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Previewing only happens inside After Effects. Eventually you want to get your composition out of After Effects and into other programs, like an editing system, or web page design software. To do that, you need to go to Composition and select Make Movie. That says, again, take my current forward composition--the one that has the yellow outline around it--and let's go render that to disk. The shortcut for making movie is Command+M on Mac, Ctrl+M on Windows. This will open up to Render Queue. You can indeed queue up multiple compositions and have them render one after another automatically.
The rendering process in After Effects has two steps: First it has to render their frame, calculate everything involved in that one frame at the current time and save it in memory. The second step is to take that frame in memory and output it, save it to disk. That's why you see two different items appear in the Render Queue, even though you queued up only one composition to render. Both of these have presets. For Render Settings, Best Settings is usually your best starting point, or your best choice.
If you want to modify it, click on the word Best Settings and it will open up the Render Settings dialog, where you have a lot more control over how the render proceeds, including whether the time span should be just the work area or indeed the entire composition. And you can also select a preset from the Output module. Again, there are many common presets, including FLV or F4V movies, making a lossless QuickTime movie using an animation codec, creating H.264s, creating DV movies, et cetera. Again, pick the preset that's closest to what you think you need.
If you need to modify any settings, click on the name of the preset and it will open up an Output Module dialog that again gives you lots of choices for what format you save the movie to, under Format Options you can usually choose the codec that's used for the render, and other settings such as ability to automatically resize and crop your rendered movie, and decide whether or not you want audio to render as well. If you've chosen an output codec or preset that does not match your composition's size, frame rate, et cetera, After Effects CS5 now warned you that there is a settings mismatch, for example telling me here that my composition was not right size for DV output movie.
This is a good heads up that warns me ahead of time in case I created a opposition that does not match my delivery format, or if I need to choose a different delivery format that matches my composition. Click OK. When you're ready to render, just click on the Render button at the right side of the Render Queue. You can go ahead and pause your render at anytime, continue it. You will see status update of what frame you're currently on. If you see something going wrong with your render, we recommend you press Option on Mac, Alt on Windows, then click Stop.
Not only will that stop your render, it will duplicate the original queued item, including the start and stop times. If you just click Stop by itself, a new item will appear in our Render Queue, but it only includes the time that has not yet been rendered. It won't be your entire queued project. Of course, you can just delete any unwanted items from the Render Queue, and you're done.
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