Faster

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.

40 Responses to Faster

  1. Charles says:

    This has been the best long article I’ve read all year!!! you’ve got me super excited!!!

  2. J says:

    ๐Ÿ˜€ nice.

  3. Allen Ellis says:

    Great!Does this mean that in a Core i7, instead of needing 2GB per core (quad-core: 4 x 2GB = 8GB + overhead for OS & AE), After Effects can now use 2GB per thread (eight threads: 8 x 2GB = 16GB + overhead). If so, my 12GB rig looks meager.Or is the whole 2GB/core now antiquated with 64-bit… After Effects just consumes RAM as a single application?Thanks again ๐Ÿ™‚

  4. Max says:

    what about the interface ? is it hardware accelerated ?

  5. Michael Coleman says:

    @Allen, Instead of ‘threads, think ‘processes’. It’s more accurate for this discussion. So, with native 64-bit After Effects CS5, each core can use more ram, up to the available RAM on the system. If you are rendering multiple frames simultaneously, you will need to divide the RAM among the cores. With CS5, since you have a Core i7 with hyper-threading (virtual cores), you can now count those virtual cores in the total cores. So, if you have 8 total cores, and you would like to give each one 2gb, you need 8 x 2gb + overhead.In addition, you’re no longer limited to 2-4GB per process. If you were rendering big things and only had 8 gb, you could give all 8 GB to one process, (i.e. turn off the “render multiple frames simultaneous” checkbox in the preferences).Also, just because you have 8 total cores, doesn’t mean that you have to use them all. For example, you can use 4 for After Effects processing and reserve 4 for other uses, like surfing the web. ๐Ÿ™‚ This control is in the prefs, too.

  6. Michael Coleman says:

    @Max, No changes to the interface per se, but by being generally faster, it’s feels snappier.

  7. Max says:

    That’s great!Incidentally you’re 2nd and 4th bullet points are the redundant same thing.

  8. Hi Michael,One of the biggest annoyances about 64 bit apps is that quicktime won’t load with them under xp – is there any fix possible for this since QT is such a big part of edit systems / decklinks and so on?

  9. Michael Coleman says:

    @John — No worries about QuickTime files…After Effects CS5 will continue to support QuickTime files. We had to do some extra work to make this happen since the parts of QuickTime that After Effects uses are not 64-bit.After Effects CS5 will not support XP, by the way. It’s going to be Vista and Windows 7 only.

  10. Michael Coleman says:

    @Max — I see your point, but I separated #2 and #4 intentionally because they are two distinct benefits that I think people will want to know about, even though they both result from having more RAM. I’ve edited them a bit to be more clear. Thanks.We commonly associate the green bars with RAM previews, but they are just one of many caches that After Effects keeps to avoid re-rendering frames. We don’t currently visualize the others. There are layer caches and footage caches in addition to the comp caches. This means that even if you don’t have a comp cache, other items may be cached.By the way, when you called my two bullet points ‘the redundant same thing’, did you mean to be ironic? ๐Ÿ™‚

  11. Dorus says:

    Nice to read this!Will After effects CS5 also use the “Mercury” engine?

  12. Michael Coleman says:

    Sorry, the Mercury engine is currently only in Premiere Pro CS5.

  13. Ronny Willis says:

    what about new features/plugins? Photoshop has some new really sweet goodies…After Effects seems like it’s just getting a performance boost. BOOOORRRRIING!!!! LOL.

  14. Max says:

    Agreed! I’m dieing to hear new features!

  15. Michael Coleman says:

    Keep you pants on, man. After Effects CS5 has one of my favorite features EVER, and as great as native 64-bit is, that ain’t it. Tune in on the 12th.

  16. Lou Borella says:

    Will AE finally start to take advantage of the GPU as well?I think we have to get past the idea of RAM previews when functional software like Motion can give us realtime previews of fairly complex animations. Its only after really taxing the software that Motion will start to drop frames. The fact that Adobe is FINALLY starting to take full advantage of multiple cores but is still relying on caching previews to RAM is a joke.We have to start expecting more from Adobe people or they will continue to churn out half-assed updates that are too close together and are too expensive.Lou ..

