After Effects CS6 and later has many new and changed features that make use of the GPU (graphics processing unit) on your graphics card.
For a video explaining these GPU features and their requirements, see this:
“System Requirements for GPU Acceleration (OpenGL, CUDA)”
The GPU features in After Effects CS6 and later can be thought of in three categories:
- GPU-accelerated ray-traced 3D renderer (CUDA on specific graphics cards)
- Fast Draft mode, Hardware BlitPipe, and GPU acceleration of Cartoon effect (OpenGL with somewhat stringent requirements)
- OpenGL swap buffer (OpenGL with looser requirements)
IMPORTANT: A common misconception is that After Effects requires one of a specific set of Nvidia GPUs. That is not true. Only the GPU-accelerated ray-traced 3D renderer requires this. The other GPU features work on any GPU that meets certain basic requirements. See below for details.
One important point for users of previous versions of After Effects: The previous OpenGL renderer is gone. It was unreliable and problematic, and most people (rightly) turned it off except for OpenGL-Interactive mode. The OpenGL features in After Effects CS6 and later have been built fresh and do not attempt to solve the same problems as the previous OpenGL renderer. In other words, you no longer need to be scared by the appearance of the word ‘OpenGL’ as it relates to After Effects.
If you have questions, bring them to the After Effects forum; don’t ask in the comments on this blog post, which far fewer people will see.
GPU-accelerated ray-traced 3D renderer
After Effects CS6 and later includes a new ray-traced 3D environment, within which you can bend 2D layers, extrude text and shapes, and more.
The ray-traced 3D renderer can run on the CPU, but the CPU-based ray-traced 3D renderer is rather slow in Final Quality mode. That’s why After Effects also has a GPU-accelerated 3D renderer. To use the GPU-accelerated ray-traced 3D renderer, you must have one of a specific set of graphics cards.
The graphics cards that After Effects can use for the GPU-accelerated ray-traced 3D renderer are listed near the bottom of the system requirements page.
Note: To use Kepler-class graphics cards (such as the GTX 680) for the GPU-accelerated ray-traced 3D renderer in After Effects CS6, you need to install the After Effects CS6 (11.0.1) or (11.0.2) update.
You need to install the latest driver for you graphics card. You can update the CUDA driver via the CUDA panel in System Preferences or by going to the NVIDIA web site.
- (Windows) Install the latest WHQL-certified driver for your GPU.
- (Mac) Install the NVIDIA CUDA driver (v4.0.50 or later).
To use a Quadro 4000 on Mac OSX v10.6.8, install the Quadro 4000 driver for Mac OS.
If your GPU is not supported, or you have an old driver, the ray-traced 3D renderer will render on the CPU using all physical cores.
If you have multiple GPUs installed, the GPU-accelerated ray-traced 3D renderer will use the CUDA cores on all of them, as long as they are of the same CUDA compute level. (See the technical specifications of your GPU for its CUDA compute level.) After Effects will also use all of the VRAM on the installed GPUs, with the caveat that both cards will be treated as if they each have the amount of VRAM on the card with the lesser amount of VRAM.
The reason that the GPU-accelerated ray-traced 3D renderer is limited to working on only specific GPUs is simple: testing. We are committed to making After Effects stable and reliable—as well as fast—so we must thoroughly test every card that we say After Effects will use to provide these features.
If you want to request that a specific piece of hardware be added to our list, please submit a feature request.
Fast Draft, Hardware BlitPipe, and GPU acceleration of Cartoon effect
Fast Draft is a preview mode created to make working with the ray-traced 3D renderer much, much faster. It is not a high-fidelity renderer, and it makes many sacrifices of visual fidelity for speed of manipulation. It is intended to be used when setting up 3D scenes, when working in Final Quality mode would be too slow. (See this video for a visual demonstration of this mode.)
The “Hardware BlitPipe” feature is a GPU acceleration feature that is only engaged when using color management output simulation on the screen and when using the exposure control in the viewer panels. The option to enable this feature is a preference: Hardware Accelerate Composition, Layer, And Footage Panels.
This level of GPU acceleration requires OpenGL 2.0 or higher (with Shader Model 4.0 or higher on Windows), and at least 256MB of texture memory. Most ATI and NVIDIA cards released in the past five years meet these requirements, as do the following Intel graphics chips:
- (Windows) Intel HD Graphics Family, Intel HD Graphics 4000, Intel HD Graphics P4000
- (Mac) Intel HD Graphics 3000
If your GPU does not meet these requirements, these features will be disabled:
- Fast Draft mode
- Hardware Accelerate Composition, Layer, and Footage Panels
- Use OpenGL When Available option in Cartoon effect
This video shows how to check the specifications of your GPU from within After Effects.
OpenGL swap buffer
The OpenGL swap buffer feature relates to the drawing of pixels to the screen, which can be a performance bottleneck, especially with large monitors. Using the OpenGL swap buffer feature to accelerate the drawing of pixels to the screen makes working with After Effects much faster and smoother.
This level of GPU acceleration simply requires OpenGL 1.5 or higher with Shader Model 3.0 or higher. Most ATI and NVIDIA cards meet these requirements, as do the Intel HD Graphics 3000 and Intel HD Graphics 4000 chipsets. If your GPU does not support these requirements, After Effects CS6 and later will use the CPU as it did in After Effects CS5.5, although there are some improvements for the CPU version of this feature in After Effects CS6, too.
For complete details of what’s new and changed in After Effects, and how to get it, see this page.