bulk video creation

A beginner-friendly guide to bulk video creation

Table of Contents

TL;DR: Bulk video creation is the process of creating different video variations based on a video template, using spreadsheets (or some other type of database). There are many bulk video creators on the market and in this article, you can learn more about the Native After Effects CSV function, CompsFromSpreadsheets, and Plainly. 

Creating videos in bulk, where you have to do a small edit to a large number of videos, can be a real challenge if you have never done it before. This article will be your lighthouse and help you navigate the waters of bulk video creation.

Tell me, does this sound familiar to you? You have a huge list of small edits that you have to make to the finished version of the video. Sometimes it’s about changing one text layer, an image, or a combination of those. But you have to do this tens or hundreds of times. You probably figured there’s no way around this but to open After Effects or Premiere and do this manually – which is a painful thought to have.

You can relax now. Thanks to bulk video creation, you’ll be able to drink a cup of coffee while the videos render themselves automatically.

Plainly is a bulk video creator that helps you save up to 85% of the video editing time. Book a 15-min demo to see it in action. 

Bulk video creation – automation saves the day

When it comes to automated video creation, you have a few options in terms of bulk video makers. Each of these options relies on After Effects, so you’ll have to create your project inside of it. I’ll go over each one of the options and explain the pros and cons.

This could be you while the automation does its thing. (Photo by naipo.de on Unsplash)

Let’s first quickly go over what’s generally possible when automatically creating videos in bulk, and also what will you need to know before you can create a simple video creation workflow.

Whenever you’re automatically swapping video assets, you’ll have to think about asset formatting:

  1. What will happen if you swap out an image/video that’s too small or large
  2. How to make sure that the text displays properly (in most cases,  you have various text lengths)

That’s why you’ll have to use a bit of After Effects expressions. Luckily, you don’t have to write them, you just need to do a bit of googling. If you don’t wish to do that, you can copy and paste these expressions from Plainly Documentation (check out the “Creating a Perfect After Effects Template” section).

If you’re wondering what’s possible with bulk video makers, you can easily swap out text, images, videos, audio, and even colors.

Each one of the bulk video generators I’ll touch upon is good for specific use cases. Some are good if you have a low budget, some are good if you have a one-off project and only need ten different video variations, and some are good if you have to create complex bulk video creation workflows.

No matter which solution for bulk video creation you choose, every single one of them can connect to a spreadsheet that will hold all of your video variations.

As you might have guessed, the first step to bulk video creation implies creating that spreadsheet, listing out the layers you need to change, and defining the variations you want to see in different video versions.

spreadsheet for bulk video creation

1. Bulk video maker: Native After Effects CSV function

People from Adobe thought about making bulk video creation as simple as possible for users. That’s why they enabled After Effects support for CSV files. You can import your CSV file directly in AE, and it will read all of the data you have inside of it.

You can later use expressions to link your layers to the data in the CSV. You’ll do this by using the dataValue expression. This expression will allow you to reference any data point in that CSV.

Now when you have your data linked to a CSV file, you still need a way to quickly loop through all of the datasets and render variations.

Pros: Free, and simple to set-up.

Cons: Unfortunately, there isn’t a way to do this automatically without scripting with native AE. If you only have a few dozen of variations you can do this semi-manually like this:

  1. Link the data to CSV
  2. Set up a slider that will indicate the CSV row
  3. Duplicate comps and create one for each row
  4. Add them all to a render queue and render

It involves a bit more work, yes. But you’ll still be able to queue up videos quickly and rest while they render. You only need to duplicate the comp, quickly change the slider number, and that’s it.

Best for: Because it’s a bit more work, this method is more suited if you only have a small number of variations to create. If you need a larger amount of videos though, the next method is more suitable.

2. Bulk video maker: CompsFromSpreadsheets (for AE)

Priced at $49.99, the CompsFromSpreadsheets script is one level above the native CSV function inside of AE. It’s a really neat script that will allow you to map layers to spreadsheet values, but it also has something that the above-mentioned method doesn’t:

It will not only map layers and spreadsheet values but also make all of the compositions and add them to the render queue.

Here’s a video from the creator Michael Cardeiro that explains how this script works:

Pros: It will save you a bunch of time, and it’s definitely worth the money.

