APRIL 08, 2003
How To Double Your After Effects Render Speeds
Rendering on both processors with the AE Production Bundle
by David Nagel

Would you like to squeeze some extra juice out of Adobe After Effects? You can, if you have the AE Production Bundle and a dual-processor Macintosh G4. In fact, you can squeeze quite a bit of it. In our tip this week, I'll show you how to double your render speeds on any dual-processor machine with a fairly simple workaround that shouldn't be too much trouble to fit into your workflow.

Does this sound too good to be true? We've all seen the numbers, and we know that After Effects uses only about half of the potential power of a dual-processor machine, which is why, in comparison with a single-processor Intel machine, the Mac seems to lag behind quite a bit. But thanks to the extraordinary multitasking capabilities of Mac OS X, we can use the second processor as if it were a second computer running in a multi-machine environment. How? With a little thing Adobe likes to call the Render Engine.[an error occurred while processing this directive]Included with every After Effects Production Bundle is an unlimited license to install render-only versions of After Effects (known throughout the rest of this tutorial as "the Render Engine"). The purpose of this engine is to allow users to set up render farms to help speed up the render process. But it works even better in a single-machine setting, so long as this single machine has dual processors. How well does it work?

As you can see from the chart above, performance improvements vary widely, but they're all good. On longer renders, you'll see render times less than half of the standard render times, ranging in our tests from 45.46 percent to 52.4 percent. On shorter renders, where efficiencies aren't as apparent, you're still looking at 55.33 percent to 66.27 percent. Not too bad.

Setting up the Render Engine
So here's the concept. Instead of rendering using the standard "Make Movie" command, you're going to perform a multi-machine render on a single system, which means you'll need not only the primary After Effects program installed on your computer, but also the After Effects Render Engine. In actuality, you'll be running two applications at the same time for purposes of rendering them. The results will be rendered to an image sequence (which you're probably doing anyway, if you're using the production bundle), which you can then bring into your finishing environment or simply string together in QuickTime Pro or any other application (and there are many) that can compile image sequences into a single movie file.

1. I assume you already have your main After Effects application installed on your hard drive. So now insert your After Effects installation CD, launch the installer and click the "Render Engine" option, as show below. (Be sure you install plugins as well.)

2. When you're done, you'll also need to make sure you install any third-party plugins that you're using in your composition into your Render Engine's Plug-Ins folder. Most plugin licenses are offered on a per-machine basis, but check your license agreement to make sure that installing multiple copies on a single computer would not violate the terms of the license.

After all of these installations, it would probably be a good idea to restart your computer before using the software.

3. Now, on your Desktop (or wherever you'd like to place it), create a folder called "Watch Folder."

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