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Behind the hood of After Effects CS4

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Nathan Grout
Behind the hood of After Effects CS4
on Apr 15, 2011 at 5:42:48 pm

First, setup information: I am running Adobe After Effects CS4 version 9.0.3.8 on OS X version 10.6.7 on a current generation Mac Pro. I have my home folder on an internal RAID and everything else on a separate hard drive, in preparation for an upcoming upgrade to an SSD. I have my disc cache set to be in a folder on my RAID.

My question is where After Effects writes files during a render. I can render compositions with source media on the RAID to an output location on the RAID and still during renders my iStat menus show up to 70 MB/sec of write operations to the system hard drive. This is true when disk cache render settings are set to "Current Settings" or "Read Only."

So, does anyone know what's being written to the system hard drive? Does After Effects write to a system folder like /var/tmp/?

If this is covered in a forum thread that I've missed, please feel free to link it.


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Dave LaRonde
Re: Behind the hood of After Effects CS4
on Apr 15, 2011 at 6:31:42 pm

When AE is rendering out comps, it will write the file to any folder you specify.

Dave LaRonde
Sr. Promotion Producer
KCRG-TV (ABC) Cedar Rapids, IA


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Nathan Grout
Re: Behind the hood of After Effects CS4
on Apr 15, 2011 at 6:45:02 pm

I understand that, but I have not specified anything on the system drive. To quote my original post, "I have my disc cache set to be in a folder on my RAID" and I am rendering "compositions with source media on the RAID to an output location on the RAID." Why would AE need to write to my system drive when I have not specified any folder on the system drive for any part of the process?


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Walter Soyka
Re: Behind the hood of After Effects CS4
on Apr 15, 2011 at 6:50:38 pm

[Nathan Grout] "My question is where After Effects writes files during a render. I can render compositions with source media on the RAID to an output location on the RAID and still during renders my iStat menus show up to 70 MB/sec of write operations to the system hard drive. This is true when disk cache render settings are set to "Current Settings" or "Read Only.""

What's your RAM usage like? Does iStat show paging activity? My guess is that you are running out of RAM, and the OS is swapping RAM in and out to virtual memory.

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
Creative Cow Forum Host: Live & Stage Events


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Nathan Grout
Re: Behind the hood of After Effects CS4
on Apr 15, 2011 at 7:23:33 pm

I'm getting 2.1-2.4 GB of RAM for each of three aeselflink processes plus about 1.85 GB of RAM for the actual After Effects process. I don't know what those usage numbers suggest, but I like your guess. The System Memory tab of Activity Monitor is showing the VM size as 210+ GB, so maybe you're right.


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Kevin Camp
Re: Behind the hood of After Effects CS4
on Apr 15, 2011 at 8:32:44 pm

i don't know how much ram you have, but upping the ram allotment to 'other apps' in ae's memory settings can reduce the os disk caching.

Kevin Camp
Senior Designer
KCPQ, KMYQ & KRCW


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Nathan Grout
Re: Behind the hood of After Effects CS4
on Apr 15, 2011 at 8:38:14 pm

So, what's the way to determine the optimal ram settings for AE? I have 10 GB of ram, but if there was a general rule of thumb, I'd be glad to know it.


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Walter Soyka
Re: Behind the hood of After Effects CS4
on Apr 15, 2011 at 9:36:08 pm

[Nathan Grout] "So, what's the way to determine the optimal ram settings for AE?"

Experimentation. There is no single setting that will be best for all comps on all computers.

That said, Adobe has published some recommended memory settings for AE CS5 [link] -- this might be a good starting point for you on CS4 as well.

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
Creative Cow Forum Host: Live & Stage Events


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Nathan Grout
Re: Behind the hood of After Effects CS4
on Apr 15, 2011 at 9:55:17 pm

THANK YOU! This is improving my render performance significantly.


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Walter Soyka
Re: Behind the hood of After Effects CS4
on Apr 16, 2011 at 5:09:35 am

You're welcome -- I'm glad I was able to help a bit.

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
Creative Cow Forum Host: Live & Stage Events


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