bulk video creation

Bulk video creation – Let robots automatically do a bunch of video edits while you drink coffee

Table of Contents

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.

You probably found yourself facing this huge list of small edits that you have to do to the finished version of the video. You may need to change one text layer, or an image, or even a combination of those. But you have to do this 10s or even 100s of time. You probably thought about opening After Effects or Premiere and doing this manually – which is a painful thought to have.

You can relax now though, there is an automated solution. You’ll be able to drink a cup of coffee, and the videos will render themselves automatically.

Bulk video creation – automation saves the day

When it comes to automated bulk video creation, you have a few options. Each of these options use 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 & 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 create a workflow like this.

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 will display 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 & 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 creation, you can easily swap out text, images, videos, audio, and even colors. It doesn’t matter what solution are you using, each one will support all of these elements.

Solutions for bulk video creation

Each one of these solutions below is good for specific use cases. Some are good if you are on a low budget (or no budget), some are good if you have a one-off project and only need 10s of video variations, and some are good if you have to create very complex bulk video creation workflows.

No matter what solution you choose, all of these can connect to a spreadsheet that will hold all of your video variations – so you might want to create that spreadsheet, list out the layers you need to change, and list out the variations.

spreadsheet for bulk video creation

Native After Effects CSV function

People from Adobe thought about use cases like this. 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. Unfortunately, there isn’t a way to do this automatically without scripting with native AE. If you only have 10s or a few dozens 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 & 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.

Because it’s a bit more work, this method is more suited if you only have a small number of variations to create. Also, it’s 100% free. You can’t beat that. If you need a larger amount of videos though, the next method is more suitable.

CompsFromSpreadsheets

Priced at $49, this After Effects 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 the missing part of the method above. It will not only map layers and spreadsheet values but it will also make all of the compositions and it will add them to the render queue.

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

This script is pretty awesome if you have a one off project that needs a lot of variations. You can buy the script on AeScripts.

It will save you a bunch of time, and it’s definitely worth the money. Where this script will fail 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, or in the case where you need 1000s of videos. 

That’s where a video automation tool like Plainly comes in handy.

Plainly

If you have a bulk video creation project that’s robust a tool like Plainly will be a life saver. Robust means:

  • having to import live data
  • using an database or 3rd party API as a data source
  • having to create 100+ videos



You won’t be able to execute workflows like these if you are using methods 1 or 2. 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. 

Create videos in bulk with Plainly

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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 a project inside of 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 special, or create specialized bulk video creation templates.

2. Plainly set-up

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 to 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 of 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, it’s not that different from method 1.

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 Integromat in 15 minutes. For those who are tech savvy, you can always use our API and create amazingly complex bulk video creation workflows.

Bulk video creation – closing words

I hope that i successfully de-mistified 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 and its complexity.

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 for automation. Why should you spend time on boring manual tasks when you have the robots to do the grunt work.

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