By now, I am sure that most of you have heard that CS5 is coming. I’m still required to hold my tongue about the full feature set, but there’s more very good news that I’d like to share with you today. It’s an exciting aspect of After Effects CS5 — it’s faster.

This is related to our 64-bit announcement back in October. In case you missed the announcement, After Effects CS5 will be native 64-bit. In previous posts, I’ve talked about the every-day advantages that CS5 has over its predecessors. When you have access to enough RAM:

  • Complex comps and high-resolution images are rendered smoothly.
  • Larger RAM previews allow you to view long comps in one pass. You’ll see much longer green bars.
  • Memory-intensive features like HDR and floating-point color are easier to use.
  • Your image caches can be much larger, which means less re-rendering.
  • Low-memory errors are virtually eliminated.

During the 64-bit conversion we also modernized a large portion of After Effects’ core, resulting in more efficient processing. So, even though this is a very welcome list of improvements, the big news today is that After Effects CS5 is faster.

We measure our improvement by rendering a wide variety of projects on the same hardware using different versions of After Effects. The CS5 results are very good. Nearly every rendering benchmark test that we perform has been improved in CS5.

Before I get into the gritty details, I have to say that these results are preliminary and based on prerelease software. Everybody uses the software in different ways. It is possible that your results will vary. However, the fact that I’m posting them here should illustrate my confidence that you will experience similar improvements with CS5.

So what’s improved?

First of all, After Effects launches more quickly — more than twice as fast.Dealing with files is faster. Reading and writing certain compressed file formats is twice as fast. We have also parallelized QuickTime export. This improves the performance of common tasks like transcoding files into other formats.Rendering is faster. In the simple cases, when rendering on a single core, we are seeing 20-40% shorter render times. This is a result of general efficiencies gained during the 64-bit conversion. As a result, each core on your system is being used more efficiently and you can expect to see greater utilization for each CPU core.Of course, virtually everyone has multi-core CPUs nowadays. Have you ever used the “Render Multiple Frames Simultaneously” option in the preferences? There are several key improvements in this area as well. We have completely rewritten the After Effects multi-core processing engine for CS5. Benchmark projects are rendering with 30-50% shorter render times. That’s up to twice as fast!In CS4, there was a significant lag when starting up multi-core processing (MP). For short renders, it was often faster to use fewer cores. This is no longer the case in CS5. Starting an MP render may have taken 30 seconds in CS4, but it is 1-2 seconds in CS5. If you’ve been avoiding using MP for RAM previews for this reason, this one is for you.To summarize so far: each CPU core is being used more effectively and multi-core processing is much improved.The good news continues if you have one of the latest multi-core systems. The Core i7 hyper-threaded processors with virtual cores were released just after After Effects CS4. In a what could rightly be called a “quirk”, After Effects could see the virtual cores, but not use them. After Effects CS5 can now use these virtual cores. For many of you, this will double the number of cores available for rendering.There are a several more focused optimizations. Some effects are faster: Bilateral blur, Turbulent Noise, and the ever-handy Cartoon effect. Pixel Bender plug-ins will also render faster.Even though we recommend adding some more RAM to your machine to take advantage of After Effects CS5, it will still work better in computers with less than 4GB of RAM. Even in this situation, After Effects CS5 can still use more RAM than CS4, and this means fewer out-of-memory errors and better performance.Lastly, if you are like me, you use several applications at the same time. From time to time, you may notice that it’s possible for them to compete for the limited amounts of RAM on your system. To avoid this situation, we’ve added a new performance optimization that allows Adobe After Effects, Premiere Pro, Encore, and Adobe Media Encoder to intelligently coordinate their memory usage. This means that they won’t blindly step on each other and and your work will continue to flow. Workflow.Whew. This has turned into quite a long article. When I started, I thought I would just jot down a few thoughts, but it’s quite comprehensive when taken as a whole. Any way you slice it, CS5 is a must-have release for 64-bit and performance.