A beginner-friendly guide to bulk video creation

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.

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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. 
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New feature update (June 2023): You can now render large batches of video with Plainly in just a few minutes. All you need to do is upload a CSV that contains your data! See a video example on this link.

Book a 15-min demo, or sign up free and test it for yourself!

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.

Pros and cons of popular bulk video creators

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 1000+ 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 pick a video template (or upload your own in a form of AE project), pick dynamic elements and add your data. You can either drop a CSV with your data, or connect a dynamic data source using the Plainly's API.

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. Select a template (or create your own)

You can either pick a template from our template library, or create your own custom. If you want to create a custom project, all you have to do is create your template in After Effects, collect files and create a ZIP. You can then upload that ZIP into Plainly, and proceed to step 2. You don’t have to do anything extraordinary or create specialized bulk video creation templates.

2. Plainly setup (for custom projects)

If you're using a custom project, and not a project from our template library - you'll have to set up your dynamic parameters. 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. You can then simply click on the layers you want to make dynamic and save your template.

3. Render

This is where the magic happens! After the setup, which takes just a few minutes you can start rendering videos in bulk. You can do this in Plainly in a couple of ways:

1. CSV Integration - if you have a spreadsheet with all of your variations, you can simply export that as a CSV, upload it into Plainly, map columns to parameters and batch render videos automatically. Here's a quick video showing how to do this:

For more advanced users, you can use our API and use data from even more sources! You can use data sources such as Google Sheet, Airtable, or even more advanced data sources such as external APIs or databases. The connection can either be created with Zapier / Make (Integromat) or custom.

Pros: Automatically render batches of videos in a couple of clicks, also powerfull API for more 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. 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. You can simply create a CSV with your video variations and drop that into Plainly.

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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