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Very slow render in an After Effects file with layered PSD's

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Jonan Grobler
Very slow render in an After Effects file with layered PSD's
on Jun 11, 2014 at 9:15:55 am

Hi there to all you fine folk!

I'd like to start out by noting that I have been working in After Effects for a number of years now - it's solely how I make a living, so I have a pretty good knowledge of After Effects.

Basically, this is the second time I have received layered PSD files from the client - about 50 of them, which I take into After Effects and animate very simple. There are photos which pan and zoom, and text which slides on. Not very intensive stuff.

Yet when I render out, both projects have taken over 10 hours to render out.

I'm working in After Effects CS5.5, and rendering out as an H.264 .mp4 file. I've tried rendering on two other computers, Windows and OSX, and I get the same result. I've done a lot of searching, but I don't find anyone else specifically mentioning a problem with psd files. I'd imagine as they're both Adobe files, it should be quite compatible?

I've even tried the secret settings (purging frames) in the desperate hope that it might change something, even though it's not for the problem I'm experiencing.

Has anyone else experienced a problem with .psd files? I would love some insight into this.

Jonan Grobler
Editor/Motion Graphics


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Michael Szalapski
Re: Very slow render in an After Effects file with layered PSD's
on Jun 11, 2014 at 1:18:15 pm

Are there some layers in the PSD file that are especially large? I've seen issues where not all of the layers have been cropped and they extend WAY beyond the boundaries.

Also, you shouldn't render h.264 directly out of After Effects. Among other reasons, AE can't do multipass encoding. I render an intermediate file out of AE and use the Adobe Media Encoder to create my final deliverables.

- The Great Szalam
(The 'Great' stands for 'Not So Great, in fact, Extremely Humble')

No trees were harmed in the creation of this message, but several thousand electrons were mildly inconvenienced.


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Jonan Grobler
Re: Very slow render in an After Effects file with layered PSD's
on Jun 11, 2014 at 1:28:19 pm

Michael - when the psd's are imported into AE, they don't extend very far beyond the 1920x1080 borders of the comp I'm working in. When AE exports, does it go to the original psd files and work through them? Or how does it work?

Is there a reason I should not export h.264 from after effects other than for quality reasons? ie is it slower than exporting a jpeg sequence or lossless or whatever it is you use?

Jonan Grobler
Editor/Motion Graphics


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Michael Szalapski
Re: Very slow render in an After Effects file with layered PSD's
on Jun 11, 2014 at 1:34:27 pm

[Jonan Grobler] "Michael - when the psd's are imported into AE, they don't extend very far beyond the 1920x1080 borders of the comp I'm working in. When AE exports, does it go to the original psd files and work through them? Or how does it work?

Is there a reason I should not export h.264 from after effects other than for quality reasons? ie is it slower than exporting a jpeg sequence or lossless or whatever it is you use?"


AE always uses the assets when it's rendering.

QuickTime with the PNG codec does tend to render faster than h.264 does also, I like having a lossless file for trying out different compression settings to get the right balance of file size and quality without having to re-render my After Effects composition each time. Alternatively, for long renders, you could render to an image sequence so that, if there's a crash, you can pick up rendering where it left off.

- The Great Szalam
(The 'Great' stands for 'Not So Great, in fact, Extremely Humble')

No trees were harmed in the creation of this message, but several thousand electrons were mildly inconvenienced.


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Jonan Grobler
Re: Very slow render in an After Effects file with layered PSD's
on Jun 11, 2014 at 1:38:28 pm

Thing is, the psd files are 1920x1080 themselves, so is there something about the jpeg file nested in the psd not being properly scaled down?

I mean, I know the person I work for imports images from iStockphoto into Photoshop and arranges everything in there. WHat can I do to make the image ACTUALLY be 1920x1080?

Oh, and thanks a bunch by the way. :) Trying to figure this out!

Jonan Grobler
Editor/Motion Graphics


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Walter Soyka
Re: Very slow render in an After Effects file with layered PSD's
on Jun 11, 2014 at 2:47:52 pm

A few other potential speed-killers:

You're accidentally using the raytracing renderer instead of the classic 3D renderer. Open up Comp Settings (Ctrl+K), click the Advanced tab and confirm that the renderer is correct.

