Optimizing After Effects for the Best Performance

August 15, 2013

By Michele Yamazak, Toolfarm

Optimizing AE


If you’ve been using Adobe After Effects since early versions, as I have, you are familiar with the idea of optimizing your machine and settings for premium performance. Here are some tips and resources to help you create the fastest and most solid After Effects you can. If you don’t have a big budget for optimizing your system, where do you put the money for upgrades? That’s for you to decide, but here are some suggestions on how to optimize what you have, and about other ways to optimize. If this article can’t help you with the speed of After Effects, it will hopefully explain why things aren’t running as fast as you would like them to.

I will be the first to admit that I don’t really follow hardware and technical specs. It makes my brain go numb. I’ll try to make this all as non-technical as possible. This article is more of a collection great resources and embedded videos on the topic.

Here’s a short list of things you can do to speed up AE:

  • Update software and plug-ins
  • Update graphics card drivers
  • If you don’t have an NVIDIA card with CUDA, get one (if your system can be upgraded)
  • Put as much RAM into your machine as possible
  • Enable disk cache to speed up playback and put the cache on an external SSD Drive

I go into more detail below, of course, but as a disclaimer, this article doesn’t cover EVERYTHING.

Update Software and Plug-ins

The first and easiest thing you can do to speed up After Effects is to update software and plug-ins.

Install the newest version of After Effects

The engineers at Adobe are constantly tweaking the software to speed things up. Make sure that you have the latest dot update for bug fixes, new features and speed enhancements.

To install updates, choose Help > Updates.

That said, if your computer will not run the latest operating system, this may not be an option for you. Always check system requirements first!

Keep your plug-ins up to date

The same goes for plug-ins. At Toolfarm, we keep meticulous track of plug-in updates. You can check on our downloads page for the latest updates or go directly to the Vendor’s site. Again, always check system requirements. If you’re running an older version of AE or an older operating system, some plug-ins may not work. Noise Industries FxFactory and FxPacks are a great example of plug-ins that will not work in older systems, however, they make older versions of their plug-ins available to customers. Older versions of Red Giant Magic Bullet Looks and Digieffects Delirium ran MUCH slower and they’ve done a great job at speeding them up.

If you’re an Adobe CC user, check out In Depth: Plug-ins Adobe After Effects CC and Premiere Pro CC to see if there are new installers for your plug-ins for Adobe CC.

Graphics Card (CUDA, OpenGL)

If you want the best card for working in AE you’ll want an NVIDIA card with CUDA, but it’s not necessary.

There are 3 Levels of Feature support:

  1. To use GPU-accelerated ray-traced 3D renderer you will need CUDA on specific graphics cards.
  2. To use Fast Draft mode, Hardware BlitPipe, and GPU acceleration of Cartoon effect requires OpenGL 2.0 or higher (with Shader Model 4.0 or higher on Windows), and at least 256MB of texture memory
  3. For OpenGL swap buffer, OpenGL 1.5 or higher with Shader Model 3.0 or higher is required.

Why ray-traced 3D?

The ray-traced 3D feature was introduced in After Effects CS6 and is a computationally intensive feature, hence the need for a specific graphics card to accelerate it. It allows for accurate reflections, shadows and more in 3D.

To View the rest of this fine article, along with several video examples, please click here or below.

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