How to Render in After Effects

Updated on: September 18, 2022

When editing a video, you need a digital process to export a product with a realistic image. This is the role of Rendering: an essential feature that smoothes the transitions of effects and layers over a three-dimensional space or model, so they can be perceived as natural to the human eye. 

Imagine a wooden door so old and heavy that only by applying mechanical oil can it open smoothly. This metaphor, where the mechanical oil would be the rendering process, can serve to illustrate what this action does before showing you how to render in After Effects

What Rendering does in After Effects

To see how Rendering works, you must import a minimum of a couple of Layers; so start by bringing at least two files into your Timeline.

  1. Open the browser by double-clicking on the Project Panel and, then, select two files.
  2. Hit ‘Import’ to see your footage in the Project Panel.
  3. Drag them to the Timeline and check if one video overlaps the other.
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Once you have your files on the Timeline hit V, and then, Select the layer at the top of the list. Decrease its size in the Composition Panel by holding down the corners of your file so you can see both layers on your screen as well. After that, place the scaled layer in a new position.

Keep applying some adjustments to your layers. For example, try to crop the layer you previously scaled to use only a few seconds of that file:

  1. Move the Time indicator a few seconds on your Timeline.
  2. Then click Cmd + Shift + D. Get rid of the rest of the footage by selecting its layer and hitting Backspace on your keyboard.
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How to Preview a Video in After Effects

Now you have moved and split your layer, go to the Time Indicator and: 

  1. Move it back to its starting point.
  2. Play your video by pressing the Space bar on your keyboard.
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You've probably already noticed when you played back your video, that not only did After Effects take a while to respond. The program also did something else, like creating a new green line on the Timeline. This means After Effects is making a Preview so you can see what your clip would look like if you exported it at that moment. In other words: it's rendering your video.

Rendering your project will be faster or slower depending on the number of layers, effects, and adjustments you include in your composition. However, the green line will indicate the percentage of your project that is ready to be played smoothly.

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Remember rendering your videos is helpful for you to preview the transition of your graphics and animations before exporting them.

Andrea Mercado is a tech-focused journalist and copywriter with over 5 years of experience covering innovation, edtech, AI, and internet trends across media outlets. She is passionate about how technology can democratize access to education and is an avid learner when it comes to emerging tech like AI. Her articles and webinars help readers stay informed on the latest tech developments.
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