What file format plays the fastest in After Effects?
Ever wondered which image sequence format After Effects truly “prefers”?
I use that word in quotations because it’s not so much about it preferring a format, as it’s more about what format offers the best file size to RAM preview speed ratio. It’s also recognizing that After Effects must read any compression that is applied to compressed formats. After Effects would prefer to skip this step and read the file brute force (uncompressed) and is much faster when skipping that step. Problem is, no one wants to fill their precious solid state drives with uncompressed image sequences. Thus the dilemma.
First off, let me start by saying that if you are rendering out of C4D and you plan on doing any color grading or compositing to your images, I recommend the EXR format in Half Float. This format has the best color fidelity and is relatively small compared to similar bit depth formats. It can also hold multi-channel data all in one easy to use format.
Secondly, if you are rendering Quicktimes or other encapsulated movie formats out of C4D, please stop. There’s a litany of reasons why this is bad, but just take it from me, you don’t want to experience any of them first-hand.
Thirdly, always avoid “Lossy” compressions when you can. Lossy compressions like JPG can really make a mess of things. Sure it’s small, but at a big price of fidelity and compression artifacts. Always opt for “Lossless” compression when possible. Lossless will compress the file with no artifacts or loss of color fidelity.
Ok, so this tutorial was inspired by a conversation that was taking place on Twitter about frame formats. I had mentioned that the best format IMO when rendering out of C4D was Open Exr. I also mentioned in that tweet that if you don’t need to render out full floating point color images and need to render out an 8bit format, that PNG was my go to. This sparked a big discussion on what 8bit format does After Effects play back the fastest and which format has the smallest file size. I quickly created this semi-scientific video to see what was what. I hope you get some clarity and start rendering out the best format for you.