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Performance Enhancement!

Save time in After Effects with Nucleo By Ko Maruyama
By now youve had time to play around with Adobe After Effects 7. What you may not know is that there is a powerful new plug-in by GridIron Software ( called Nucleo that dramatically reduces render and preview times for After Effects on multi-processor computers. And for just $150 bucks youll be able to .

I'm currently using Nucleo on a massive HD project, and will come back with updates on my progress, but with the recent release of version 1.0.5 which addresses some bugs and enhancements, this tool really makes a difference on a per-machine basis and allows for dramatic production improvements.

Previous CPU Usage vs. After Nucleo

Of course, I'm not the only one who thinks Nucleo is a great investment.  Other comments on Nucleo's site include:

"We are committed to ensuring film and video professionals maximize their productivity, said Simon Hayhurst, director of product management for Web and Video at Adobe. ?The combination of GridIron Nucleo and Adobe After Effects 7.0 allows users to accelerate After Effects, without having to make changes to their pipeline."

"Who doesn't want After Effects to be faster? Nucleo is a no-brainer for anyone with multiple processors or cores."
Stu Maschwitz, CTO and Co-Founder of The Orphanage

I've evaluated lots of options for accelerating Adobe After Effects, and nothing else I've seen comes close to Nucleo, in terms of value, ease-of-use, and especially results.
Brian Maffitt, Chief Creative Officer at Total Training, Inc.

Nuts & Bolts

Ok, so how does it work? Nucleo allows After Effects (6.5 and 7) as well as all third party plugins to get the most of the latest in processor design from companies such as Intel, AMD, and Apple. Simply install Nucleo into the plugins directory of Adobe After Effects, and you're done.

You'll have to register the plugin to get rid of the watermarking, but you can demo the enhancements before purchasing it.  Although the website download asks for  a serial number, one installer can work across all of your machines, but you'll need the separate licenses to remove the watermark.

Tips & Tricks

Performance gains are dependant on various factors. To get the most bang for your buck, try these three tips:

1. Multiple CPU Workstation
Single CPU's with just "hyperthreading" are not true multi-CPU chips. Hyperthreading attempts to use an additional "logical" processor within the single "physical" CPU. If using only a single CPU with HT technology, limit your use of Nucleo to only image sequences or RAM, Shift-RAM or Spacebar previews.

Nucleo uses a lot of RAM above and beyond the After Effects requirement. The more RAM the merrier. Keep in mind that Windows XP (32 bit) can only handle a 3GB maximum. If you add more RAM than 4GB to Win XP, there is a chance that Windows XP will become unstable.  On the flip side, Mac OS X and Windows XP (64 bit) are not limited in how much RAM you can use (although AE is only going to recognize 4GB by itself).

3. A Fast Disk
Its better to store your projects on a striped RAID or Network Device (SAN, NAS or File Server) rather than your local disk drive. If you absolutely must write to your local disk, stick to movie renders or RAM previews. Image Sequence renders with Nucleo can often overload a local system drive, causing a significant slowdown.

4. Talk about it
Of course, if you're in a studio with other artists using Nucleo like I am, you can pool resources and talk about different solutions to problems, and other tips/tricks.  However, if you're one person on one machine (which is where Nucleo excels), you can find support and posted resource information on the forums both in DMN's After Effects forum as well as on GridIron's own message board at

5. EPS files currently may SLOW DOWN Nucleo's effectiveness.
I'm not sure what it is about Nucleo (I know right now it has to create a proxy for the EPS, but why I don't know) - but if you're in the habit of using EPS files, including Illustrator artwork, you can sometimes get BETTER performance by turning Nucleo off.  This is a little frustrating sometimes, but because Nucleo is so easy to Enable/Disable, you'll find that the extra step of occasionally clicking the button is nothing compared to the huge time gap you'll jump when you render bitmap images.

Rules of Thumb

To determine if Nucleo will provide a performance boost, open the CPU monitor on your workstation (Activity Monitor on Mac OS X or Task Manager on Windows) next time you render or preview with After Effects and take note of your CPU activity. If your CPU's are not being fully utilized, and the project has complex rendering to complete, then Nucleo will provide a performance gain. If your CPU's are fully used without using Nucleo, then Nucleo won't provide any performance gain.

Also, Nucleo is making the most out of your machine.... using all it can.  Greedy is good when you want it to max out CPU use for After Effects only.  However, if you find yourself bouncing back and forth between Photoshop, or CINEMA 4D, Illustrator or other and After Effects, you'll probably want to change your settings within the Nucleo controller to allow the CPU to give up some power to the other applications.

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Ko Maruyama is a freelance animator in Los Angeles.  In addition to working on film and broadcast animations, Ko teaches at Pasadena's Art Center College of Design - focusing on motion design.  When working, writing or testing software allows, you can find him lending a hand in the After Effects board and lurking among the Cinema4D, Visual Effects and Photoshop posts within the DMNForums.
Related Keywords:After Effects, Nucleo GridIron, ko maruyama


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