PNG codec) are both popular options. File sizes may be quite large if you're in HD and often will not be able to be played back due to hard drive speed and the high data rates of lossless files, but when you put it into your encoder and do a nice MPEG-4 or .H264, it should be beautiful.

     

    I think the Animation codec is a poor choice.  It doesn't really look that great, and the file size is way too large to justify the end result.

     

    And I personally NEVER render uncompressed video.  Too unruly and bloated.  Image sequences are the way to go, and a PNG 24 sequence will save you on file size but should end up looking nicer.  I usually deal strictly with RPF and TGA sequences though.  Too many problems with trying to kick out uncompressed video, not the least of which is the potential of file loss due to a crash when rendering out a long comp.

     
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    Feb 12, 2010 10:02 AM   in reply to Chas Naylor

    > I think the Animation codec is a poor choice.  It doesn't really look that great, and the file size is way too large to justify the end result.

     

     

    Though you're certainly right that Animation at its highest quality setting produces huge files, I have to question the statement about how it looks. At the highest quality setting, Animation is a lossless codec; there is no change in image data.That's why it's so popular for intermediate files---e.g., to go between an NLE and a compositor.

     

    Personally, I prefer to use QuickTime movies with the video data encoded using the PNG codec, which is also lossless at the highest quality setting. For most kinds of images, the PNG codec creates smaller files than the Animation codec---about half the size for live-action video in my tests.

     
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  • Currently Being Moderated
    Feb 12, 2010 10:11 AM   in reply to Todd_Kopriva

    That may be, but I'm just not a fan.  I did some tests a few years ago and decided that Animation

    wasn't worth it and that it was in fact creating artifacts in my renders.

     

     

    Just to show my work, I am pulling some info from wikipedia as a reference:

     

    "For complex 3D rendered scenes or digitized film of real-world footage, it barely compresses at all and also can add visible noise."

     

    Now I know, wikipedia isn't highly reliable, anyone can edit it, blah blah blah, but this statement runs congruent to my own findings.  Add to that the weighty file size, and then the fact that this codec is officially my ENEMY because my students, who are instructed to use Sorenson 3, often forget to change the codec for their .mov renders, and so sometimes I get these bloated files that I have to trash and they have to re-render, and I just don't really care for this codec at all.

     

    I just don't render video any more.  Haven't for a long time now.  So many advantages to using img sequences, I haven't looked back to big bloated video files.

     
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    May 8, 2011 4:58 AM   in reply to Szalam

    Does this still apply to cs5 as well?

     

    I'm trying to put out a video, but it seems every format I use under render que gives me a really crappy quality. H.264 looks bad and really choppy. Really really frustrating as I've been playing with settings for the last hour.

     

    I find it hard to believe a high quality program like after effects, supposedly one of the best, doesn't allow users to output to nice formats. Making them go an extra step and spend extra valuable time to encode something twice.

     

    So you're telling me I have no choice but to render my minute long file to become 12 gigs, then have to re-encode it again into h.264 for something decent? :/

     
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    May 9, 2011 11:15 AM   in reply to DigitalSoju

    DigitalSoju wrote:

    So you're telling me I have no choice but to render my minute long file to become 12 gigs, then have to re-encode it again into h.264 for something decent? :/

     

    Yes.  That's precisely what people are telling you.  AE may be a great effects and compositing application, but it is decidedly NOT the world's foremost compression application. 

     

    Dedicated compression applications do a much better job of making good-looking compressed files than AE.  That small fact contains no mystery for me.

     
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    May 15, 2011 8:12 AM   in reply to Dave LaRonde

    Dave LaRonde wrote:

     

    DigitalSoju wrote:

    So you're telling me I have no choice but to render my minute long file to become 12 gigs, then have to re-encode it again into h.264 for something decent? :/

     

    Yes.  That's precisely what people are telling you.  AE may be a great effects and compositing application, but it is decidedly NOT the world's foremost compression application. 

     

    Dedicated compression applications do a much better job of making good-looking compressed files than AE.  That small fact contains no mystery for me.

    I wonder why though because it's a pain for the workflow. Especially if making a long composition and having huge files. Adobe is very capable of making it export to a decent format, but it just seems like they didn't for whatever reason. Why not be able to encode it directly to media encoder even? It's pretty frustrating :/

     
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    May 15, 2011 8:30 AM   in reply to DigitalSoju

    If you want to go direct to a highly compressed format the workflow is:

    1. Create your composition
    2. Save your AE Project
    3. Open Media Encoder
    4. Add the AE project to the Media Encoder Cue (Dynamic Link will start)
    5. Pick the composition you wish to render
    6. Choose the output format from a preset or create your own
    7. Start Media Encoder.