Cons: Where this script will fall though is if you need a dynamic link to a spreadsheet that will constantly change or if you need bulk video creation of videos with live data. It’s also not suitable for cases where you need 1000s of videos. That’s where video automation software like Plainly comes in handy.

Best for: This script is pretty awesome if you have a one-off project that needs a lot of variations.

3. Bulk video maker: Plainly

If you have a bulk video creation project that’s robust, a tool like Plainly will be a lifesaver. When I say robust, I mean:

  • You have to import live data
  • You want to use other data sources such as databases, APIs and not just spreadsheets.
  • You want to create 100+ videos

You won’t be able to execute workflows like these if you are using the first two bulk video generators I shared in this article.

A video automation tool like Plainly, however, is specifically built for this. It’s a web-based tool that will allow you to upload your AE project, choose dynamic elements, and connect a data source from which you’ll create your variations. 

Oh, and the best thing? Everything renders in the cloud. You can literally be away from your machine and create 1000s of video variations.

Here’s how simple it is to set up a project inside Plainly:

1. Template upload

All you have to do for this step is to ZIP up your AE project alongside the fonts you used and upload it to the Plainly Web App. You don’t have to do anything extraordinary or create specialized bulk video creation templates.

2. Plainly setup

After you’ve uploaded your template, Plainly will parse your project and list out all of the layers you have inside of your rendering composition. All you have to do then is set up “dynamic elements”. In plain(ly) English this means – choosing what elements will change in every render.

3. Render

After you set up everything inside Plainly, you’ll have the option to render videos directly through our Web App simply by typing in the dynamic elements you set up in step 2.

But this is boring and it’s not that different from using the Native After Effects CSV function as your bulk video maker.

The real power lies in connecting Plainly to your data source. This can be a spreadsheet (Google, Airtable..etc), your database, or even an external API. You can set up the connection easily with Zapier or Make in 15 minutes.

For those who are tech-savvy, you can always use our API and create amazingly complex bulk video creation workflows. Set it and forget it.

Pros: Easily connect Plainly to your data source with Zapier or Make. Create complex bulk video creation workflows. 

Cons: It’s not a free bulk video maker (but hey, everyone’s got to make a living). It is affordable though, especially when you consider the money and time you’ll save. Pricing starts at $59 per month. Pricing plans differ depending on the storage space you’ll need and the minutes of rendered videos.

Best for: Robust bulk video creation projects that imply creating 100+ video variations.

Ready to get started with bulk video creation?

I hope that I successfully demystified video creation in bulk with this article. It’s really not that complicated. You need a video template, a tool for automation, and your data source. What tool you are going to use depends on your workflow, project complexity, and budget.

Once you do your first automated bulk creation project, you’ll start to see the possibilities. And trust me – there are A LOT of possibilities with video automation. I mean, why should you spend time on boring manual tasks when you have robots that can do the grunt work?

If you haven’t figured it out yet, I’m very passionate about simple video creation and automation. I discover new use cases constantly which only deepens my love for this work.

If you need a reliable bulk video creator, then I invite you to book a 15-min demo with me: you’d be surprised by what you can do with Plainly.

Bulk video creation: FAQ

1. What is bulk video creation?

Bulk video creation is the process of creating different video variations based on a video template, using spreadsheets (or some other type of database). It is a form of video automation that is very useful since many videos you want to create might share the same layout but feature different content.

2. What are the best bulk video creators?

There are many out-of-the-box paid tools for bulk video creation. Some of the most popular ones include Plainly, 90 Seconds, Biteable, and InVideo.

3. What are the benefits of bulk video creation? 

The main benefits of bulk video creation include efficiency and scalability. Creating videos in bulk automatically allows you to streamline your production process, which can save you time and money in the long run. You can also create a large number of videos by creating a database, a video template, and using a bulk video creator.

4. How can I create videos in bulk if I’m not tech-savvy?

When it comes to bulk video creation, you don’t have to be tech-savvy. Many tools available on the market rely on integrations such as Zapier or Integromat, which allows for a user-friendly way to connect your database with a video automation tool of your choice.

5. What is the best way to get started with bulk video creation?

The best way to get started with bulk video creation is to create a spreadsheet where you will list out the layers you need to change, and define the variations you want to see in different video versions. The next step is deciding which bulk video creator and method you want to use.

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person using a video generator