Export animations in Blender the professional way

I think, exporting a video out of Blender can be a bit confusing for beginners. It also took me a while to come to this workflow I am currently using so perhaps not only beginners but also more advanced users can learn from this.I am rendering in single frames and in a linear format. Because I want to be able to pause the rendering process and be as flexible as possible with my rendering when it comes to post-processing.

07/01/2020|In 3D, Video|7 Minutes

Step 1. Bake your simulations

In Blender, there are multiple types of simulations. Make sure, that you bake every single one of them, which saves the simulation even if you open and close the project. This is not only a time-saver because you don’t have to run the simulation process again. It also doesn’t create the same result every time which would mean, that if you want to pause rendering and start it again it would create a glitch in the simulation.
To achieve this you just have to click on the Bake Button in each Cache Menu.

Screenshot of Blender baking Cache

Step 2. Activate the Denoiser

In Blender Version, 2.81 Blender got the first AI Denoiser which really delivers remarkable results. You can read more about it in this article.

Comparison of a denoised by Intel Open Image Denoise and a image without denoiser

Since Version 2.82 There is another AI Denoiser by Nvidia which was developed for real-time Ray-Tracing on Nvidia’s RTX GPUs. But even if it is now possible, to use it without an RTX GPU it is much slower than using the IOID in the Compositor which means if you don’t own an RTX GPU you should do it how I described it here.

If you use a Denoiser you can use fewer samples because you don’t have to worry about noise.  Which can lower your Export times dramatically.

Step 3. Check everything

Watch if everything you want to render is enabled in the Outline Tab, check if the resolutions you set are correct, and make a Test render, to make sure, you don’t forget anything.

Step 4. set your Output settings

Select the folder in which you want to save the Images to.

The standard Image format for VFX Image sequences is OpenEXR. The reason is, that this format supports 32 Bit depth and  a lot of multiple channels which can be useful for compositing, but that’s another topic.

In Color, you should pick RGBA. That includes the Alpha Channel if you have transparent parts in your Image.

When it comes to color depth, you can choose between float (half) (16bit) or float (full) (32bit). The difference is 32bit Images contain more information which enables you, to do more in post-processing. The downside is, that the files are roughly 2 times bigger. For most of the project, 16bit will be more than enough.

As in every Image format there are also algorithms, to compress the Image and make it smaller while maintaining as much quality as possible, probably the best for CG is Pxr24 (lossy). Which was developed by Pixar specifically for CGI.

Screenshot of Blender 3.1 Output set to OpenEXR, RGBA, Float (Full) and Pxr24 (lossy).

Step 5. Start the rendering process

Before you star rendering don’t forget to save, because starting the rendering process is one of the moments in which it is possible, that Blender crashes. You can start the rendering process either by clicking on Render Animation which you can find under Render or by pressing CTRL + F12 on Windows.

Screenshot of Blender clicking on Render Animation
One Eternity Later, SpongeBob meme.

Step 6. Import the Image sequence in After Effects

After creating a new project in After Effects, click on File>Import>File… or press CTRL + I.

Screenshot Importing files in After Effects CC 2022.

Then select the first image of your Animation and clic on Import. Make sure, to check the Box OpenEXR Sequence so that After Effects imports everything as a video Sequence.

Screenshot import OpenEXR Sequence of Demo Animation in After Effects with arrow pointing at OpenEXR Sequence.

Step 7. Interpret the Footage

To interpret the Footage, right-click on the Footage and click on Interpret Footage > Main….

Right Click on Footage to Interpret Footage.

In this Menu you can see, how After Effects interprets the Footage.

The only thing that is important to change under Main Options is the Frame rate, which needs to match the one of the animation in Blender.
After Effects interpret Footage Menu Arrow pointing on Frame rate setting.

Under Color Management, you have to check Preserve RGB. (Only if you are using the Linear Images like OpenEXR.) After that, Click on OK.

After Effects Interpret Footage Preserver RGB checked.

Step 8. Add to timeline

Drag the Footage on the Timeline, this will automatically create a Timeline with the right length, resolution and frame rate.

Demo Animation on Timeline in After Effects.

Step 9. OpenColorIO

To switch the Color space from Linear RGB to RGB, to get an useable Image you need to add the OpenColorIO Effect, which is a free Plug-in. That allows you to switch the Color space of your Footage.

Add OpenColorIO Effect to Layer in After Effects.

As input space pick ACEScg. And as output, pick RGB.

Set OpenColorIO (ACEScg to RGB) in After Effects.

Step 10. Export the Video

Select the Timeline and click on File > Export > Add to Adobe Media Queue.

After That, Adobe Media Coder (If Installed) opens up and the project will appear (both can take a while).

Adobe Media Encoder Arrow Pointing on Preset.

Click on the Blue text in the Preset Column. To get to the Export Settings.

As Format, H.264 is the best all-rounder which work for every application.
Under Output Name: You can set where you want to save the final Video.
There are a lot of things you can set, but that would completely break the mold completely.
If you finished the Settings, Click on OK and press the green Play button.
Adobe Media Encoder Export Settings.

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