Depth-of-field enabled for a camera. This can look great, but calculating realistic camera lens blur is slow.

Motion blur. Again, this looks great, but requires Ae to calculate frames between the frames, increasing render time.

Temporal effects. Effects like Echo require Ae to render and composite multiple frames behind-the-scenes for every frame rendered to the comp viewer or output.

Project bit depth. Rendering at 16bpc gives more precision than rendering at 8bpc, and rendering at 32bpc gives more precision still as well as avoiding clipping between effects and layers, but these also increase RAM usage dramatically, which can in turn significantly slow rendering.

Walter Soyka
Designer & Mad Scientist at Keen Live [link]
Motion Graphics, Widescreen Events, Presentation Design, and Consulting
@keenlive [twitter]   |   RenderBreak [blog]   |   Profile [LinkedIn]


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Joseph W. Bourke
Re: Very slow render in an After Effects file with layered PSD's
on Jun 11, 2014 at 1:19:54 pm

I think the key issue here is what size the PSD files are, both in pixels and MBs. It may be that the size of the files is overkill for the size of the final output from AE. You want to tread a fine line between the images maintaining their detail, and having so much detail that it doesn't matter, and bogs down AE.

Joe Bourke
Owner/Creative Director
Bourke Media
http://www.bourkemedia.com


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Jonan Grobler
Re: Very slow render in an After Effects file with layered PSD's
on Jun 11, 2014 at 1:32:23 pm

Hi Joe - the psds average around 30-40 mb's. Pretty crazy, I know.

However, all the psd's are set to 1920x108o, so the res isn't crazy or anything. Maybe embedded photos in Photoshop are not actually scaled down? And if so, how could I fix that?

Jonan Grobler
Editor/Motion Graphics


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Walter Soyka
Re: Very slow render in an After Effects file with layered PSD's
on Jun 11, 2014 at 1:26:35 pm

In addition to the questions posed by Michael and Joseph, I'd ask what your computer specs and multiprocessing settings are.

Walter Soyka
Designer & Mad Scientist at Keen Live [link]
Motion Graphics, Widescreen Events, Presentation Design, and Consulting
@keenlive [twitter]   |   RenderBreak [blog]   |   Profile [LinkedIn]


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Jonan Grobler
Re: Very slow render in an After Effects file with layered PSD's
on Jun 11, 2014 at 1:34:55 pm

My machine is Windows 8 - 8 GBs of RAM - i5 2.53 GHz

Not that useful if I were rendering out 3D projects or working with lots of particles, but I don't. My work consists of photo slideshows and animating Illustrator files, all of which my machine easily handles. Seeing as this project is also just photos - PSDs - nothing fancy - I thought it should be fine.

Jonan Grobler
Editor/Motion Graphics


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Michael Szalapski
Re: Very slow render in an After Effects file with layered PSD's
on Jun 11, 2014 at 1:49:55 pm

You can look for layers that are "smart objects" in the PSD and rasterize them.

Also, make sure you crop your PSD file. Just select the whole 1920x1080 area and Edit>Crop (or Image>Crop, I can't remember).

- The Great Szalam
(The 'Great' stands for 'Not So Great, in fact, Extremely Humble')

No trees were harmed in the creation of this message, but several thousand electrons were mildly inconvenienced.


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Walter Soyka
Re: Very slow render in an After Effects file with layered PSD's
on Jun 11, 2014 at 2:37:31 pm

[Jonan Grobler] "My machine is Windows 8 - 8 GBs of RAM - i5 2.53 GHz"

If you have multiprocessing enabled, you should turn it off.

Edit > Preferences > Memory & Multiprocessing

Walter Soyka
Designer & Mad Scientist at Keen Live [link]
Motion Graphics, Widescreen Events, Presentation Design, and Consulting
@keenlive [twitter]   |   RenderBreak [blog]   |   Profile [LinkedIn]


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Jonan Grobler
Re: Very slow render in an After Effects file with layered PSD's
on Jun 11, 2014 at 2:39:13 pm

Yeah, it is off. Thanks everyone, you've been very helpful.

