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How to Make Adobe® After Effects® Run Faster

If you work in After Effects with a slow computer, it can cause a lot of waiting. The program can be slow to start, even several minutes, and rendering can take even longer. 

Read here for more information about how much RAM your computer needs.

By maxing out your system’s memory and installing a solid state drive or two, you can dramatically speed up almost every step in your workflow. Don’t just take our word for it, though. Adobe recommends the same solution: here’s how to make After Effects faster and why it's worth it.

Experience faster After Effects

How more RAM and SSDs speed up After Effects

  • Boot up faster
  • Transfer images from camera to computer faster
  • Load After Effects and other applications faster
  • Load files faster and work more seamlessly within After Effects
  • Render and multiprocess faster
  • Save faster
  • Multitask faster

How to make Adobe After Effects render faster

Why more RAM and SSDs speed up After Effects

The role of memory in After Effects

Everyday actions that rely on memory: Creating motion graphics, applying effects, previewing files, real-time video playback, utilizing the RAM Preview and Global RAM Cache memory features, and running After Effects and other applications.

What Adobe says about the role of memory in After Effects: “If you plan to primarily run After Effects CC, then you will directly benefit from installing more RAM. Although the stated minimum is 4 GB of memory, if you plan on taking advantage of multiprocessing, you should consider installing as much as 48 GB for a 12-core system and 64 GB for a 16-core system (check with the manufacturer for optimal memory configurations to complement your CPU). You can install even more RAM for longer previews and Global RAM Cache memory, and to run other programs at the same time as After Effects.”1

Why memory is so important: Memory enables real-time video playback in After Effects, and it powers the RAM Preview and Global RAM Cache features that hold and recall frames and compositions from projects you’ve recently previewed. More memory means you can cache bigger frames for longer amounts of time and enhance video playback. Because After Effects is so memory-intensive, it’s easy to quickly run out of it when rendering large sequences, making an SSD even more important because you’ll often end up in virtual memory. When we rendered the small 14-second 3D model shown in our video, we discovered that this operation alone consumed over 50% of our available memory (16GB). And that was just to render a 14-second clip!

Another reason memory is critical is because it’s used to run the powerful multiprocessing feature available in After Effects. When you enable multiprocessing, After Effects duplicates itself, and each “copy” of the program processes individual frames for RAM previews and final renders. For each background process you enable, you should assign at least 4GB. So, if you end up using 16 physical CPU cores for multiprocessing previews and rendering, you’d need 64GB of RAM, though more RAM enables longer previews and more seamless multitasking and overall operation.

Multiprocessing isn’t just a RAM issue, though. Because the feature is so memory-intensive, it’s easy to quickly run out of physical memory, meaning you’ll often be dependent on the speed of your storage drive when your system has to dip into virtual memory. This is why we always recommend maxing out your RAM and using SSDs. You don’t want to increase the performance of After Effects with added memory to then reduce performance when the system has to rely on a slow HDD when using virtual memory.

A Crucial memory module

The role of storage in After Effects

Everyday actions that rely on storage: Rendering, compositing source files into memory, retaining frames in Disk Cache and Persistent Disk Cache modes for fast access, loading and reading source files, writing and outputting motion graphics files, booting up, and loading After Effects and other applications

What Adobe says about the role of storage in After Effects: “... Storage speed affects how fast sources can be read into memory to be composited, as well as how fast rendered frames can be rendered back to disk.... The speed of your cache drive directly affects how fast frames can be swapped between the RAM and disk caches, plus a faster cache drive means more frames are retained as opposed to re-rendered if needed.”1

Why an SSD is so important: The typical After Effects workload goes like this: Load the program and several source files. Convert the source files into memory. Work on the source files, then render them to disk cache for future playback and edits. Save files when work is complete. Then output and deliver them to your client. A solid state drive supercharges every step in this process, and based on our testing (detailed below), we found that users could complete a sample workflow 3x faster.* From loading the app to rendering and using After Effects’ Disk Cache mode, the SSD impact is so significant that you’ll likely want several big drives, which will allow you to store more raw frames and allocate as much storage as possible to Disk Cache and Persistent Disk Cache.

