Blender 3D: Noob to Pro/Output Formats

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Blender can render still images and video to many different file formats. Here is an alphabetical list:

  • AVI Codec - AVI codec compression. Available codecs are operating system dependent. When an AVI codec is initially chosen, the codec dialog is automatically launched. The codec can be changed directly using the Set Codec button in AVI Codec settings.
  • AVI Jpeg - AVI but with Jpeg compression. Lossy, smaller files but not as small as you can get with a Codec compression algorithm. Jpeg compression is also the one used in the DV format used in many digital camcorders.
  • AVI Raw - Audio-Video Interlaced (AVI) uncompressed frames.
  • BMP - Bit-Mapped Paint is an early lossless format.
  • Cineon - format produced by a Kodak Cineon camera and used in high-end graphics software and directed toward digital film.
  • DPX - Digital Moving-Picture eXchange format; an open professional format (close to Cineon) with meta-information about the picture; 16-bit uncompressed bitmap (huge file size). Used in preservation.
  • FFMPEG - Fast Forward Moving Pictures Expert Group is a collection of free and open source software libraries that record, convert and stream digital audio and video in numerous formats. You must have the proper codec installed on your computer for Blender to call it and use it to compress the video stream through FFMPEG, but there are preset formats to choose from, such as DV, SVCD, and DVD.
  • Frameserver - Blender puts out frames upon request as part of a render farm. The port number is specified in the OpenGL User Preferences panel.
  • HamX - Blender's own self-developed 8 bits RLE (Run Length Encoded bitmap) format; it creates extremely compact files that can be displayed quickly. To be used only for previsualization of animations (Play button).
  • Iris - the standard Silicon Graphics Inc (SGI) format used on Unix OS machines.
  • JPEG - Joint Photographic Experts Group (name of the consortium which defined it), an open format that supports very good compression with little loss of quality. Only saves RGB value. Re-saving images results in more and more compression and loss of quality.
  • JPEG 2000
  • MultiLayer - an OpenEXR format that supports storing multiple layers of images together in one file. Each layer stores a renderpass, such as shadow, specularity, color, etc. You can specify the encoding used to save the MulitLayer file using the codec selector (ZIP (lossless) is shown and used by default).
  • OpenEXR - an open and non-proprietary extended and highly dynamic range (HDR) image format, saving both Alpha and Z-depth buffer information.
  • PNG - Portable Network Graphics, a lossless image format often used in web design.
  • QuickTime - A proprietary multimedia framework for video and images.
  • Radiance HDR
  • Targa
  • Targa Raw
  • TIFF - Tagged Image File Format created by Aldus for desktop publishing.

If the selection seems daunting, here are pointers:

If you need transparency in your images (i.e., an alpha channel that allows any part of the rendered image to have varying degrees of opacity), or you will be compositing, you generally want to use:

  • Multilayer
  • PNG
  • OpenEXR
  • Targa

Of the above four formats, you will find that PNG and Targa images can be opened and edited by most any bitmap editing application, such as GIMP or Photoshop. However, OpenEXR and Multilayer offer more options within Blender, and may produce smaller, lossless files.