AE fundamentals

Render a Video

In this After Effects Fundamentals lesson, you'll learn how to export (render, in After Effects language) your animation as a video file that can be played outside of After Effects.

Prepare your Comp

Rendering an animation can take anywhere from a few seconds to hours. The time it takes to render depends on:

  • Length of composition
  • Complexity of animation (more layers, effects, expressions, etc., the more complex)
  • Speed of your computer

So, it's worthwhile to check a few things before you render, to get it right! Here are a few things to check:


Make sure your composition is trimmed to the length you want it. Check for layers that end too soon or extra time with nothing going on.

To adjust the duration of your animation, go to Composition Settings (Composition > Composition Settings or ⌘/Ctrl K).

After Effects will only render the work area of your composition. The work area is the gray bar across the top of the timeline with blue bookends.

Work area of timeline in After Effects

To adjust the work area:

  • Drag the blue start and end bars
  • Use the B key to set the start of the work area at your playhead
  • Use the N key to set the end of the work area at your playhead
  • Click on the gray bar that is the work area and drag it across the timeline

To trim your composition to the work area, right click on the gray bar that is the work area then choose Trim Comp to Work Area.

Trim comp to work area

Turn back on anything your turned off to speed up previews

If you're using effects or motion blur, make sure they are turned on. Also make sure that any layers that need to have continuously rasterize turned on do. Continuously rasterize is the sun icon on the layer in the timeline. This makes vector layers (like from Adobe Illustrator) sharp even when scaled or zoomed in on. More on that here.

Add to Render Queue

The first step to render a composition is to add it to the Render Queue. This is just a tab on the timeline that contains a list of things that have been rendered and that will be rendered.

There are a few ways to add a composition to the Render Queue. First, have the composition you want to render open in the timeline OR selected in the Project panel. Then, do one of these:

  • Go to Composition > Add to Render Queue
  • File > Export > Add to Render Queue
  • Drag comps from Project panel into the Render Queue tab in the timeline
  • Use the one of the keyboard shortcuts:


control ⌘ M -or- shift ⌘ /


Ctrl alt M -or- shift Ctrl /

How to add a composition to the render queue in After Effects

You can render multiple comps at once (see below), but let's not get ahead of ourselves.

Delete from Render Queue

If you change your mind and need to delete something from the Render Queue, just select it and hit the delete/backspace key.

Render Settings

By default, the Render Settings are set to Best Settings. I hardly ever change this.

Render settings in After Effects

If you want to create a low quality, quick-to-render, and small file size draft of your animation, you can adjust these settings. To do this, click the blue text that says "Best Settings" and in the pop-up window, lower the Resolution (or try out adjusting other settings).

Note: The Resolution in the Render Settings pop-up window is for the rendered video file. The Resolution in the Composition Viewer is just for previewing your animation in AE, so this setting doesn't matter when it comes to rendering.

Output Module

This is the file format of the video file you're about to render.

Most of the time, you'll probably want to use one of the templates that's already set up. To access these templates, click the down arrow next to Output Module.

Render templates in After Effects

Here are the render templates you'll most likely need:

H.264 - Match Render Settings*


  • Balance of file size and quality
  • Most universally accepted format (good for social media/web)
  • Does not support transparency

High Quality


  • Large file size, high quality
  • Doesn't have transparency

High Quality with Alpha


  • Large file size, high quality
  • Has transparency

Note that I'm using a Mac, so options on a PC might be slightly different.

The H.264 format (.mp4) is new in After Effects 2023. If you're using an older version, you'll need to use Media Encoder to render a .mp4.
* There are 3 different options for H.264. The difference is in the bit depth (i.e. the amount of color info in the video file). I usually just go with the default which is 15 Mbps.

If you need to adjust specific settings, click on the blue text to access this pop-up window:

Output module is where the video file should be saved to

Alpha Channels & Transparency

The alpha channel refers to transparency. So, when you render a file "with alpha" it will be transparent wherever there is transparency in your composition.

If you render a format that doens't support alpha channels/transparency, and you have transparency in your composition, you will see the color set as the Background Color in the Composition settings in those areas.

Background color of composition

Output To

This is where you decide where to save the video file. Click the blue text then navigate to where you want to save the file. More on file organization here.

Output to is where the rendered file will be saved


Once you've adjusted any settings and decided where to save the video file, just hit the render button. Or, the keyboard shortcut is return/enter.

A composition rendering in After Effects

Render Notifications

If you want to get up from the computer as you wait for AE to render, but want to know when it's done, check the box in the bottom right corner labeled "Notify when queue completes". In order to get these notifications, you'll need to download the Creative Cloud app on your phone, sign in, and enable notifications.

Note that this feature is only available in the After Effects 2022 release and later.


To speed up your render, hit the caps lock key to disable the preview from playing in After Effects.

Render with Adobe Media Encoder

Compositions from After Effects can also be rendered in a separate application (included in Creative Cloud), called Media Encoder. The benefit of using Media Encoder is that it frees up After Effects so you can continue working. There are also some additional format options (like .gif) that After Effects doesn't have.

There are a few ways to add a composition to Media Encoder:

  • In After Effects, with the composition to render open in the timeline or selected in the project panel, go to Composition > Add to Adobe Media Encoder Queue. This should open Media Encoder and add your composition to the queue. Give it a second to do all this.
Add a composition to Adobe Media Encoder's render queue
  • If you've already added the composition to After Effect's Render Queue, click the button to send it to Media Encoder.
Rendering with Adobe Media Encoder
  • You can also drag compositions from the Project panel in After Effects into the Media Encoder queue.

Once your comp/s are added to Media Encoder, you can adjust the format of the file it will render by clicking on the blue text under Format or Preset.

Choose where to save the file under Output File. If you don't change this, it will create a folder named something along the lines of YourAfterEffectsProjectFileName_AME and it will put this folder next to your AE project file, wherever that's saved. The rendered file will go in this folder.

Click the green triangle to start rendering.

How to render with Adobe Media Encoder

Tip - Convert Video Format:

If you have a video file, for example, let's say a .mov file, that you want to convert to another format, let's say a .mp4, you can drag the video file into Media Encoder's queue. Then just adjust the format or preset to render a .mp4 (in this example).

Render Multiple Compositions

It's possible to render multiple compositions at once (well, technically one at a time, but with one click of the "render" button). This is possible in After Effects and Media Encoder.

In the Project panel, select all the compositions you want to render. Then add them to the Render Queue or the Media Encoder Render Queue in any of the usual a reminder:

  • Composition > Add to Render Queue or Add to Adobe Media Encoder Render Queue
  • Use the keyboard shortcut (see above)
  • Drag and drop

Once your comps are in the Render Queue, you can change the render template on multiple compositions at once if they're all selected.

Then, hit the render button and all comps will be rendered!


If you need to render a bunch of comps, first add just one comp to the Render Queue. Choose where you want to save the file. Now you any comps that you add to the Render Queue will automatically be set to save in that same location, so you don't have to manually change this on every comp.

Render Multiple Formats of the Same Comp

If you need a .mov and .mp4, for example, of the same comp, you can render both at once. First, add the comp to the Render Queue as usual. In the Render Queue, click the + icon on the comp in the queue. Now you can change the format and/or save location of the two copies of this comp.

Render different versions of the same comp in After Effects

All the keyboard shortcuts you need, in one place:

You're almost done the AE Fundamentals! What's next?

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Up Next

In the next lesson, you'll learn three ways to render your After Effects animations as .gif files that automatically play and can loop forever on the web.