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Rendering and exporting still images and still-image sequences

  1. After Effects User Guide
  2. Beta releases
    1. Beta Program Overview
    2. After Effects Beta Home
  3. Getting started
    1. Get started with After Effects
    2. What's new in After Effects 
    3. Release Notes | After Effects
    4. After Effects system requirements
    5. Keyboard shortcuts in After Effects
    6. Supported File formats | After Effects
    7. Hardware recommendations
    8. After Effects for Apple silicon
    9. Planning and setup
  4. Workspaces
    1. General user interface items
    2. Get to know After Effects interface
    3. Workflows
    4. Workspaces, panels, and viewers
  5. Projects and compositions
    1. Projects
    2. Composition basics
    3. Precomposing, nesting, and pre-rendering
    4. View detailed performance information with the Composition Profiler
    5. CINEMA 4D Composition Renderer
  6. Importing footage
    1. Preparing and importing still images
    2. Importing from After Effects and Adobe Premiere Pro
    3. Importing and interpreting video and audio
    4. Preparing and importing 3D image files
    5. Importing and interpreting footage items
    6. Working with footage items
    7. Detect edit points using Scene Edit Detection
    8. XMP metadata
  7. Text and Graphics
    1. Text
      1. Formatting characters and the Character panel
      2. Text effects
      3. Creating and editing text layers
      4. Formatting paragraphs and the Paragraph panel
      5. Extruding text and shape layers
      6. Animating text
      7. Examples and resources for text animation
      8. Live Text Templates
    2. Motion Graphics
      1. Work with Motion Graphics templates in After Effects
      2. Use expressions to create drop-down lists in Motion Graphics templates
      3. Work with Essential Properties to create Motion Graphics templates
      4. Replace images and videos in Motion Graphics templates and Essential Properties
      5. Animate faster and easier using the Properties panel
  8. Drawing, Painting, and Paths
    1. Overview of shape layers, paths, and vector graphics
    2. Paint tools: Brush, Clone Stamp, and Eraser
    3. Taper shape strokes
    4. Shape attributes, paint operations, and path operations for shape layers
    5. Use Offset Paths shape effect to alter shapes
    6. Creating shapes
    7. Create masks
    8. Remove objects from your videos with the Content-Aware Fill panel
    9. Roto Brush and Refine Matte
  9. Layers, Markers, and Camera
    1. Selecting and arranging layers
    2. Blending modes and layer styles
    3. 3D layers
    4. Layer properties
    5. Creating layers
    6. Managing layers
    7. Layer markers and composition markers
    8. Cameras, lights, and points of interest
  10. Animation, Keyframes, Motion Tracking, and Keying
    1. Animation
      1. Animation basics
      2. Animating with Puppet tools
      3. Managing and animating shape paths and masks
      4. Animating Sketch and Capture shapes using After Effects
      5. Assorted animation tools
      6. Work with Data-driven animation
    2. Keyframe
      1. Keyframe interpolation
      2. Setting, selecting, and deleting keyframes
      3. Editing, moving, and copying keyframes
    3. Motion tracking
      1. Tracking and stabilizing motion
      2. Face Tracking
      3. Mask Tracking
      4. Mask Reference
      5. Speed
      6. Time-stretching and time-remapping
      7. Timecode and time display units
    4. Keying
      1. Keying
      2. Keying effects
  11. Transparency and Compositing
    1. Compositing and transparency overview and resources
    2. Alpha channels and masks
    3. Track Mattes and Traveling Mattes
  12. Adjusting color
    1. Color basics
    2. Color management
    3. Color Correction effects
    4. OpenColorIO and ACES color management
  13. Effects and Animation Presets
    1. Effects and animation presets overview
    2. Effect list
    3. Effect Manager
    4. Simulation effects
    5. Stylize effects
    6. Audio effects
    7. Distort effects
    8. Perspective effects
    9. Channel effects
    10. Generate effects
    11. Transition effects
    12. The Rolling Shutter Repair effect
    13. Blur and Sharpen effects
    14. 3D Channel effects
    15. Utility effects
    16. Matte effects
    17. Noise and Grain effects
    18. Detail-preserving Upscale effect
    19. Obsolete effects
  14. Expressions and Automation
    1. Expressions
      1. Expression basics
      2. Understanding the expression language
      3. Using expression controls
      4. Syntax differences between the JavaScript and Legacy ExtendScript expression engines
      5. Editing expressions
      6. Expression errors
      7. Using the Expressions editor
      8. Use expressions to edit and access text properties
      9. Expression language reference
      10. Expression examples
    2. Automation
      1. Automation
      2. Scripts
  15. Immersive video, VR, and 3D
    1. Construct VR environments in After Effects
    2. Apply immersive video effects
    3. Compositing tools for VR/360 videos
    4. Advanced 3D Renderer
    5. Import and add 3D models to your composition
    6. Import 3D models from Creative Cloud Libraries
    7. Image-Based Lighting
    8. Extract and animate lights and cameras from 3D models
    9. Tracking 3D camera movement
    10. Cast and accept shadows
    11. Embedded 3D model animations
    12. Shadow Catcher
    13. 3D depth data extraction
    14. Work in 3D Design Space
    15. 3D Transform Gizmos
    16. Do more with 3D animation
    17. Preview changes to 3D designs real time with the Mercury 3D engine
    18. Add responsive design to your graphics 
  16. Views and Previews
    1. Previewing
    2. Video preview with Mercury Transmit
    3. Modifying and using views
  17. Rendering and Exporting
    1. Basics of rendering and exporting
    2. H.264 Encoding in After Effects
    3. Export an After Effects project as an Adobe Premiere Pro project
    4. Converting movies
    5. Multi-frame rendering
    6. Automated rendering and network rendering
    7. Rendering and exporting still images and still-image sequences
    8. Using the GoPro CineForm codec in After Effects
  18. Working with other applications
    1. Dynamic Link and After Effects
    2. Working with After Effects and other applications
    3. Sync Settings in After Effects
    4. Creative Cloud Libraries in After Effects
    5. Plug-ins
    6. Cinema 4D and Cineware
  19. Collaboration: Frame.io, and Team Projects
    1. Collaboration in Premiere Pro and After Effects
    2. Frame.io
      1. Install and activate Frame.io
      2. Use Frame.io with Premiere Pro and After Effects
      3. Frequently asked questions
    3. Team Projects
      1. Get Started with Team Projects
      2. Create a Team Project
      3. Collaborate with Team Projects
  20. Memory, storage, performance
    1. Memory and storage
    2. How After Effects handles low memory issues while previewing    
    3. Improve performance
    4. Preferences
    5. GPU and GPU driver requirements for After Effects
  21. Knowledge Base
    1. Known issues
    2. Fixed issues
    3. Frequently asked questions
    4. After Effects and macOS Ventura
    5. How After Effects handles low memory issues while previewing

