In this video tutorial, we’ll focus on some After Effects workflow tips to speed up how you work — and how to avoid render issues.
1. Apply Effects to Adjustment Layers Instead of Footage
You probably edit with 4K footage in a 1080p-sized composition. What you may not realize, though, is that if you apply an effect to 4K footage in a 1080p composition, After Effects actually renders the effect in 4K. This significantly slows down renders, and usually provides little to no visual difference (because the final composition is only 1080p). Save yourself some render time and add an adjustment layer directly above your footage, and apply your effects on the adjustment layer instead.
2. Copy and Paste Layers in the Same Order
Have you ever copied and pasted layers in After Effects, only to have them paste in reverse order? This is because After Effects is picky about which layers you select first when you copy and paste. To ensure your copied layers paste in the same order, always select your layers from the top down.
3. Quickly Center Anchor Points
You can quickly center anchor points on text and layers by selecting the Pan Behind Tool, and then holding CTRL (CMD on Mac) as you move the anchor point. This’ll cause the anchor point to snap to the direct center of the layer. You can also use this trick to center layers onto each other.
4. Effect Presets for Transform Settings
Most people don’t know that you can create effect presets using just transform settings keyframes. These can be quite useful for things like scaling and opacity animations. In my case, I created a scale “pop-in” preset. Just highlight your transform keyframes and then create a preset in the effects and presets panel.
5. Turn off the After Effects Home Screen
The After Effects home screen offers very little benefit, and it can be quite annoying to close out every time you open After Effects. To turn it off, navigate to Edit > Preferences > General. Near the lower-third, you’ll see the option to uncheck Enable Home Screen.
6. Create a New Project Template
You can have After Effects automatically open up a template you’ve created whenever you launch After Effects. This can save you time by not having to create the same folders over and over again. Navigate to Edit then Preferences, and then select New Project. Check on the option New Project Loads Template and select your template.
7. Disk Cache Settings
First, you can quickly purge your disk cache at any time by navigating to Edit > Purge > All Memory & Disk Cache. Next (if possible) make sure your disk cache is located on a SSD. To change where your disk cache saves, navigate to Edit > Preferences > Media & Disk Cache. You’ll see the option to choose a folder for the disk cache to save to.
8. Render in After Effects
If you’re rendering a project with a lot of third-party plugins and effects, or a 360° video, you’ll be better off rendering that project directly in After Effects instead of Adobe Media Encoder. Rendering a heavy project in Media Encoder only increases the chances for a render error. I’d recommend rendering out of After Effects to a format like QuickTime with the ProRes 422 codec. Then, you can always send that exported file to Media Encoder later if you need to.
9. Close the Composition Preview Window During Renders
This is a simple trick, but it can put less strain on your machine during renders. You can actually close the composition view when you’re rendering. This keeps After Effects from having to generate a live frame-by-frame preview as the render is happening.
10. Render a PNG Sequence if Your Render Keeps Failing
Nothing is more stressful than completing a project in After Effects, only to have the render continue to fail. It feels like your project is being held hostage by After Effects. However, if you render your project out as a PNG sequence, you’ll still save all the frames of your video that rendered before the crash. (Something that doesn’t happen on video file formats.) So, you can then restart your render from the last PNG frame rendered. This’ll typically allow you to render around whatever issue was snagging After Effects.
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