  17. Michael Coleman says:

    After Effects has had GPU support for quite some time now. We know that it could be more extensive, and this is something we plan to do more of in the future. Native 64-bit had to come first (it’s an enabling foundation for more good things). Note that Motion is not native 64-bit yet.However, I think you define ‘fairly complex animations’ differently than we do. From what I’ve seen, Motion bogs down pretty quickly on real-world projects (more than a few layers), and so Motion best used for simple, quick things. I think that’s where it’s strength still lies today. FYI, Motion also uses RAM caching for realtime playback.

  18. Ronny Willis says:

    Come on Michael you’re killing use here…. give us some hints on the new features. How come on the photoshop camp they’ve been giving tonnes of little spoilers for the last few months and all we get is it’s going to have one of your favourite features lol?Can you just answer us this one question? Will there be any new filters/functions? 64 bit is great and all but at the end of the day we all love new toys to play with.Here’s to new toys!!!!

  19. Mark says:

    Hey, I think this is the first time that Mercury had been officially confirmed for PProCS5, until now, the PP team was trying to tamp down expectations saying it was for a “future” edition of PP, but not necessarily CS5 (even if we all knew they wouldn’t be talking about it otherwise).

  20. Michael Coleman says:

    Yes, of course there will be other new features!

  21. Charles Taylor says:

    So, just to be clear:PPro will have Mercury, which will enable it to do multiple layers of effects in real time.AE will not be able to do multiple layers of effects in real time.Is it just me, or is there something wrong with this picture? Who needs multiple layers of realtime effects in an editing app???Or am I missing something here?Also, as un-sexy as it is, I really, really hope that the “one of your favourite features ever” is a usable roto tool. Please, please, please!

  22. Michael Coleman says:

    I think everyone needs multiple layers of real time in an editor! The Mercury engine is a big advance for editing, it’s impressive technology. Applying the Mercury engine to After Effects is a very different matter, however. In After Effects, it’s not uncommon to have a hundred layers or more. That is a very different kind of optimization challenge. We’ll be investigating what can be done for future releases.About that roto thing…stay tuned.

  23. Charles Taylor says:

    Hey,Thanks for your fast response! I’m delighted to hear that some love is being given to roto in AE, that is one of it’s weakest points at the moment.I guess I look at an editor as a way to put shots in order, and really nothing else (an offline editor like PPro, anyway). An editing app is a creative tool for story telling, and getting into thinking about colour and effects just gets in the way for me. I would never do effects in an editor, so being able to do something I never do faster is perhaps understandably a little ho-hum for me.I would also like to see some radical UI revamps in AE – being able to switch between node-based and layer-based, for one, or being able to put multiple pieces of footage on one layer would be HUGE advances for me and my workflow. Coming from a node-based background (Shake and Nuke), layer-based always feels constricting. Granted, when working with adjusting footage in time layer based is far superior, but that’s about it. I feel like that’s just dreaming, though, and that you guys have no love for the node based paradigm.Looking forward to 64-bit AE, though. I wish more developers would jump on that bandwagon.Cheers!

  24. Ronny Willis says:

    Roto tool….My guess is expect trackable rotoscope points….I think Motion got that in the last upgrade. As for the Mercury engine not supporting after effects is understandable. It would be cool if there was more GPU support and eventually a Mercury type engine that would be strong enough for After Effects type work.Imagine a world where rendering will be a thing of the past and just become a story to tell out grandkids. “In my day we used to leave our computers on for a week just to get 10 sec rendered” lol…… 6 more days!!!!!!!!!!!

  25. Charles Taylor says:

    Since we’re on the subject of roto here, I thought I would link you to a thread I started on the Cow about roto in AE after getting frustrated.Definitely more vitriolic than is perhaps necessary, for which I apologize in advance. Unfriendly user interfaces get under my skin more than is really reasonable, I think.Anyway, if you can stand to wade through my umbrage, I think I make some pretty valid points about usability problems with AE’s roto tools.http://forums.creativecow.net/thread/2/976398

  26. Jannis says:

    Still waiting for 3D bendalbe layers like other composing tools are offering. The whole 3D thing needs a new arrangement.Take a look how compositing is handled at Foudryยดs Nuke, thats how AE should be improoved. I am working with AE on a daily base and its frustrating how Adobe and AE is limiting my creativity by forgetting some of the main features a compositor needs.

