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In After Effects CS5 Essential Training, author Chad Perkins discusses the basic tools, effects, and need-to-know techniques in Adobe After Effects CS5, the professional standard for motion graphics, compositing, and visual effects for video. The course provides an overview of the entire workflow, from import to export, as well as detailed coverage of each stage, including animating text and artwork, adding effects to compositions, working in 3D, and rendering and compressing footage. Exercise files are included with the course.
One of the After Effects questions that I hear most often is, how should I export my video? What file format, what method of compression should I use? This isn't really an impossible question to answer. It's almost like asking me like what kind of car you should buy or what city you should live in. It's going to be very widely based on your needs, the situation, the client, and where it's going to be posted and all that kind of stuff. So, let's talk about this a little bit. I am going to go to Render Queue, hit the Tilde key to maximize this, and go ahead and click the Lossless text to open up the Output Module.
As mentioned before, we can use the Format dropdown to choose a variety of formats. As I mentioned before, Image Sequences really are very beneficial to me. I love using Sequences. And every time you see the word sequence, IFF Sequence, JPEG Sequence, PNG Sequence, these are all still image file formats. There is also audio file formats, such as WAV, and there is also video formats of QuickTime, MPEG4 and H.264, etcetera. If you are on a PC, you'll have Windows Media down here.
For the time being, I am just going to choose QuickTime. One of the most important things to realize about video is that the format matters less than the actual method of compression. So, the format, in other words like .MOV or .AVI, that doesn't really matter all that much. What matters is the codec, and the codec is short for compressor/decompresser. And what that means is a system that is used to compress the video. And we access that through this Format Options button, the ever-critical Format Options button.
So, we go to the Video Codec area and we choose the dropdown here and we have a variety of codecs. Now, depending on what you have installed on your system, you might not have this many codecs, or you might have more than this. It all depends on what codecs you have installed, again, will change what you can access here. If you're looking for a very high quality codec, then you will want to maybe try Animation. Sometimes Uncompressed is a little bit too big. Animation is compressed a little bit.
But if you have quality at a hundred, you probably are going to be able to tell the difference. Also, what's important about the Animation codec, as far as QuickTime goes, is it allows you to export an alpha channel, in other words transparency. To export transparency, an clpha channel, you go to the Channels dropdown and choose RGB+Alpha. And the Depth should be Millions of Colors+. That plus is the alpha channel. So, say, for example, you have used Keylight to key some footage or move that green screen background and you want to export just the person talking, let's say to another video editing program like Final Cut Pro or something, then you want to make sure that the channels are set to RGB and Alpha so that Transparency shows up when you import it into Final Cut.
Now, as you can see here from this dropdown, the ways that you can compress footage are virtually endless. And so, I am not going to go through and list the pluses and minuses of every single one of these formats. They are just so much here. And your clients might have a certain requirement. Or if you're posting a video to the Web. Let's say you are into Vimeo or YouTube. They will have their own specifications and suggestions of how you should compress it before uploading it to their site. Now that being said, I am just going to go ahead and hit Cancel here.
Go to the Format dropdown. One of the most popular formats out these days is H.264. It's a means of compression that is extremely powerful. As you could see here, it's used in Blu-ray. Other than the MPEG-2 Format, which was used for DVDs, the only other specification right now for Blu-ray that's allowed is H.264. So, as you can see, because Blu-ray is a high-definition disc, basically what this means is that H.264 very high quality. But H.264 can also make very tiny files for the Web.
So, a lot of the video that you are seeing on iPhone, on other mobile devices, on the Web, it comes from H.264 video, the method used to compress H.264. So, this is a very popular way to compress video and have it still look really good and have very small file sizes. Most of the video files we have used in this training series are H.26 files. Also, if you have a Canon 7D or 5D Mark II, one of those cameras that makes video, they output H.264 files as well.
So, if you are looking for something that looks pretty good but is lightweight and pretty popular, H.264 is a good way to go. Again, however, I need to stress that the output and the client really is the one that needs to dictate what your output setting should be. So, you should ask your client what is the purpose, what format should you use, what method of compression should you use? So that way you know that you get the absolute right settings.
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