Since the dawn of time, rendering videos was the synonym for After Effects artists to scroll Reddit or go for a coffee (or both). As the CPUs and rendering machines evolved, that “me time” for After Effects artists shrunk down, but there were still cases where you had to wait for hours to get the shot rendered. Long shots, effect-filled scenes, and complex motion graphics were the killer of render times.
Well, not anymore – i’m both happy and sorry for creatives because you can now use After Effects Cloud rendering and:
- off-load the rendering to the cloud while you work on other stuff
- get insane render speeds because those render farms use beefy machines
This means that you can continue working while the videos render in the cloud. This allows for a more efficient workflow. It also means that there won’t be any more Reddit scrolling breaks.
Sorry creatives! (by the way, as an ex-motion designer i’m totally on your side – so feel free to somehow hide this article from your boss for as long as possible)
We’ll gauge which After Effects cloud rendering solution is the best. We decided this based on their performance, their UX, their support, offering, and of course the price. If you stick to the end, we’ll also show you how can you render variations of the original video in the cloud (completely automatically), and save 10s of hours.
Here’s a quick overview of the solutions we cover in this article:
After Effects Cloud Rendering Solutions
Garage Farm has been around since 2010, and 83 people gave them 5/5 stars reviews on their Facebook page. One of the big pros they have is that you can send renders directly from After Effects. You’ll then login into their cloud rendering web app, and you’ll be able to track everything from there.
If you want to see more about their workflow, check this link out.
They have both GPU and CPU options, and their CPU nodes are running Intel Xeon V4 processors. They also have an option for AMD Epyc if that’s something you want.
Since figuring out pricing for these render farms requires a bachelor’s degree in maths, i’ll try to simplify it as much as possible. Let’s say you’re running a Ryzen 9 5900x on your machine, and that it takes 1 minute to render a single frame of your project. If you have a 10 second project (24 fps) that will take around 4 hours to render on your PC.
It will take anywhere between 1 and 5 minutes for the Garage Farm nodes to render your project in the cloud. How about that time saving huh? In terms of pricing, this will cost you between $5 and $20.
I’d say that After Effects cloud rendering generally pays itself over multiple times in cases like this. Having the project done in 5 minutes, instead of 4 hours is definitely worth a few bucks.
I actually used PixelPlow a few years ago. It was for C4D though, but it’s still the only render farm i ever used. I remember that it was a bit confusing to set it up at first, but after i got everything up and running it was smooth sailing.
Based on reviews, it definitely seems like PixelPlow is doing something right – look how much praise they get.
This After Effects cloud rendering farm doesn’t state what kinds of processors they run, but i was pretty satisfied with the speeds i got. They have their own software which you download, and use to create jobs. All you have to do is prepare your scene, package it up and upload it to their app.
One useful thing they have in their app is that you can control the power you need with a simple slider. So if you want to save money, you can dial that slider down…alternatively, if you need the project asap and the client is breathing down your neck – you can pump it up.
For the same 10 second project from above, PixelPlow’s machines will cost you anywhere from $1 and $15. Unfortunately, there isn’t a way for me to calculate how fast it would be but the cost saving is significant comparing it to Garage Farm.
I gotta say, Anima Render has the best website out of these all. For some reason all of the After Effects rendering farms left their website the same as it was when they started. And they all started 10 years ago.
Their After Effects cloud rendering farm uses dual Xeon CPU’s or Threadripper 3970x’s if you want a bit more power. Similarly to other solutions, you’ll have to download their own bespoke app. That app will be your job manager. You’ll collect assets, upload projects, and create jobs – all through a single interface.
I really like that they have 24/7 support – that means two things:
- They are mature enough as a company to have more than one support employee
- They won’t leave you hanging if you run into a problem
One downside of Anima is that they are compatible with up to AE 2019. This might be a bit of a bummer because this means that you need to downgrade your projects. You can also forget about multi-core rendering, which was introduced in the latest After Effects. Although, the latter might not be that big of an issue – since the machines these cloud rendering farms use are really powerful.
Our 10 second sample project would be done in between 2 and 10 minutes on the Anima Render machines. The cost of this would be between $10 and $12.
Although it seems that Super Renders focused mostly on GPU rendering in the past few years, they still offer CPU rendering which is needed for After Effects. They are running Dual Xenon’s (E5 V4) on their machines and they are based in the USA.
Similar to Anima, they don’t support the newest version of After Effects. If you want to utilize this AE cloud rendering solution, you’ll be able to do with AE up to 2020.
Managing your projects and rendering is done through their Web App instead of a dedicated app. This is really handy because that means that you can manage your cloud rendering from anywhere – even from your phone.
The 10 second project we talked about above would take between 1 and 5 minutes on the Super Render cloud farm. This is pretty fast compared to the other machines. The cost would be between $3 and $13.
The best After Effects Cloud Rendering solution
Speaking objectively from the data we got through research, Pixel Plow seems like the best deal. What puts Pixel Plow on the top spot are the reviews they have and their pricing. The reviews tell a lot about how good the customer support is, and how fast their renders are.
I already mentioned the fact that i was already using it a while back, and i was very satisfied. The speed, the user experience, and the overall feel were solid. The only bump was the setup, but they might have smoothed that out in the meantime.
Super Renders comes to a close second, but they don’t support the newest After Effects – which is why i had to put them below Pixel Plow.
I have to say, i was pretty disappointed with the choices of render farms. Given how big the industry is, i thought there will be a ton of companies to choose from. If you’re doing any kind of 3D work, you’re covered. There are literally 10s of GPU render farms. After Effects cloud rendering farms are a bit different though. I found only 5-10 viable solutions, and only 4 of them were good enough to put on this list.
Cloud Render 100s of video variations
If you are a creative, you probably had projects where you had to create different versions of the original video. These changes might’ve been as small as one line of text, or image change but the video had to be re-rendered. Those projects suck. It’s not creative work, and it’s very time consuming – especially when you need 100s of variations.
Using a cloud rendering solution, in this case, doesn’t work. You’d have to upload all of the different project files into the farm’s interface and manage 100s of concurrent renders. This gets pretty messy, and inefficient very fast.
That’s why i created Plainly. It’s a video automation tool for After Effects that renders video variations in the cloud. All you have to do is add your After Effects template to our Web App, and connect a data source (which can be a simple spreadsheet). Plainly will take the data from that spreadsheet and render videos automatically in the cloud. Book a 15-min demo here to see how it works, and save yourself dozens of hours in the production.