ha same sorta dilema...i did 4 super simple, particle layers, about 8 seconds long each took a good 4 hours to render.
but to the OP you should be able to go to your render settings and under the save tab, where it says "Format" you can change the clip from tiff or whatever it is to quicktime movie. then click the options button next to it and it will give you a drop down list for the codec and quality you want to export. then its a matter of simply clicking export and playing videogames or going skiing while it renders
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