    There you go. Simple, efficient, high quality compression directly from your AE project.

     

     

    The only way to get a better highly compressed deliverable is to use a specialized 3rd party encoder. If you want to go that way then the best option is to render to a 10 bit minimum lossless codec and use that for your source.

     
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    May 15, 2011 8:40 AM   in reply to Rick Gerard

    Rick Gerard wrote:

     

    If you want to go direct to a highly compressed format the workflow is:

    1. Create your composition
    2. Save your AE Project
    3. Open Media Encoder
    4. Add the AE project to the Media Encoder Cue (Dynamic Link will start)
    5. Pick the composition you wish to render
    6. Choose the output format from a preset or create your own
    7. Start Media Encoder.

    There you go. Simple, efficient, high quality compression directly from your AE project.

     

     

    The only way to get a better highly compressed deliverable is to use a specialized 3rd party encoder. If you want to go that way then the best option is to render to a 10 bit minimum lossless codec and use that for your source.

    Thank you sir!

     
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    May 15, 2011 9:07 AM   in reply to Rick Gerard

    Disagree with the 10-bit lossless advice. If your source began as 8-bit, there is no sense in adding almost a billion more colors to your video when they won't be used anyway.

     

    8-bit .mov w/png codec, or a .PNG sequence. If you need more colors/higher bit-depth, .EXR at 16-bit half float

     
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    May 15, 2011 9:28 AM   in reply to Chas Naylor

    I will have to call you on that. I've done a lot of testing on compression and production workflow. Moving from an 8 to a a 10 codec (ProRez) does give you much better results in the long run. There is more room to make calculations blend things like motion blur, gradients, and do compression. If that were not the case Sony and others would not put 10 or even 14 bit color sensors in their cameras that record to 8 bit codecs. Apple, Black Magic, Grass Valey and the rest would not build 10 bit capture codecs and capture cards for 8 bit streams.

     
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    Nov 11, 2011 10:54 PM   in reply to Rick Gerard

    interesting thread, and excellent advice - thanks guys.

    Just to add - I am getting excellent preview renders when rendering wmv straight from the render queue in after effects.

    However, if you need to play it on a mac, don't use the voice codec for audio as flip for mac doesn't support it.

     

    My h264 quicktimes however are large and so blocky it looks like I have applied the mosaic filter even though the data rate and resulting file size is 4 or 500% higher than the wmv.

     

    I guess I'll just open the project in Media Encoder thanks Rick.

    Just curious though, was this always the case?

     

    In earlier versions I used to render h264 quicktimes straight from the render queue in after effects that were reasonable quality for preview and small enough to email to client.

    Could i be imagining this?

     

    using cs5 on 64 bit windows

     
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  • Currently Being Moderated
    Nov 12, 2011 5:10 PM   in reply to bumplums

    You should be able to render H.264 from AE and it shouldn't be too bad. I don't like it myself, because you can't do multipass encoding (same with WMV's) and you get a better-looking file at smaller file sizes with multipass encoding.

    However, if you're just doing it for previews either one should work.

     

    Have you updated your After Effects? If you're just running 10.0.0, you're missing some critical updates that fix a lot of odd issues.

     
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    Nov 14, 2011 3:05 AM   in reply to Szalam

    thanks for tip Szalam, I had forgot to download the updates. you're right, they do iron out a lot of niggles.

     

    s

     
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    Nov 17, 2011 3:49 AM   in reply to Szalam

    i installed the latest adobe updates but the quicktimes and even wmv's rendered straight from afx are still bad. there is more movement in the project now and the renders are unrecognizable.

    maybe its because my canvas is so big- its for a double HD projection so its 3840 wide and I'm rendering down to 1000px approx for preview.

     

    media encoder is giving much better results.

    Tip for anybody who is finding AME crashes when trying to render an afx file in CS5. try moving any plugins from the common/MediaCore folder to your afx plugins folder.

    that worked for me

     
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    Nov 21, 2011 10:51 AM   in reply to bumplums

    Your renders shouldn't look bad. Could you post an example of how they look?

     
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