  27. Michael Coleman says:

    Don’t worry, thanks for the feedback. I agree that rotoscoping is a critical thing to get right. It’s a common task, and completely painful in many ways. Too much of it is a drag, even with the best tools available. We would all spend less time rotoscoping if we had a choice. To set expectations, there are many things we could be doing for rotoscoping, it’s hard to imagine hitting all your points in one release.

  28. Michael Coleman says:

    This is a popular request. I will say that we haven’t forgotten. The hard part for us is that we have to prioritize what we do with our limited time. Native 64-bit and performance (as I’ve talked about in this post) are fundamental. We could have all the fancy features in the world, but if you don’t have a strong foundation that lets you composite very large images reliably and quickly, it doesn’t matter how much shiny stuff you have. (BTW, did I mention there is also some shiny stuff in CS5?)Prior to CS5, After Effects was reaching the limits of what it could do with with complex, high resolution comps. Now with CS5, its chomping nicely through very big things. There is a huge difference between CS4 and CS5.

  29. JMcK says:

    I’m personally hoping for a reworking of the mask tool. After using Apple Color for a long time on grading, the secondary masking/geometry tool is 2nd to none. I really like being able to see and manipulate the feathered edges/softness, and vary the feather at different points in the mask. It’s this lack of functionality in AE that means I have to go to Shake or Nuke to roto and not stay in AEPLEASE!

  30. Charles Taylor says:

    I think you’ve hit an important point here – shiny stuff doesn’t really matter very much.If it was my show, the next release would have zip on the shiny front department, and focus entirely on making the user experience as friendly as possible. In the end, that’s the most important thing.As an example: the facility where I work is almost all Apple Shake. Why? It’s not because Shake has any shiny features – it’s been dead for years, and it’s not because it’s fast to render (it’s definitely slower than AE on modern hardware with lots of cores). It’s because Shake makes it so darned comfortable to just sit down and get to work (and great macro support).All that said, I’ll be upgrading my personal machine to CS5. 64-bit alone will make it worthwhile.My two cents.PS – a .SSF importer tool would be BONKERS GOOD to have. I’ve resorted to rendering rotos as image sequences, and bringing them into AE that way.

  31. I prefer to think of it as a balancing act. A release without shiny, fun, creative stuff would be a disappointing release for a lot of After Effects users. 64-bit is a big investment in the core strength of After Effects, but I’m here to tell you that there will always be new creative options. This includes CS5. Thanks for your support, Charles! I’m sure you’ll like After Effects CS5.

  32. Darez says:

    Can After Effects will benefit from nVidia Quadro?darez

  33. Ccrider says:

    What will be the better buy?NVidia GTX 470 or Quadro FX 4800 ?Will the Geforce series be limited to 3 layers or is this just speculation?I mostly work with After Effects.

  34. Which is the better buy depends on your budget. Personally, I’d go with the Quadro series if you can. Both work very well with After Effects.

  35. Maxime says:

    Is rotobrush the ” most incredible feature in 20 years ?” ๐Ÿ™

  36. elmimmo says:

    No OpenCL? 8 months after Snow Leopard and still nothing taking profit of those dormant GPUsโ€ฆ Not just Adobe, there is really nothing out there carrying out all those promises. Is there any reason?

  37. After Effects currently uses OpenGL for GPU acceleration. OpenCL was not available across platforms at the time we were making technology choices for CS5. I’m sure that this is the same reason for other applications. FWIW, Premiere Pro CS5 uses NVICIA’s CUDA technology for a tremendous benefit in CS5

  38. Jack says:

    I have an nvidia GeForce GTX 470. Will CUDA support for this card be enabled with a future Adobe update? It stinks that you would have to buy a discontinued (GTX 285) to get the benefit of CS5. Not everyone has the money for a quadro, and from what I’ve seen they’re not worth it anyway for the work I’m doing.

  39. I hear you. I think you can still buy a GTX 285, but yes, GeForce cards have a pretty short lifespan. We plan to provide more options in the GeForce range of cards. This will most likely come soon in an update, rather than the next upgrade. We are looking at what it would take to support 470, but have nothing to announce at the moment. ๐Ÿ™‚

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