Jonan Grobler
Editor/Motion Graphics


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Thomas Leong
Re: Very slow render in an After Effects file with layered PSD's
on Jun 11, 2014 at 6:23:40 pm
Last Edited By Thomas Leong on Jun 11, 2014 at 7:21:35 pm

Apart from what the others have advised, I have one question: What is the duration of each comp/resultant video? Reducing the duration and using the playback software to loop the animations will help reduce your render times.

My own experience:
A few months ago, I had a similar assignment - animate 11 psd layered files to be used as backgrounds for a ballroom function. Each psd file was 20,250 pixels width x 4800 pixels height, sizes ranging from 150 - 350MB. Humongous!! My comp for each was 4096 x 1080 (for a panoramic screen covered by 3 x 20K lumens projectors). I had 1 week to complete the job.

Given the above, I made my comp durations at 4 secs each, and used the playback software loop the animations (Dataton Watchout software), carefully keyframing the animated parts so that jerks were not obvious at the loop points (end and start of each animation). The shortest comp I had was 2 secs...and that took 2 hours to render. Surprisngly, the 4-sec comps rendered in about 1 minute - yep, ONE minute for a 4096x1080 H264 file from 20,250 x 4800 psd files, straight out of After Effects, no intermediate codecs. Initially, I made the mistake of reducing the psd resolutions to 4096 x 1080 BEFORE importing into the AE comp. The resultant rendered videos were horrible - jagged edges, obviously grainy, etc. So I had to use the original psd files at their original sizes in order to get quality output. CTRL-ALT-F was used to fit the psd to the comp, and that maintained the quality in the final renders.

The Trapcode plug-ins I have render fast, so I used mainly Shine and Starglow effects with AE's text position and scale effects to minimize render times. I'm on After Effects 7 (never upgraded since I hardly do this work any more, and my Trapcode effects were bought during those early release days). My render PC, however, was new - slightly overclocked i7 4770K to 4GHz with closed loop water cooling with a 240mm radiator, 16K RAM (now 32K), Windows 7 Pro 64-bit, OS and applications on an Intel SSD, two disk RAID 0 with 7200rpm hdd for data and AE cache, ASUS HD7970 Matrix Platinum graphics card, etc.

Thomas Leong



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Jonan Grobler
Re: Very slow render in an After Effects file with layered PSD's
on Jun 12, 2014 at 8:49:56 am

Wow, I'm glad I did not have to work on a project with those resolutions. Your machine is a lot more powerful than mine, however.

Unfortunately, my animations are not set up in a way to allow them to loop. It's one smooth zoom/pan type thing. Good idea, though.

Jonan Grobler
Editor/Motion Graphics


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Jeff Kay
Re: Very slow render in an After Effects file with layered PSD's
on Jun 13, 2014 at 1:58:50 am

Might be late to the party, but I think the two things Michael pointed out are going to be by far the biggest time increases.

Export an intermediary from AE and then encode in Media Encoder (or preferred encoder program). I can safely say that creating the intermediary and then encoding is significantly faster than a direct export from AE (also you still have the intermediary if you need other encodes created). At this point I believe that there are only two different types to export from AE, either raw avi or PNG sequence. This is basically how I export from AVID, except its a DNxHD transcode rather than raw.

Absolutely check for "smart objects" in the PSD's, those can behave awfully funky with certain commands/use (certain things can't be done directly with smart objects). AE handles rasterized layers far better and its possible that AE is converting the smart objects every frame. If you aren't using the individual layers in AE, then you could get rid of those as well. Should be able to just save over the existing PSD files (manually or batch), then in AE select all of the PSD files and hit "reload". That should work, though if anything happens, just close AE and replace the newly saved files with the originals and it will revert. If you don't like the idea of messing around with the linked media itself, then you could always just re-import all of the PSD's as footage rather than layered PSD (or import the modified PSD's) and then replace each in your comp.

Do those two things and the render time should be cut significantly.


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