Render After Effects Projects Faster

We recently had a follower send us an email asking for ideas about why her After Effects project was taking sooo long to render. The length of the project was short, but the render times were long – at 3 hours plus. We aren’t exactly in the business of troubleshooting projects for others, but since we produce a fair amount of video game trailers in After Effects, and this particular victim was a close friend of the lab, we couldn’t help but share a few nuggets of wisdom for pepping up pokey render times.

Recent After Effects projects from Graphite Lab include game trailers for Zhu Zhu Pets DS, Agatha Christie’s ABC Murders DS, Dagedar DS and upcoming Big Time Rush Wii from GameMill Entertainment. Well, on to the solutions:

What resolution is the final product?

Full 1080p at 1920 x 1080 resolution will take a while to render for lower powered machines, and using the .h264 codec results in a very nice render, but takes longer to render than lower quality compressors. Try Quicktime Mp4 and 1,280×720 resolution if your machine is a bit weaker or if you don’t need the higher resolution. These settings look just as good on most devices and will save you some time.

How long is the project in seconds?

Sometimes layer caching can get in the way of a quick render and can occasionally stop a render outright by breaking memory capabilities of the machine/After Effects. If you are running into these issues, you can turn off Layer Caching in AE’s secret menu.

How much RAM does the machine have?

To find out, go to Start Menu > Right Click My Computer > Click Properties] If you have less than 2GB, get more. Most AE junkies recommend 4GB or more to run latest versions of After Effects smoothly. Check out the system requirements for After Effects CS6 from Adobe. You can also check out this great post about RAM and After Effects as well. /

Are you running any other programs while rendering?

On Windows machines, press Ctrl + Shift + Esc  to bring up your Task manager, then click the Processes tab to see actively running processes. Services like instant messengers, streaming music players, other software and active virus scans can all hog processor power that could otherwise be devoted to rendering power. Kill any process you don’t absolutely need to maximize your efforts.

Are you running any plugins or tools beyond default After Effects tools?

3rd party plugins and tools such as Particles, Color Correction, 3D , 3D lights among others all add to render times. Additionally, new developments in CS6 put more pressure on Graphics Cards, giving you more components to worry about on your way to getting low render times. Your project might appear simple, but if you’ve added a ton of effects and modifiers to your project those effects can compound and add to render times significantly. Try reducing or simplifying effects to get the right look, without the processor load.

How big are your source images?

If you are working from massive source files, you might be able to save some time my appropriately scaling the images before bringing them into After Effects. Files that are too big before they go into After Effects are still rendered based on their original size, then After Effects has to process the scaling. If you can optimize your file resolutions to be appropriate to the final sizes in your project you will be doing yourself a favor once it comes time to click render.

Know of more improvements?

Share them in the comments below!

By |2012-08-15T10:21:49+00:00August 15th, 2012|Game Development, Uncategorized|1 Comment

One Comment

  1. Matt September 24, 2012 at 10:02 am - Reply

    Just a quick note – we recently had a MAC severely lag after it had forced shut down due to low battery. When we plugged it in, and loaded it up the render was taking 10x longer than it should have. A system reboot solved the problem.

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