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14 Tips for Faster Rendering in After Effects

Caleb Ward

Speed up your rendering times in After Effects with these quick tips.

Rendering is an annoying (but unavoidable) aspect of the motion graphics process. However there are a few steps you can take to make your After Effects renders as fast as possible.

1. Use the Right Graphics Card

After Effects is an incredibly intense program for your graphics card (no surprise, right?) And while there may be hundreds of graphics cards available for your computer, only a few are recommended by Adobe to run After Effects. Adobe specifically recommends certain GeForce, Quadro, and Tesla cards. You can find the full list on the system requirements page on Adobe’s website. If you’re using a sub-par card, you’ll likely see an instant render speed increase when you switch.

2. Upgrade Your RAM

Random Accesss Memory

If you work day in and day out in After Effects then upgrading your RAM is the way to go. Adobe recommends at least 4GB of RAM to run After Effects, but you’ll benefit from much more than that. It’s not uncommon for professional AE users to have 32GB of RAM or more.

3. Use a Solid-State Drive

SSD

A solid state drive is a quick way to increase not only rendering speed in After Effects, but also the overall speed of your computer in general. If you purchased your internal or external hard drive for less than $100 it’s time for an upgrade. With a solid state drive After Effects will be able to load assets, reference the cache, and load effects much faster….all leading to reduced render times.

4. Use Two Hard Drives

Multiple Hard Drives

When you render your footage to the same hard-drive your project is saved on, you are forcing that hard-drive to perform two operations simultaneously: read and write. While this doesn’t lead to render times that are twice as slow, it does lead to reduced render times. Instead, try using one hard drive to run the program with assets and another hard drive to render the finished video.

5. Turn On Multiprocessing

After Effects has the hand ability to render out multiple frames at the same time using multiple processing cores. By default, multiprocessing isn’t turned on in After Effects, you have to do it by hand. To do so navigate to After Effects>Preferences>Memory & Multiprocessing. A screen that looks like this will pop up:

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Simply click the check box next to ‘Render Multiple Frames Simultaneously’ and adjust the settings to your liking.

6. Reduce Pre-Comps

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Pre-comps are a funny business inside of After Effects. When it comes to creating an organized and convenient workflow in After Effects, pre-comps are a extremely efficient. However, pre-comps aren’t always best when it comes to creating fast render times. This is because pre-comps require pixel information to pass through multiple compositions before rendering to your hard drive.

7. Clean up your Compositions

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Just because you can’t see a layer inside your composition doesn’t mean it isn’t being rendered by your CPU. So before you send your composition to the render queue make sure you delete/trim any unused layers inside your composition.

8. Trim Layers Off-Screen

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Files that are actually out of the video frame will still take a toll on the rendering time, especially if you are using 3D cameras. If your goal is to optimize render times you need to use the trim feature (option + [ or ]) to trim your layers up to the exact frame that they will be used in your composition.

9. Turn off Ray-Traced 3D

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Ray-Traced 3D layers was one of the coolest features introduced into After Effects in CS6 – finally a way to create 3D models directly in After Effects! This excitement was short-lived though, as Ray tracing takes way to long to be practical for everyday use. Make sure your composition is set to Classic 3D instead of Ray-Traced 3D before you render. If you don’t you will see your render time increase by at least double.

10. Close Other Programs

It can be easy to forget, especially when using the Adobe Dynamic Link, but before you render a composition in After Effects you need close out all the unused programs running on your computer. This will free up space for your CPU to run After Effects.

11. Choose the Right Codec

Codec

Less compressed codecs like MOV take longer to render in After Effects than smaller codecs like H.264 or ProRes. It’s important to ask yourself what your video will be used for once it’s done. Will it be on TV or simply embedded on the web? If it’s going online, chances are it’s going to be incredibly compressed anyways. So maybe you don’t need to export your video as lossless?

12. Turn Off Motion Blur, Depth of Field, & 3D if Unnecessary

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When it comes down to increasing your render speed in After Effects you need to ask yourself, “will this feature be used in my video?” Often you can toggle unused features off to make your render times much faster. For example, if you don’t need your layers to have motion blur you can toggle the motion graphics button to off. If you have a 3D camera do you really need to have depth of field or are you trying to get a 2D flat look? If your layers are set to 3D is it for a good reason? Could you simulate 3D by scaling down your objects and moving them in 2D space?

13. Be Selective with Effects

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Not all effects are created equal. Some take more time than others to render. To speed up render times you need to become very selective about the effects you use. Most effects have been optimized to render across multiple threads on your CPU, but there are a few that will only allow After Effects to use one thread at a time. If an effect only uses one thread it will take much more time to render. These effects are:

  • Auto Color
  • Auto Contrast
  • Auto Levels
  • Cartoon
  • Lens Blur
  • Particle Playground
  • Shadow/Highlight

This list of effects was created by Edward Korcheg from Template Monster.

14. Newest Version of AE

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While each update to After Effects may not seem revolutionary, Adobe is constantly trying to make After Effects faster and more optimized for users. It is important to install the latest version of After Effects available to you. Sure, back in the day it was a large financial commitment to purchase each Creative Suite update as they would be released, but now that the Creative Cloud is prevalent you should always have the latest update.

Bonus: Use Media Encoder to Export Compositions

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One of the biggest problems with using the render queue in After Effects is the fact that you can’t do anything else while rendering. However, this is a “hack” that you can use to render AE compositions and still work on another project, using Adobe Media Encoder. Simply import your AE project into Media Encoder and you will be able to select which composition you wish to export. Because this doesn’t go directly through After Effects you will be able to work on other projects during this process.

Know of any other ways to improve render speeds in After Effects? Share in the comments below.