After Effects CC 2015.3 In-Depth: Enhanced Playback and Performance Improvements
Earlier this summer, we released After Effects CC 2015.3 (13.8), which features a variety of performance and workflow enhancements.
In this article, we’re sharing more detail about how the new enhanced playback and performance improvements work.
Please, if you want to ask questions about these new and changed features, come on over to the After Effects user-to-user forum. That’s the best place for questions. Questions left in comments on a blog post are much harder to work with; the blog comment system just isn’t set up for conversations. If you’d like to submit feature requests or bug reports, you can do so here.
Enhanced video and audio playback
After Effects CC 2015.3 (13.8) uses new playback architecture to deliver real-time playback of cached frames with synced audio. The new architecture is shared with other Adobe applications, like Premiere Pro and Audition.
The new playback architecture includes several improvements:
- When playback is slower than real-time (i.e., while the preview is being cached), audio playback now compensates by slowing the sample rate instead of stuttering.
- Audio that doesn’t require rendering or conforming will start playback from disk immediately, instead of having to be cached into RAM before playback.
- Many real-time playback bugs are fixed.
As a part of the new playback architecture, the options in Preferences > Audio Hardware have been updated. These options are now the same as Premiere Pro and Audition.
Also, since most audio can start playback from disk immediately, the Numpad-. (period) keyboard shortcut for audio-only previews now, by default, sets the preview range to Work Area Extended By Current Time instead of limiting the preview range to 30 seconds.
Other improvements to previews in After Effects include:
- The Mute Audio button in the top row of the Preview panel, next to the transport controls, was removed to reduce confusion with the Include Audio button. To control whether or not audio plays during a preview, use the Include Audio button.
- The Loop button in the top row of the Preview panel has been moved to the Include row, in order to clarify that the loop behavior is saved for each preview shortcut.
- When Cache Before Playback is enabled, the Info panel now displays “Caching Frames: X of Y” during the caching phase, before playback begins.
- Previews with Cache Before Playback enabled no longer automatically start playback if After Effects is in the background when caching completes. The After Effects icon will bounce in the dock (Mac OS) or flash in the task bar (Windows) to indicate that caching is complete.
Faster import and caching of image sequences
In After Effects CC 2015.3 (13.8) image sequences now import much faster, especially from network drives.
Fast import of image sequences is controlled by a new option in Preferences > Import > Sequence Footage: Verify Individual Files.
Verify Individual Files is disabled by default. When it is disabled, After Effects skips a time-consuming secondary verification of individual image sequence files during import. This includes not resolving file paths of aliases or symbolic links (symlinks); aliases and symbolic link paths are still resolved when the frame is rendered. However, if an alias or symbolic link fails to resolve (e.g., drive is offline or the file has been moved), the frame will not be reported as missing at import.
If you encounter unexpected missing frames in an image sequence, enabling Verify Individual Files may avoid the problem at the cost of slower import speed.
Caching operations for still image sequences are also faster now. When determining the cache state of a still image sequence, After Effects no longer individually checks the existence of all files in the sequence, and it also checks the state of cache markings for still image sequences in groups instead of per-frame. These improvements also are helpful when previewing a composition with image sequences located on a network drive.
Improved caching of expression values
After Effects CC 2015.3 (13.8) uses a larger cache for the values that result from evaluating expressions. This improves interactive performance when working in compositions that use lots of expressions. Further, the size of the the unique cache for the sampleImage() expression has been increased significantly.
Other performance improvements
- Viewer panels now draw their contents asynchronously. This improves the interactive performance of drawing frames and overlays, including when scrubbing and during previews, and especially when the Hardware Accelerate Composition, Layer, and Footage Panels option is enabled. Note: this optimization is disabled on Mac OS X 10.9.
- Opening projects is now faster, especially for large projects.
- Purging memory is faster for large projects. The purge commands no longer force synchronization of the project database; the synchronization step was added in After Effects CC 2015.1 (13.6) and caused a delay roughly equal to the time to open the current project. You can still force synchronization of the project database by holding the Option (Mac OS) or Alt (Windows) key and choosing Edit > Purge > All Memory. This should only be necessary when you observe that the Composition panel fails to update correctly and the Purge > All Memory or All Memory & Disk Cache commands do not help.