In terms of configuring your drives, we recommend at least two 1TB SSDs. One should serve as primary storage drive where the operating system, After Effects, and other applications reside. The other should store media and be designated as your Disk Cache drive. This is a critical and often overlooked step because when you end up in virtual memory (an everyday event), you don’t want After Effects to have to read and write to the same drive at the same time. When After Effects operates in virtual memory, it’s swapping data from RAM into storage (reading from the drive), while simultaneously trying to write to Disk Cache – a scenario that’ll really slow you down. The solution: prevent the problem in the first place.

Read more about the benefits of a solid state drive.

A crucial solid state drive

What our performance testing in After Effects revealed

While it’s well known that more memory and faster storage accelerate After Effects, we wanted to put theory to the test and quantify the impact. By testing four configurations of the same base system, we were able to isolate performance variables and assess how DRAM and SSDs impacted a fairly standard motion graphics project – rendering a 14-second 3D model. Before opening up After Effects and starting any rendering, we opened up six other applications because most motion graphics artists are constantly multitasking between project components, and we wanted to simulate real-world performance as closely as possible. While the system we tested was an older model that was capable of installing only 16GB of memory, it provided a good baseline to assess the role memory and storage plays in completing a sample workflow.

Task (all times in minutes:seconds)

4GB HDD

16GB HDD

4GB SSD

16GB SSD

Boot up

01:39

01:41

00:54

00:57

Open 6 applications*

23:29

07:19

02:12

01:40

Open After Effects file

06:08

01:41

00:37

00:38

Render 14-second 3D model

04:37

04:20

01:26

01:17

Clear cache

00:56

01:01

00:20

00:22

Totals

36:49

16:02

05:29

04:54

Component

Model

System

HP® Elitebook® 8460p

Processor

Intel® Core™ i5-2520M 2.50GHz

Memory

4GB Crucial® DDR-1333 (16GB max capacity)

Operating system

Microsoft® Windows® 7 Pro 64-bit

Hard drive

320GB 7200 RPM HGST Travelstar®

Solid state drive

1TB Crucial® MX200

BIOS

BIOS revision F06 (28 July 2011)

Software

Adobe® Creative Cloud®

How we did the testing: With the exception of the 4GB hard drive system, each configuration was tested three times and the numbers reported above are averages. We tested the 4GB hard drive configuration only one time because it was the base system configuration and had an unusually low amount of memory for design work – the test was for representational purposes only. All tests began with a fresh boot so that other factors and applications didn’t affect reported results. Only the files and applications that were used for testing were installed and stored on the drives. Testing was conducted in February 2016.
*The six applications we opened and had running in the background: Premiere® Pro, Photoshop®, Illustrator®, Acrobat Reader®, Microsoft® Word®, Outlook®

The results speak for themselves, yet likely underestimate just how much of a speed gain is possible. The reason? We didn’t use Disk Cache or multiprocessing features to help render our test 3D model, plus we rendered only a 14-second frame. When you render and work with bigger files, you consume more memory and you have to transfer more data back and forth, which is where the speed of a solid state drive kicks in. While we didn’t test beyond 16GB of RAM, we know from Adobe that more memory means you can do more before dipping into virtual memory. Because After Effects is so memory-intensive, we recommend as much DRAM as possible – typically 64GB – though the amount you install should match the intensity of your workload.

No matter what type of computer you’re using or what your workload entails, more memory and a solid state drive are proven ways to help speed up your workflow – especially when it comes to multitasking.

How much memory and storage do you need to multitask faster in After Effects?

Many motion graphics artists spend a lot of time multitasking between After Effects and other applications. Usually, it’s a necessity. Most projects require referencing client emails, plotting data to model, consulting project documentation, researching ideas online, and streaming music. If this sounds like you, you’ll benefit from maxing out your memory, because RAM is used to run all the applications you have open. It’s what makes multitasking possible. Keep in mind, though, that multitasking isn’t just about running multiple things at once. It’s also about starting multiple things at once, and that’s why an SSD helps, too.

Speed up After Effects by speeding up what powers it

Software enables digital design, but it’s your computer hardware that determines the speed of design. Max out your hardware’s performance by ensuring that every upgradeable component is performing as fast as possible. It’s not enough to just use a fast CPU. You need enough memory to continuously feed every processing core – and lots of solid state storage to instantly load and save everything you do. How fast you’re able to work hangs in the balance. Are you waiting on your system, or is it waiting on you?


1 From Adobe Hardware Performance White Paper: http://www.adobe.com/content/dam/Adobe/en/products/creativesuite/production/cs6/pdfs/adobe-hardware-performance-whitepaper.pdf


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