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Dale PaquetteComputer Question
by on Dec 21, 2010 at 12:45:34 pm

I run AE CS5 on a Dell XPS 625 with Win 7 Pro 64-bit and 8 G RAM. The card is an NVIDIA GeForce 8800. Much of what I try to do gets horribly bogged down in rendering. The PC is what it is - a bigger better faster one is not in the foreseeable future (for financial reasons). I am hesitant to open the PC up and start big time mods like a new processor board, etc. that has perhaps 8 cores, faster clock, lots more RAM. (I'm really not into computer hardware). So, I'm looking for an alternative if there is one. Could I significantly improve render times with a different video card? What might be recommended that will cost less than a new PC? Is there any such thing as a separate "box" that can be hooked up (USB?) to take part of the load? Any ideas would be appreciated. Thanks, Dale

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Michael SzalapskiRe: Computer Question
by on Dec 21, 2010 at 2:35:51 pm

Dale, you look very pretty in your avatar.
This page covers improving AE's performance:

This post covers performance too:

AE does very little with the video card. Upgrading it will not help AE. You don't say what kind of processor your computer has, perhaps more RAM would help you. It's a fairly easy upgrade to do yourself, just don't touch the copper bits. :)

Hope this helps.

- 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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Dale PaquetteRe: Computer Question
by on Dec 21, 2010 at 3:35:28 pm

I'll have to check out my avatar!!

Your response helps somewhat as I am (was) unaware of how AE uses RAM. That said, I have a quad core Intel of some kind with a 2.3 G clock. The processor board in the tower is such that at most 8 G of RAM can be plugged in and that's what I have. I was hoping that there was some reasonable way to perhaps network the rendering function to another dedicated box (presumably costing way less than a full up PC) such that between the PC and the black box there would be an improvement. Another possibility is to replace the processor board with one that takes more RAM but then I don't know about power and cooling capacity, and would have to deal with installing all the software again. Anyway, I'll keep poking at it and will read the other material suggested.


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Walter SoykaRe: Computer Question
by on Dec 22, 2010 at 8:11:04 pm

[Dale Paquette] "I was hoping that there was some reasonable way to perhaps network the rendering function to another dedicated box (presumably costing way less than a full up PC) such that between the PC and the black box there would be an improvement."

Unfortunately, there is no such thing. After Effects renders on the CPU (without GPU acceleration), so the only way to get faster renders of the same pixels is to throw more CPU power at the render. Multiprocessing speeds renders by launching multiple instances of the AE renderer at the same time, each one essentially running on its own CPU core, but they each require their own RAM, plus some overhead for the operating system and other applications. You might get away with 8GB of RAM, but it's pretty easy to max that out. For a quad-core system, I'd aim for 16 GB (or perhaps 12 GB for triple-channel memory systems).

Michael, thanks for linking to one of my posts on performance. Even if you can't change your system, you might be able to tweak your workflow. These tips are mostly about some tradeoffs you can make while you work between quality and speed, although proxies and pre-renders can help with final render times as well.

Here's one of my previous posts on workflow, updated with CS5 help system links:
If you're used to working with SD or even HD comps on modern computers, the render times for larger comps can be stunning. I frequently work with large comp sizes (4K and up), and I've found it's very helpful to adapt my workflow a bit to stay productive despite the lengthy render times.

There's an outstanding page on Improving performance in the After Effects help system, which includes all the features I'll mention below and many others.

Here are some After Effects features—some common, some often-overlooked—that I rely on when working with larger comps:

Multiprocessing: if you have a multi-core system and at least 2-4 GB of RAM per core, you can enable multiprocessing. After Effects will launch multiple copies of its renderer to processing multiple frames simultaneously.

Zoom and resolution: these go hand-in-hand. You can reduce your preview resolution to save processing time and RAM.

Caps Lock: when on, Caps Lock disables rendering for preview.

Draft 3D, frame blending, and motion blur: toggle these to speed up previews. For render, you'll probably want Draft 3D off, and frame blending and motion blur on, but they are all render-intensive, so you can save time by toggling them for working and preview.

Proxies and pre-rendering: allow you to render out a complex pre-comp, save it to disk, and refer to the footage on disk instead of re-rendering. Once I get a pre-comp working well, I'll proxy it so I don't have to continually re-render it during previews while working on other elements. You can use proxies with a wide variety of settings: simple stills, draft-quality renders, or high-quality renders. If you use proxies instead of pre-renders, make sure you change your render settings in the render queue to use proxies.

Region of Interest: allows you to select a smaller section of the comp to preview; saves on processing time and RAM usage.

Shift-RAM preview: allows you to choose different setting for RAM preview (0 on the numeric keypad) and Shift-RAM preview (Shift-0 on the numeric keypad). I use regular RAM preview for high quality previews so I can see detail in my work, but I use Shift-RAM preview at quarter or eighth resolution, skipping at least every other frame, so I can quickly see the overall effect.

Walter Soyka
Principal & Designer at Keen Live
Motion Graphics, Widescreen Events, Presentation Design, and Consulting
RenderBreak Blog - What I'm thinking when my workstation's thinking
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