This issue is raised so often here I feel that it deserves its own sticky post. Most professional (or even semi-professional) AE artists render their files uncompressed out of After Effects and use a third party compression application for delivery files, such as Divx, Xvid, Sorenson etc. The reasons for this are numerous, but here’s a few obvious ones:
If the compression is just slightly too much for your tastes, you have to completely re-render out of After Effects. If your file took 3 hours to render, that is a lot of wasted time.
If you or your client decide to use a different delivery codec, you have to re-render out of After Effects. See note above on why this is bad
Third party compression applications are designed to do a very good job of crushing file size down while retaining quality. After Effects is better suited for uncompressed, broadcast quality output since that is what the application is intended for. Right tool for the job
Complaints that rendering out of After Effects to an uncompressed file eat up too much hard drive space are a bit silly. You spent How much on After Effects, yet you can’t afford $70 US for a 320GB hard drive???
There are many free (or very cheap) third party compression applications out there. Here is a starter list:
Super C- FREE - compresses to just about every Windows and Quicktime format available
Riva FLV Encoder - FREE - Flash video encoder
VirtualDub - FREE - Primarily for AVI files, but works great
STOIK Video Convertor - FREE - works with a wide variety of codecs
Quicktime Pro - $29.95 US - Encodes to virtually all Quicktime supported codecs. Requires Flash to be installed to encode to FLV.
I’m sure others will have many apps to add to the list.