14 Tips for Faster Rendering in After Effects
Let’s speed up your render times—and workflow—in After Effects with these handy settings and hardware tips.
Rendering is an annoying (but unavoidable) aspect of the motion graphics process. However, you can take a few steps to make your After Effects renders as fast as possible.
1. Enable Multi-Frame Rendering
The first setting you need to turn on for faster renders is Enable Multi-Frame Rendering. In short, the more cores your CPU has, the more frames After Effects can render simultaneously.
To enable this, navigate to Edit > Preferences > Memory & Performance. To learn more, check out Adobe’s After Effects User Guide on Multi-Frame Rendering.
2. Optimize RAM Reserved for Other Applications
You need to tell After Effects how much RAM it should reserve for other applications. In After Effects, navigate to Edit > Preferences > Memory & Performance.
From there, you can set the RAM Reserved for Other Applications. In most cases, you can set this to the minimum value After Effects allows. (Usually around 10% of your total RAM.)
To see a step-by-step guide on how to do this and learn more about RAM in After Effects, check out:
3. Turn on Cache Frames When Idle
Another easy way to speed up renders is to turn on Cache Frames When Idle. This setting allows After Effects to automatically render your compositions when After Effects is left idle. (Like when you step out for a coffee.)
Navigate to Composition > Preview > Cache Frames When Idle to enable this.
However, to gain the actual render benefits of this, when you leave After Effects idle, make sure you set the Preview Resolution of the composition window to Full. Since this is the resolution After Effects will ultimately render at.
So, if you have some of those frames already cached, the final render will be faster.
4. Use GPU Acceleration
Many effects in After Effects utilize GPU acceleration, which will speed up your render times. Make sure that GPU Acceleration is turned on in your After Effects Project Settings.
Navigate to File > Project Settings. You’ll then see the Video Rendering and Effects tab. Set it to the option that displays “GPU Acceleration” in the name.
5. Upgrade Your Graphics Card
After Effects is an incredibly intense program for your graphics card. (No surprise, right?) Adobe
recommends your computer have 4GB or more of GPU VRAM. The minimum After Effects supports is 2GB of GPU VRAM.
Because new GPU chipsets are being introduced all the time, the After Effects team doesn’t recommend any specific GPU.
However, you can check out some guidelines Adobe recommends for selecting a GPU. If you’re using an older graphics card, you’ll likely see an instant render speed increase when you upgrade.
6. Use Solid-State Drives
A solid-state drive (SSD) is a quick way to increase render speed in After Effects (and the speed of your computer in general). With an SSD, After Effects will be able to load media assets much faster.
For the fastest render times, Puget Systems actually recommends using three SSDs, as opposed to just having one large SSD.
Use one SSD for your operating system, a second SSD for your media footage, and a third SSD dedicated to just the media cache.
7. Clean up Compositions
Just because you can’t see a layer inside your composition window doesn’t mean your CPU and GPU aren’t rendering it.
So, before you send your composition to the render queue, make sure you delete or trim any unused layers inside your composition.
The same goes for any 3D layers in your project that might be off-screen. Trim 3D layers so that they’re only the length they need to be, which is when they’re visible on screen.
8. Be Selective with Effects
Not all effects are created equal. Some take a lot more time than others to render. To speed up render times, you need to be aware of these effects. Effects with GPU support will render the fastest.
Check out After Effects complete Effect List to see which effects have GPU support. (Make sure you have GPU Acceleration turned on!)
Two effects that notably take a long time to render are Camera Lens Blur and Cartoon. So avoid those if you’re short on time!
9. Turn off Motion Blur, Depth of Field, & 3D (If Unnecessary)
When it comes to increasing your render speed in After Effects, you need to ask yourself, “Is this setting essential for my video?” Often, you can toggle unused settings off to make your renders much faster.
For example, if all of your layers don’t need Motion Blur, you don’t have to turn it on for every layer (or on any).
If you’re using a 3D camera, make sure Depth of Field isn’t accidentally enabled if you don’t need it.
Also, if you can animate a layer to meet your needs in 2D space, do that instead of making everything a 3D layer—3D layers take longer to render.
10. Apply Effects to Adjustment Layers (Above Your Footage)
If the footage you’re working with is larger than your comp size, such as 4K footage in a 1080p composition, you can speed up your renders by applying effects to Adjustment layers.
Just create an Adjustment layer above your footage and apply the effect you need.
Why is this faster? When you scale down footage to fit in a smaller comp size, After Effects still applies effects to the entire media clip at the original size.
This means that effects applied to 4K footage in a 1080p composition will still render as if they are 4K, which can tank render times!
11. Close Other Programs
This one may seem obvious, but it can be easy to forget when using the Adobe Dynamic Link. Make sure you close out all other programs before your render. This will free up more space for your CPU and GPU to run After Effects.
12. Render in After Effects (Not Media Encoder)
If possible, render directly in After Effects, and don’t queue your projects to render in Media Encoder. You may be tempted to export a project to Media Encoder directly, but Media Encoder is prone to many render errors and slowdowns.
It may seem more convenient because Media Encoder can export to more codecs. However, having to re-render a project multiple times because of an error won’t be. It’s better to export your project from After Effects and transcode that file to another format in Media Encoder afterward.
13. Close the Composition Preview Window
In After Effects, one thing that can help speed things up is closing the Composition Preview window before rendering. This can be helpful if your project is frequently crashing during renders, or in a higher resolution like 4K.
14. Update After Effects
While each update to After Effects may not seem revolutionary, Adobe constantly tries to make After Effects faster and more optimized. Every update includes bug fixes and stability improvements.
It’s essential to install the latest version of After Effects available from the Creative Cloud app. (This doesn’t apply to beta builds of After Effects. They can be more unstable because they’re still in development.)
Bonus: More Improvements
Suppose you’re looking for more ways to optimize After Effects, dive into Adobe’s After Effects Guide to Improve Performance.
Also, if you need some workflow tips that can help you stay organized in After Effects, check out:
For more After Effects tips, tricks, and fun, check out these articles: