We recently published Render Farms – Where to Begin on the Digistor blog. This was a great overview of render farms in general. Today’s blog is aimed to be an introduction to what is possible for After Effects specifically.

Automated rendering and network rendering in Adobe After Effects.

Rendering locally in After Effects uses a single render instance and is done in the foreground, meaning you need to wait for the render to complete before continuing to work.

Network rendering allows you to background render. That is, to offload your render while you continue to stay productive. The rendering can be offloaded to a dedicated render farm, or simply to another idle workstation (or group of workstations).


Dedicated render nodes might not be in everyone’s budget. That is why being able to utilise workstations you already have is so attractive.

The other benefit is that rendering on another system (workstation or render node) uses aerender, the After Effects command-line rendering engine. This allows the possibility of running multiple/concurrent After Effects render instances on the same system. In practice, you can expect rendering to be 2-3 times faster than a local foreground render on the same hardware.

Screenshot Deadline submission script in After Effects

Technically, one could manually do this, or script this. However, there are several tools available dedicated to this job. For example, there is Render Boss specifically for After Effects, or AWS Thinkbox Deadline which is a complete render farm manager that supports most applications. This would be the recommendation if you also use 3D applications.


  • Aerender does not use an After Effects license. However, the plethora of plugins available each have their own licensing idiosyncrasies. If a plug-in does require a license, each aerender instance you run concurrently will need a license. Fortunately, most vendors such as Red Giant will provide render-only licenses at no extra charge. (5 render-only licenses per full license).
  • Some plugins are GPU-only and will not render on a render node that does not have GPU. Rendering to another workstation with a GPU is no problem. Nb. Some plug-in offer both CPU and GPU support.
  • Multiple or concurrent render instances will use more system resources. How much memory and CPU (and GPU) is required depends on the type of AE comps being rendered.
  • The AE project path and paths to sources need to be network paths. This is required as all systems doing the rendering need access over the network. Ideally, this path would be a NAS or SAN. However, sharing your local drive will also work. Optionally you can perform a Collect Files in AE to a network location, but that is an extra step. Nb. If you load an AE project via a network path, AE will automatically relink all sources it can find using the network path.


If you’re interested in further investigation, or having trouble with your current setup, don’t hesitate contacting Digistor.