Custom 3D Books

Tips for faster preview/rendering
& glitch troubleshooting

FASTER PREVIEWS / RENDERING

Customers love the look of the 3D book templates, but it comes at the price of considerable preview and render times. Be sure to observe all of the following tips to make the most efficient use of your time when working on the Storybook, Bible, or Wedding Album templates. Depending on your computer, these tips may allow you to preview in near real-time.

  1. Turning on Fast Draft made previews over a thousand percent faster in my tests. In Creative Cloud, click on the Fast Previews button at the bottom of the Composition panel, then in the drop-down menu, select Fast Draft. In CS5, set Fast Previews to Open GL–Always On (Open GL must be enabled in the Previews section of After Effects Preferences). These settings will reduce the quality somewhat, but only in the preview - your final exported video will be unaffected. If you would like to quickly export the video in Draft quality, you can choose Draft in the Render Settings, in the Render Queue.

    Click to enlarge

  2. In the Preview panel (Go to the Window menu, then select "Preview"), set Skip to either 1 or 2. This will make After Effects only render every other frame or every 2 frames, cutting the preview time by half or more. This makes the preview slightly choppy, but it's worth it. It does not affect the final export.

  3. Don't preview at a higher resolution than necessary. If you're viewing your composition at 50% scale, set your preview resolution to Half, or less.

  4. Click to enlarge

  5. Trim the layers that don't need to be rendered. Once the camera in your animation has moved over your book, and the floor and the rest of the 3D scene is no longer in view, trim those layers so that After Effects no longer has to process them. This sped up the final export by 30% in my tests. To trim the scene layers, first go to the first frame in your comp where the floor is no longer visible. Typically, you can then select all of the yellow layers below the Lights and Desktop layer (so the desktop remains visible). Next, hold down Alt/Option and ] to trim the layers. Since different 3D scenes have different layer setups, you should preview the section where your scene layers get trimmed, to see if it changes anything in the animation. For example, the Sunroom scene has light coming through the windows to cast shadows on the book, so trimming the wall layer will cause the shadows to disappear.

    You should also apply this same technique to the content on your pages. For example, if the book turns to Page 10 and stays there for 8 seconds while a video plays on the page, then you should trim your video layer in the Page 10 precomp so that it doesn't continue to play after the 8 seconds.

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  7. Turning on Caps Lock on your keyboard can be useful while working, as well as for speeding up your final render. While working in After Effects, the Caps Lock button disables previews, which is useful if you want to make some edits and you don't need to immediately see the update. When you're ready to export/render your final video, enable Caps Lock so that After Effects doesn't have to render the Preview as well as the exported video.

  8. The most effective thing you can do to speed up the final render is turn off Motion Blur for the comp (see image). However, it adds a nice smoothing effect to the page-turn motions, so if you have the time, I recommend that you leave it on. Also, note that having "Depth of Field" enabled on the Camera layer can add to the render time. Depth of Field is turned off by default (read section below to learn why).

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  10. Other factors to remember:
    • Make sure you have set your Out-Point in your timeline, so you don't render more of the animation than you intended.
    • Avoid using extremely high-resolution graphics on the pages. Downscale them in another app, if necessary.
    • Closing other processor-intensive apps that you aren't using can speed up your work and renders.
    • Depending on the duration of your animation, rendering can take hours, so plan to render overnight.

GLITCH TROUBLESHOOTING

I have received very few reports of glitches, but I myself have encountered them before so I thought I would include some tips that helped me. The glitches manifest as flickering, missing sections of pages, or flickering areas of the 3D scenes. These glitches seem to be caused by limitations in After Effects' ability to process multiple high-resolution 3D layers that are in close proximity to each other. These solutions may yield different results depending on the 3D scene and camera movement that you have chosen, so you may have to experiment or try a combination of the following.

When making your changes, I recommend that you go to the exact frame of the glitch to see if your changes make a difference. Note that in order to see the glitch, you will probably need to view the comp at Full resolution, with Fast Draft turned off (set Fast Previews to Adaptive Resolution).

  1. The most effective and easiest method for getting rid of glitches is turning off the camera's depth of field. The current version of the book template has DOF disabled by default, but if you turned it back on and are experiencing glitches in your render, this is likely the cause. Just double-click the Camera layer, and uncheck "Enable Depth of Field".

  2. You may experience flickering sections on pages (see image) that typically only appear for a few frames as the pages turn, near the book's binding. You can add an adjustment layer between the book layers (blue layers) and the scene layers (yellow layers) to get rid of the glitches. Go to Layer, then New, then Adjustment Layer. Place the new layer in between the blue and yellow layers, and turn the Opacity down to 0. This 2D layer breaks up the interaction between the 3D layers above it and the 3D layers below it. It should eliminate the glitches, but it also gets rid of the book's shadow on the tabletop, which subtracts from the realism. One possible solution is to render two versions - one with the adjustment layer and one without. Then you can use masks to composite the best parts of both clips into one flawless animation, and re-export.

    Click to enlarge

  3. I also found that repositioning the camera can sometimes make the glitch on the pages disappear. There are three Position keyframes on the default camera layer (in the Storybook Main Comp). Try going to the last keyframe, and change the Z-value of the Position property from -100 to -850. Make a backup copy of the Camera layer before making any significant changes.

  4. You may also notice a similar flickering on the walls or parts of the table as the camera moves into position. For these glitches, I recommend that you slightly change the position of the problem layer(s). Typically, you will need to move the layer away from the layers it is next to, since it seems to be the close proximity to other 3D layers that causes the glitch. Often, shifting a layer over by merely a pixel or two will do the trick.