After Effects is a video editing program by Adobe that’s popular with VFX artists, video editors, and post-production professionals the world over.
It enables users to create high-quality animations and motion graphics that can be used in film, TV, or web platforms. One of the greatest advantages of the software is that it allows artists to layer multiple visual and audio clips into the same project, providing a vast array of tools to seamlessly blend different elements to create a truly captivating final product.
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Yet for all its advanced capabilities, After Effects does have one significant downside: Long rendering times. For those who may be new to the concept, rendering is the process by which the program prepares your video or animation project for publishing and viewing. Those in the VFX industry are all too familiar with the time-consuming nature of rendering, and may even find themselves asking, “Why does After Effects render so slow?”
After Effects’ render engine heavily relies on your computer’s central processing unit (CPU)—more so than it does the graphics card (GPU).
However, the graphics card isn’t entirely irrelevant when it comes to rendering times, as there are certain effects within the program that utilize the GPU in the rendering process. Another factor that comes into play when rendering is the available random-access memory (RAM) on your computer, as the process takes up a lot of memory.
Ideally, you would run After Effects on a computer with a powerful multi-core processor, at least 16GB of RAM, as well as a GPU that’s either CUDA or OpenCL compliant in order to achieve faster render times.
If you’re looking for suggestions on how to make After Effects render faster without investing in expensive hardware, read on for some tips and tricks to get the job done.
Tip #1: Enable Multiprocessing
As the name suggests, multiprocessing is when After Effects uses multiple cores in the CPU to render multiple frames at once. If your processor has more than one core, you can turn this feature on to shorten your render time. You’ll need to check to see whether or not this option is enabled—once you turn it on, you’ll see a significant decrease in render time.
To turn Multiprocessing, go to Preferences > Memory & Multiprocessing. After that you click the check box next to ‘Render Multiple Frames Simultaneously’ on the screen, and don’t forget to adjust the settings that you need.
Tip #2: Disable Ray-Traced 3D
After Effects Ray Traced 3D feature allows you to produce 3D models directly within the After Effects program. However, in general, not much use is required in daily projects.
Calculating all the lights and shadows is such an exhausting process for your computer. So, if you turn off ray tracing, you will get a shorter render time for sure.
By checking that Classic 3D is selected instead of Ray Traced 3D from your composition settings, you can double your rendering speed.
Tip #3: Reduce the Workload
A couple of settings in After Effects are resource heavy. Disabling Motion Blur might cut your render time in half, for example, but if you need it in your final render, it’s better to put it in at the time of rendering rather than in post-production, where it’s not designed to be used.
Disabling real-time previews means your computer’s processing power won’t have to be spent to display the previews to you and can be fully used for rendering.
Tip #4: Optimize RAM Usage
RAM can be used to write and read data at much higher speeds than hard drives and portable drives. Moreover, optimizing RAM in a system is one of the easiest and most accessible upgrades for system boost. Offering highly affordable solutions for both laptop and desktop systems, the RAM upgrade does not require high-level knowledge.
The more RAM you have in such applications, the higher the performance you can get.
Also it provides a noticeable performance increase in rendering speed. So, if the rendering time in your work is longer than necessary, you check and upgrade the RAM.
To do it in After Effects, you take a look at RAM settings under Preferences > Memory. You can optimize the RAM reserved for other applications, but make sure that you’re leaving some space for your system to run backend processes.
Adobe recommends at least 4GB of RAM to run After Effects, but you’ll optimize much more than like 32GB of RAM or more.
Tip #5: Lower the Quality
If you’re doing a work-in-progress render preview, try lowering the quality to speed up the rendering. In Render Settings, which you can open by clicking the triangle next to the “Render Settings” menu, you can select a lower quality render. This is especially useful if the final render is in HD and you just want to see a preview.
You can also right-click your pre-compositions in the project panel, go to “Set Proxy” and then click “File” to choose a lower quality version of a video or image to speed up a preview rendering. After Effects will ignore proxies on full rendering. Finally, if the quality of the images is higher than what you will need in full rendering, converting them to a lower resolution will speed up the rendering.
Tip #6: Use Media Encoder to Speed-up Export
Media Encoder is the software come up with Adobe Creative Cloud products such as After Effects and Premiere Pro to ease render process for video and VFX projects.
You can easily export your project from After Effects to Adobe Media Encoder, and start your project export process from there. Media Encoder will increase your rendering performance and decrease your rendering times.
Tip #7: Use Background Rendering
If you only have access to a single machine, you can use software like Adobe Media Encoder or BGRenderer to render in the background. This does not speed up the rendering per se, but will allow you to continue working instead of waiting for the rendering to finish. The only drawback is that some options, such as motion blur, are not available when rendering in the background.
Tip #8: Clean Up Your Composition
There are many layers in the composition of your project that you have not seen or used. These layers visibly affect the rendering time. Therefore, remove the layers from your project that you will not render before submitting your composition to the queue or restrict your layers to the exact square they will be used in the composition of your project with the trim feature of Adobe Effect. In this way, your rendering time will be shorter.
Tip #9: Activate GPU Rendering with CUDA Acceleration
Rendering your project with GPU rather than CPU will increase the efficiency of your project export process. Your export duration will decrease significantly when you activate Mercury GPU Acceleration ( CUDA ) from the Project Settings.
Tip #10: Use a Rendering Farm
If you have access to two machines, you can make a small render farm by dedicating one of them solely for the rendering process. The faster the machine, the faster the rendering will be, but since the main machine is now free to use during the rendering process, you can work on other things at the same time. Just make sure the render farm uses the same software as your editing, right down to the same version, plugins, fonts, and other add-ons.
Tip #11: Use vagon to Get Beyond to your Computer Performance
vagon provides you with a powerful personal computer regardless of the hardware you have at hand.
Even if you’re working from a Macbook Air like laptop, you can opt for GPU rendering instead of CPU rendering, then run your project on vagon—with just a few clicks, you’ll gain access to 4 x 16GB of CUDA Activated Nvidia GPUs for super-fast rendering.
You don’t need to buy an expensive workstation, you can speed-up your workflow with vagon, from your own laptop without investing too much.