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Jamcojay says

Being new to after effects and purchaing my first file. I would like to ask what is the best lossless setting for smaller file size. My renders are crazy long and file size is huge!

I have searched around but cannot really get a difinitive idea.

Hoping some of you gurus have some ideas.

Thank you

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ashcat says

Hello jamcojay

I always try h264, quality stays high and size gets smaller.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EEzTYh3f8Ww this will show you how :-)
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Jamcojay says

Thank you for taking the time to answer.

I really appreiate it.

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felt_tips Volunteer moderator says

There are no small lossless formats. You have to understand that a second of lossless video needs to store around 52 million individual pixels per second, so it’s always going to be big.

There are lossless compressions – for instance RLE (run-length encoding) which work a bit like zip. What you put in is exactly what you get out.

All other compressors are lossy. They do their best to throw away as much data as possible whilst keeping the image perceptually clean and sharp.

One of the first things to go is the color resolution. The eye’s not sensitive to color, so it separates the image into luminance and chrominance, breaks the color down into big color blocks. This is used by most compression systems.

Another key way is so called interframe compression, as used by h.264, mp4, mpeg etc. This works by not remembering every part of the image on every frame, but just the parts of the image that change… Think of a news-reader in a studio. Only the newsreader moves… and really only his head. The rest might as well be a still. If the camera-man picked up the camera and went hand-held on a news show, that would be a different story as far as compression is concerned…. a considerably different image on every frame.

So it makes a difference what kind of footage you’re compressing, what the purpose of the footage is, what kind of audience it’s for (heavy compression needs faster processing) etc. This is something you can only get a feel for by experimenting. You can read up about how various codecs work on Wikipedia etc.

As a rule of thumb, if it’s for the web, go with mp4 or h.264. FLV is also an option, but getting a bit out of date.

For archival, you don’t want to go below codecs like PJPEG, ProResHQ or similar (and those on their highest settings).

In Quicktime, you can use Animation codec for a lossless RLE compression. And if it’s an image sequence, you can build in LZW/RLE compression too.

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ToddKopriva says

Listen to felt_tips on this one.

A few points to add:

H.264 is not lossless, so I don’t know what ashcat was thinking in giving this answer.

PNG is another good lossless video codec if you’re using a QuickTime (.mov) wrapper. For photorealistic images (i.e., not cartoons or motion graphics), the file sizes tend to be about half of those with Animation. The downside is slower performance.

Heed what felt_tips said about purpose. Put another way, why do you care about how large the files are? That doesn’t really matter if the files are for the next step in a post-production process, in which case you need all of the quality. But if the files are for final distribution/viewing, then you want files small enough to be streamed or otherwise played and delivered. Asking for “small lossless” files tells me that you are mixing requirements from two totally different stages of the workflow.

BTW, I cover all of this in this FAQ entry: https://bit.ly/UOeFcN
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3Ddym says

There are no small lossless formats. You have to understand that a second of lossless video needs to store around 52 million individual pixels per second, so it’s always going to be big.

There are lossless compressions – for instance RLE (run-length encoding) which work a bit like zip. What you put in is exactly what you get out.

All other compressors are lossy. They do their best to throw away as much data as possible whilst keeping the image perceptually clean and sharp.

One of the first things to go is the color resolution. The eye’s not sensitive to color, so it separates the image into luminance and chrominance, breaks the color down into big color blocks. This is used by most compression systems.

Another key way is so called interframe compression, as used by h.264, mp4, mpeg etc. This works by not remembering every part of the image on every frame, but just the parts of the image that change… Think of a news-reader in a studio. Only the newsreader moves… and really only his head. The rest might as well be a still. If the camera-man picked up the camera and went hand-held on a news show, that would be a different story as far as compression is concerned…. a considerably different image on every frame.

So it makes a difference what kind of footage you’re compressing, what the purpose of the footage is, what kind of audience it’s for (heavy compression needs faster processing) etc. This is something you can only get a feel for by experimenting. You can read up about how various codecs work on Wikipedia etc.

As a rule of thumb, if it’s for the web, go with mp4 or h.264. FLV is also an option, but getting a bit out of date.

For archival, you don’t want to go below codecs like PJPEG, ProResHQ or similar (and those on their highest settings).

In Quicktime, you can use Animation codec for a lossless RLE compression. And if it’s an image sequence, you can build in LZW/RLE compression too.

+1, Good explanation :)

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Jamcojay says

Thank you for the responses.

I just rendered with H.264 it really seemed to run better. The file size was more managable and render time seem to drop about 30 min for a 1 min render. To about 40 min. Which was extreamly better to take.

I really appreiate the help.

Thank you

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felt_tips Volunteer moderator says

It’s unlikely that your render time would change because you’re rendering into H.264 format. If anything, it should go up.

The reason is that After Effects first renders each entire frame uncompressed, then it compresses it and writes to disk. Render frame -> Compress frame -> Write to disk. Generally, it’s the Render frame part that takes all the time.

Therefore, in terms of render time, the compression you choose to use makes little difference.

What I like to do is render a master copy out from the Ae file (with little or no compression). Then I use that master copy to create compressed copies for clients / previews / web or whatever. You can use Adobe Media Encoder to create compressed versions from the master version.

That way, you effectively only do the long-winded Render frames part once. Subsequently, you can just do the much quicker Compress frames -> Write to disk part as many times as you like. (also this way with h.264 you can choose do a 2-pass encode which further optimises the compression).

That’s the way most pros do it. It pays to start early with good habits. :-)

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ashcat says

Listen to felt_tips on this one.

A few points to add:

H.264 is not lossless, so I don’t know what ashcat was thinking in giving this answer.

PNG is another good lossless video codec if you’re using a QuickTime (.mov) wrapper. For photorealistic images (i.e., not cartoons or motion graphics), the file sizes tend to be about half of those with Animation. The downside is slower performance.

Heed what felt_tips said about purpose. Put another way, why do you care about how large the files are? That doesn’t really matter if the files are for the next step in a post-production process, in which case you need all of the quality. But if the files are for final distribution/viewing, then you want files small enough to be streamed or otherwise played and delivered. Asking for “small lossless” files tells me that you are mixing requirements from two totally different stages of the workflow.

BTW, I cover all of this in this FAQ entry: https://bit.ly/UOeFcN

File size with quality

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