Mark Christiansen provides a detailed overview of compositing—covering masks, mattes, blending modes, and alpha channels—in a chapter from his After Effects Studio Techniques book posted on the Adobe Press website.

Rich Young collects resources and tutorials for various methods of creating vignettes.

Chris Zwar provides tips on color keying and compositing on his website.

Render and export a sequence of still images

You can export a rendered movie as a sequence of still images, in which case each frame of the movie is output as a separate still-image file. When you render one movie using multiple computers on a network, the movie is always output as a still-image sequence. Many 3D animation programs accept sequences of still images. Sequences of PNG files are often a good choice for transfer of visual elements from After Effects to Flash Professional.

If you are creating a movie for transfer to film, you will need to create a sequence of still images that you can then transfer to film using a film recorder.

Creating a sequence of PSD files is a good way to transfer frames to Photoshop for touchup and editing. You can then import the image sequence back into After Effects.

When specifying the output filename for a still-image sequence, you actually specify a file-naming template. The name that you specify must contain pound signs surrounded by square brackets ([#####]). As each frame is rendered and a filename created for it, After Effects replaces the [#####] portion of the name with a number indicating the order of the frame in the sequence. For example, specifying mymovie_[#####].tga would cause output files to be named mymovie_00001.tga, filmout_00002.tga, and so on.

The maximum number of frames in a still-image sequence is 32,766.

Render and export a single frame of a composition

You can export a single frame from a composition, either as an Adobe Photoshop (PSD) file with layers intact or as a rendered image. This is useful for editing files in Adobe Photoshop, creating a proxy, or exporting an image from a movie for posters or storyboards.

The Photoshop Layers command preserves all layers from a single frame of an After Effects composition in the resulting Photoshop file. Nested compositions up to five levels deep are preserved in the PSD file as layer groups. The PSD file inherits the color bit depth from the After Effects project.

In addition, the layered Photoshop file contains an embedded composite (flattened) image of all the layers. This feature ensures that the file is compatible with applications that don’t support Photoshop layers; such applications display the composited image and ignore the layers.

A layered Photoshop file saved from After Effects may look different from the frame viewed in After Effects if the frame uses features that Photoshop doesn’t support. For example, if the frame contains a blending mode that isn’t available in Photoshop, a blending mode that most resembles it is substituted in the layer, but the embedded composite image (viewable only by applications that don’t support Photoshop layers) looks the same. Alternatively, you can render the frame using the Composition > Save Frame As > File command to export a flattened and rendered version of the file to the PSD format.

PSD files generated by Save Frame As > Photoshop Layers have the sRGB IEC61966-2.1 ICC color profile embedded if color management is disabled for the project (the project's working color space is set to None). If color management is enabled for the project (the project's working color space is set to something other than None), then PSD files generated by Save Frame As > Photoshop Layers have the color profile embedded that corresponds to the project's working color space. (See Color management and color profiles.)

  1. Go to the frame that you want to export so that it is shown in the Composition panel.
  2. Do one of the following:
    • To render a single frame, choose Composition > Save Frame As > File. Adjust settings in the Render Queue panel if necessary, and then click Render.

    • To export a single frame as an Adobe Photoshop file with layers, choose Composition > Save Frame As > Photoshop Layers.


To change the default output settings for the Save Frame As > File command, change the settings for the Frame Default render settings template (See Create, edit, and manage render settings templates.)


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