Faster Previews in After Effects

Tips for significantly speeding up your workflow

Some templates on Creation Effects are faster than others, but these are important tips to know for any After Effects user. Observe all of them and even the slowest templates may preview in near real-time.

  1. Turning on Fast Draft can speed up previews by over a thousand percent in some templates. 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 and may disable certain properties, but it only affects the preview - your final exported video will be unaffected. If you would like to quickly export your comp in Draft quality, you can choose Draft in the Render Settings, in the Render Queue.

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  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, using the drop-down button in the Composition panel. You can also set the preview resolution in the Preview panel, which overides the setting in the Composition panel.

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  4. 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.

  5. 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.
    • Closing other processor-intensive apps that you aren't using can speed up your work and renders.
    • Trim layers that aren't being used. Just because you can't see a layer in your frame, doesn't mean that After Effects isn't processing that layer. Trim a layer by going to the frame where you want the layer to begin or end, hold down the Alt/Opt key, and type [ or ].